Ma, He Sold Me for a Few Cigarettes: A Memoir of Dublin in the 1950s
With a foreword by Alice Walker
When Martha Long's feckless mother hooks up with the Jackser ("that bandy aul bastard"), and starts having more babies, the abuse and poverty in the house grow more acute. Martha is regularly sent out to beg and more often steal, and her wiles (as a child of 7, 8) are often the only thing keeping food on the table. Jackser is a master of paranoid anger and outburst, keeping the children in an unheated tenement, unable to go to school, at the ready for his unpredictable rages. Then Martha is sent by Jackser to a man he knows in exchange for the price of a few cigarettes. She is nine. She is filthy, lice-ridden, outcast. Martha and Ma escape to England, but for an itinerant Irishwoman finding work in late 1950s England is a near impossibility.
Martha treasures the time alone with her mother, but amazingly Ma pines for Jackser and they eventually return to Dublin and the other children. And yet there are prized cartoon magazines, the occasional hidden penny to buy the children sweets, the glimpse of loving family life in other houses, and Martha's hope that she will soon be old enough to make her own way.
Virtually uneducated, Martha Long is natural-born storyteller. One can't help but cheer on this mischievous, quick-witted, and persistent little girl who has captured hearts across Europe.
Read an excerpt on Issuu here
“This is a searing account of childhood survival. No more haunting memoir has been published this year.”—Counterpunch
"Coming-of-age hardships skillfully recounted by way of the colloquial Irish tongue."—Kirkus Reviews
"Long's story is a gritty, grueling, and heartbreaking testament to one girl's unbreakable spirit."—Publishers Weekly, starred review
"Reading this startling testament to one child’s valiant attempts to live until the age of sixteen is a worthy reminder that we can do better as adults if we turn to embrace the children who are suffering, anywhere on earth..."—Alice Walker, from the forward
"A tale of strength, bravery and sheer determination of not letting life beat you."—Irish Post
"An ultimately uplifting story which salutes the strength of the human spirit."—Irish World
"[Long's] story is unique in its rawness and its honesty. Entirely self-educated, she narrates her own life in a way which is both riveting and moving."—Greenock Telegraph