Join Laura McHale Holland, author of the memoir Reversible Skirt as she virtually tours the blogosphere in December 2011 on her first tour with Pump Up Your Book!
About Laura McHale Holland
Laura McHale Holland’s memoir, Reversible Skirt won a silver medal in the 2011 Readers Favorite book awards. Her stories and articles have appeared in such publications as Every Day Fiction Three, Wisdom Has a Voice, the Vintage Voices anthologies, NorthBay biz magazine, the Noe Valley Voice and the original San Francisco Examiner.
A member of both Redwood Writers and the Storytelling Association of California, Laura has been a featured teller at the Lake Tahoe Storytelling Festival.
To keep up with her, please visit http://lauramchaleholland.com.
About Reversible Skirt
When the mother of three little girls commits suicide, their father wants more than anything to keep his family together. He remarries in haste and tells his daughters his new wife is their mother. The youngest, Laura, believes her mother must have gone through an eerie transformation.
Reversible Skirt is written from Laura’s perspective as a child sifting through remnants of her mother’s existence and struggling to fit into a community where her family’s strict rules are not the norm. When Laura’s father dies, her stepmother grows increasingly abusive, which propels Laura and her sisters into a lasting alliance. Their father’s wish that they stay together comes true, although not in the way he’d imagined.
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Read an Excerpt
hiding every picture of me in paper bags taped shut and marked, “Do not touch. Alligators inside.”I never intended all of that. I thought
things would be more bearable if my family were spared my madness. And I thought I would return in penance to our Holy Father. I was wrong.~Mary Agnes
Gramma loves me. I know this by the way she says my name, Laura. She lilts it, tickles the air with it, like I’m a ruby she’s just spied glittering in one of the sidewalk cracks in front of her great big red brick apartment building. It’s on Birchwood Avenue. And that’s where I am right now. Looking out the parlor window. Waiting. It’s like I’m standing on a mountain of cream puffs all mine alone because any minute Gramma will call my name and tell me it’s time for our special ride. Nobody else says my name the way Gramma does. Not Daddy, not Kathy and Mary Ruth, not Uncle John, and not Mommy, who loves church so much I think maybe she up and moved into one a while back.
Daddy has two ways of saying my name. The first is like it’s the punch line to a joke that only he understands, a joke that jiggles him up tall almost all the way out of his shiny black shoes. He looks at me with his gray eyes sparkling like a silver spoon with all the tarnish wiped off. When he’s happy like that, he calls me “Shimp,” which he says is shrimp
and imp put together, or he says “Laura Fadora Fadoo.” He stretches that doo out real long like the last note of a song, and then Kathy and Mary Ruth turn it into “Laura Kapora Kapoo.” They stretch the poo out just as long, and just like that, all the fun of having him say my name is gone.
The second way Daddy says my name is like a ball he’s thrown really hard to get my attention because he wants me to stop doing whatever it is I’m doing. When he says my name this way his face looks harder than the sides of Gramma’s building, and the last thing I want is to scrape up against him. The second is the way he says my name most often. And that makes me mad, but I’m not supposed to ever get mad at Daddy.
Now when Daddy’s around, which isn’t all that often, and when he’s not stretched out asleep with his dark hair mixing in with the tatters of Gramma’s soft green couch, he’s making a commotion. He’s like pots and pans falling from Gramma’s kitchen cupboards, knocking against the stove and table and chairs and banging hard on the wooden patches in the floor where the old linoleum is worn clear off. He echoes all through the building like thunder. But Daddy all the time tells me,
“Laura, be quiet! Laura, settle down! Be a good girl now, Laura!” He has to throw my name around a lot to hammer this idea home; it’s about as hard to be quiet as it is to keep my Cracker Jacks from falling out of the box when I open it and turn it upside down looking for the charm hidden inside.
My sisters, Kathy and Mary Ruth, have their blond heads glued together most of the time whispering. And sometimes they set their deep blue eyes on me and say my name either right at the same time or one after the other like echoes in a tunnel. Their lips are moving, but my name seems to come out of their noses like when you snort your milk instead of swallowing it, and it burns going through your nostrils until you spurt it out, finally, and you’re not at all pleased.
That’s Kathy and Mary Ruth, not at all pleased when they say, “Laura peed in her pants, Gramma,” or “Laura’s eating bouillon cubes again, Gramma,” or “Laura can’t sing the ABC song yet, Gramma.”
