Although it falls squarely within the genre of memoir, Samantha Hart’s BLIND PONY: As True A Story As I Can Tell also evokes, through the variety of the personal challenges it recounts, elements of self-help literature. From the infidelity and violence that ended her parents’ marriage to the horrifying sexual assaults that Hart experienced at the hands of her own grandfather, Hart goes on to recount: her mother’s refusal to acknowledge, let alone act upon, her daughter’s trauma-inducing abuse; her struggle to survive as a teenage runaway, forced to support herself while still in high school; being date-raped by a stranger, and subsequently finding herself in a variety of more or less exploitative sexual relationships; having her teeth knocked out and being coerced into having an abortion by an abusive partner; sexist discrimination in the workplace, two failed marriages, and a tenuous reconnection with her mother, who was by that point an alcoholic. These are but some of the painful experiences that figure in this often heart-wrenching account.
Fundamentally, however, BLIND PONY is a memoir about overcoming—about facing up to and learning from one’s past without being imprisoned by it. To be sure, when dilating on, for example, some of her cocaine- and heroin-fueled encounters with “Party Marty,” the increasingly drug-driven investment banker who nonetheless became her first husband, Hart portrays herself as locked in a downward spiral, drifting ever farther from the values and priorities that, even at the time, she recognized as ones that would enable her to thrive. Yet precisely by situating such episodes in the longer story arc traced by the memoir—one that starts to become visible to Hart only gradually, through conversations with friends as well as a supportive uncle—she is able to recast these episodes in other, more constructive terms: as misdirected attempts to blunt the pain and trauma of her childhood abuse.
That said, even as Hart reinterprets destructive or hurtful experiences as opportunities for learning how to evolve into the person she wants to be, she stops short of a comprehensive rethinking of the broader sociocultural forces that have helped mold her life story. For instance, the man who knocks Hart’s teeth out in a drunken rage is a photographer who takes pictures of young women for pornographic magazines. In addition to being involved with this man, she works with him as a stylist who designs the photo shoots. After receiving positive feedback from editors to whom she is pitching the photos, Hart reports that, though she had previously thought of herself as a mere assistant to the photographer, “I realized I had developed a signature style of my own.” Here, Hart uncouples her work as a stylist from the objectification and diminishment of the women being photographed for the sole purpose of gratifying the magazines’ male audience. In the process, she detaches her own story arc from the narratives about women—as idealized objects to be admired and “possessed”—that have limited and indeed seriously harmed Hart herself over the course of her life.
While Hart’s writing is solid, the book is marred in places by misplaced punctuation marks, grammatical solecisms, and other distracting glitches. If Hart does decide to publish a second installment of her memoir, to fill out the rest of her story, perhaps she could also revisit these atypical passages.
Samantha Hart’s memoir BLIND PONY, featured polished, fluent writing and offers a gripping account of how she overcame a traumatic childhood and difficult young adulthood to establish a secure and loving home for her daughter. The narrative ends just as Hart achieves personal and financial independence, priming readers for a follow-up volume about what happens next.
~David Herman for IndieReader