Review of Iris Berry’s “The Daughters of Bastards”
It takes a great amount of courage to honestly write of one’s personal journey—especially if the autobiographical accounts contain both beautifully bold and refreshingly unvarnished truths, as Iris Berry’s do! From her time spent with those she admired, like Steve Lowe, who owned the Beat Motel in Desert Hot Springs and who had “assisted [William] Burroughs at the peak of his career” to those agonizing times like when a cheating ex-boyfriend named Bob got ‘custody’ of their cat, Crayon, after their separation—even though Crayon clearly wanted to live with Iris, as Crayon kept finding her even blocks away (p. 104). Berry’s exceptional writing disputes the assertion of what Los Angeles is billed to be in many people’s minds. Instead, she straightforwardly shows the underbelly of the city—without the façade of all things aesthetically pleasing. Yet, the gritty reality of life there, under the layers of topsoil, in the ‘80s wasn’t without its own anarchistic appeal. For instance, Berry had the amazing opportunity to check out the “…local punk bands: the Circle Jerks, X and Fear. Or imports and out-of-towners: The Clash, The Damned, Sex Pistols, Johnny Thunders and The Velvet Underground” (pgs. 32, 33). Plus, one of the places she was fortunate enough to hang out in was the Zero Zero. The Zero Zero was a cool counter-culture “…Hollywood underground afterhours club. If you didn’t know it was there, you didn’t know it was there. You had to know somebody. Tucked away in an unmarked storefront in the shadow of the Capital Records building on a lonely strip of Cahuenga Boulevard, just off the 101 Freeway, as it spilled into Hollywood heading south from the San Fernando Valley” (p. 24). Berry’s childhood was less-than-ideal, but she managed to channel the heartbreak in a healthy manner—not by lashing out at others, but by bleeding it into her sometimes gut-wrenching writing over the years. The title, “The Daughters of Bastards,” in a broad sense refers to her wrestling with her personal journey, from birth onwards, as it’s a “…grappling with the idea of origin and the drift that occurs when the umbilical cord has been cut and the search begins for what might have been lost at the beginning” (p. 119). Yet, there’s also a sense of hope in the fact that what might have been lost is forever kept—via the memories and the words painstakingly recorded in this memoir. Definitely worth picking up a copy!