But they always include me in games, morning to night, like me or not. They never tell me I can’t play. The first thing we usually do is ride trikes. We have two red ones, all dented and scratched up, and one green one a little bigger and newer, but still pretty banged up too. The green one is mine. I got it for my second birthday, which was way long ago because Gramma says now I’m going on three years old. It was a thrill when Daddy set it down on the sidewalk for the first time and lifted me onto the marshmallow white seat. Oh, what a beauty! The handlebars and body of the trike were deep green; the grips were green and white striped and there were green and white streamers coming out of a little hole in the end of each grip. The tires were all firm and darkest black, and the spokes of the wheels were gleaming in the sunshine. My trike, my very own trike. I couldn’t wait to ride it. Until this moment I could only ride one of the red trikes if Kathy and Mary Ruth didn’t want it first because they were their trikes, not mine. They had first dibs.
So there I was on my ride. My pride fanned out around me like a great big peacock tail. I gripped the handlebars and stretched my legs. I could reach the top pedal, but the lower one was way beyond reach.
“Look, Daddy, she can’t ride it,” said Kathy.
“Yeah, it’s too big for her,” Mary Ruth added.
“Looks like you’re right, girls. Maybe one of you should give it a try,” Daddy said, lifting me off the trike.
“No! No! No!” I shrieked. “My trike. My trike.”
“Oh, settle down, Laura” Daddy said, “What good will it do just sitting on the sidewalk?”
Daddy put me down and turned around, taking a few steps toward Gramma’s front door. Kathy and Mary Ruth raced to the new trike, shoving each other and screaming.
“Lemme,” cried Mary Ruth.
“No. Lemme,” cried Kathy.
I ran to the trike and held on hard to one of the handlebars. “Mine, mine!” I yelled.
Kathy was holding the other handlebar, and Mary Ruth had hold of the seat. We were kicking and spitting up a storm. Each of us had one hand on the trike and with the free hand was trying to pry the other two off. But each of us was holding her ground.
Daddy spun around, “Stop it, you three. Stop fighting right now,” he commanded.
We were so worked up. We heard him, but kept right on batting and clawing. I had just gotten my teeth on Mary Ruth’s wrist. She’d got hold of one of my pigtails that Gramma had fixed for me, with dark green ribbons to match my trike. And then Daddy’s hands were on us, lifting all three of us at once in one motion.
We were still kicking and screaming as he lined us up against the side of Gramma’s building and said, “Stay there and keep quiet.”
Except for our heavy breathing, we stood still as the row of cars parked along the curb a few feet away.
“You girls can’t act like this, like a pack of wild hyenas, screaming over a little trike,” he continued, standing really tall, both hands on his hips. “Now listen and listen well. I’m going upstairs. And if I hear you fighting again once I get up there, I’m going to come back down and take all three of these trikes away. Do you understand?”
We all looked down at the sidewalk and nodded.
“And you two, keep your hands off Laura’s trike for now,” he said to Kathy and Mary Ruth. “She’ll find out soon enough she’s too small to ride it. Do you understand?”
They nodded their heads.
“Don’t just nod like deaf mutes. Say it out loud.”
“Yes, Daddy, we understand,” they both said.
He turned and walked toward the door, opened it and headed up the stairs.
I wanted to prove everybody wrong. I wanted to prove that I could ride my trike as good as anybody. I marched up to the trike, put my left foot on a pedal and tried to lift my right leg up over the seat so I could get on, but instead, I fell on the sidewalk, scraping my elbow.
“See, she can’t even get on. How’s she gonna ride?” Mary Ruth whispered to Kathy.
“Yeah, she’ll never do it,” Kathy hissed back. They slid down the edge of the building and squatted on the sidewalk, arms folded over their chests, smiling as I fell again and again trying to get on.
Each fall made me more determined to find a way to ride my trike. I took a running jump and landed briefly on the seat and then fell off the other side, scraping myself up some more.
Kathy giggled softly at this and said, “See, she really is too puny for that trike.”
“Yeah, when’s she gonna give up?” Mary Ruth said.
I tried and fell again, and the trike plopped on top of me. I wiggled out from under. Then I yanked and tugged on different parts of the trike until, finally, it was right side up again. It was a little scratched on the side of the front fender, and the white seat had a big scrape on it too. I dragged it over to the tree growing in the patch of green grass between the sidewalk and the curb, leaned its rear against the trunk and climbed on from the back. And then I cracked a proud smile right there on the big white seat.
“What are you smiling at? You’re not going anywhere, Laura Kapora,” said Kathy.
“Yeah, you still can’t pedal it, Kapoo,” Mary Ruth taunted.
So I stretched and stretched until, at last, I got the trike moving by a combination of leaning forward onto the handlebars, batting my feet at the pedals and sliding back onto the seat. After I inched forward two whole sidewalk squares without falling off, I was exhausted, bleeding and bruised and ready to just ride one of the smaller trikes.
“Done now,” I announced, sitting tall on the seat. Kathy and Mary Ruth rushed to the trike. Each of them grabbed a handlebar, and I slid off. They started pulling.
“You hafta ask,” I said.
“What?” Kathy sneered.
“You hafta ask me. It’s my trike,” I insisted.
“Okay, Laura,” Kathy said, with an ugly thump on the Laura like I’m a big lump in a bedspread she’s trying to squish down. “Can we ride it now?”
“Yes,” I said as I leaped onto one of the beat up red trikes.
I watched the two of them wrestle until Kathy was on my trike and pedaling fast down the sidewalk. As I watched the green and white streamers flowing in the wind, I was mad that Kathy, Mary Ruth and Daddy were right about the trike being too big for me because I wanted to be right for once. But at least I rode my birthday trike a little bit that day, and I was the one who gave it its first scratch. I pedaled hard, chasing Kathy. Mary Ruth jumped on the other red trike and followed too. Instantly she and I became cops chasing Kathy,
the robber, until Gramma called us in for lunch.
What Reviewers Are Saying
When her mother commits suicide, little Laura’s father remarries – rather hastily – and promptly informs his three daughters that his new wife is their mother. As the young girls struggle to adjust to their new family life, their father’s untimely death soon thrusts their collective world into even greater chaos – culminating in their stepmother’s brutal, escalating abuse. With no one but each other left in the world, it remains to be seen if the sisters’ tortured bond can endure through the worst of adversity…
Reversible Skirt is a thoroughly heartrending read. In her moving new memoir, author Laura McHale Holland takes the reader through the deepest recesses of grief, sorrow, and abuse – all from the fragile perspective of an innocent, unsuspecting child. What ultimately proves most impressive about Holland’s spiritual sojourn is that – despite the unchecked chaos of her upbringing – she perseveres through it all with an unbreakable, sweet spirit. Such unflappable strength is highly commendable – not to mention rare – and your appreciation of Holland’s genuine loving warmth is sure to grow by leaps and bounds with the turning of each fresh page. A highly recommended tale of learning to overcome the worst that life has to offer.
Karynda Lewis, Apex Reviews
If it weren’t for work and sleep, I probably would not have put Reversible Skirt down at all. What a poignant picture Ms. Holland paints with words! I caught myself thinking over and over, how skilled she is at narrating, relevant to the age she is in the story. One example is the remark of a 5 or 6-year-old Laura, regarding grass seed sprouting, “…it looked like the hair on Grampa’s head.” I noticed this throughout the book, and it was truly masterful! This was especially remarkable in the beginning of the book, when she was only 2 or 3.
I felt that this book was incredibly genuine and without guile, considering the abuse described. Ms. Holland brilliantly portrays the complexity of her abusive step-mom, with complete frankness and a surprising measure of mercy. While some of the characters are quite heroic and others more flawed, all are believably human. I loved the triumphs, including the Christmas dinner, which the sisters prepared themselves and the tropical mural, which the family painted on the dining room wall. I cried when her father died, and again, when I read the awful hair washing scene in the basement. Many times I teared up at the caustic remarks the three sisters routinely endured. The multiple emotional flinches throughout the book are made bearable by the less frequent, but heart-warming victories.
I am certain that this memoir will be catharthic for those who have walked a similar path, and inspirational for those who simply have big hearts. Reversible Skirt is truly a story of victory!
Teresa Hummel, Amazon Reader Review
Reversible Skirt Tour Schedule
Monday, December 5th
Interview at Divine Caroline
Tuesday, December 6th
Guest Post at InkyBlots
Wednesday, December 7th
Review at Live to Read
Thursday, December 8th
Guest Post at Book Spark
Friday, December 9th
Book Trailer at If Books Could Talk
Monday, December 12th
Interview at The Examiner
Tuesday, December 13th
Interview at Literarily Speaking
Wednesday, December 14th
Radio Interview at Pump Up Your Book
Thursday, December 15th
Review and Giveaway at Radiant Light
Friday, December 16th
Interview at Paperback Writer
Laura McHale Holland’s REVERSIBLE SKIRT ONLINE BOOK TOUR DECEMBER 2011 will officially begin December 5th and end December 16th. If you would like to host her on her tour, please contact Jaime at jmfictionscribe(at)yahoo.com.au. Thank you for your support!
Giveaways, Contests & Prizes!
In celebration of Laura McHale Holland’s new release, she will be appearing at Pump Up Your Book’s 1st Annual Holiday Extravaganza Facebook Party on December 16. More than 50 books, gifts and cash awards will be given away including an e- copy of Reversible Skirt! Visit the official party page here!