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Girls of Tender Age: A Memoir

3.92  ·  Rating Details  ·  980 Ratings  ·  172 Reviews
With beauty, power, and remarkable wit, Mary-Ann Tirone Smith interweaves a bittersweet portrait of growing up among the working stiffs of 1950s Hartford, Connecticut, with the chilling progress of a serial pedophile who threatens to shatter her small town's innocence. In Girls of Tender Age, Smith lovingly evokes the jubilance and chaos of life in her extended French-Ital ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published January 9th 2007 by Free Press (first published 2005)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,842)
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Aleta Staton
Mar 30, 2009 Aleta Staton added it
Recommends it for: Women, men, historians, crime enthusiasts, parents
Recommended to Aleta by: The author
I attended a Women's Creativity Conference at Quinnipiac University where the author of this book presented her thoughts on writing memoir as well as a description of this particular book. After she closed, at least 20 people purchased the book immediately. It reads very quickly. As a resident of Connecticut, the historical and geographical data was personally relevant, and pleasantly presented comfortably within the context of the story. The clips of the two stories that she tells here were exp ...more
May 09, 2015 Melody rated it liked it
Not what I was expecting. It was a compelling memoir, but the research into the villain's life was less interesting to me. It felt somehow fragmented, the author's life as part of her family of origin, the murder, the story of the bad guy- each could have stood alone and may have lost something, in my mind, from being shoehorned into one book.
Mar 24, 2011 Love rated it liked it
Did not want to rate this one at all. Could not make myself read this one! Got to page 20 and put it down for good..I do not want to rate a book I did not finish but you got to put something down... I hated the writing style not the content of the story. Wish I could have stuck with it seeing as I wated a year for this one.

REVISION: I just got this on audio cd. I liked listening to it much better then reading the text. I would now rate this at least 3.5 stars. If you could but not 4 I will
Aug 01, 2015 Sharon rated it really liked it
I bought this book for $1.00 at a library book sale. I love memoirs and this one was a real page turner. The author is a gifted writer from an Italian/French Catholic family who grew up in Hartford, Connecticut in the 1950s. I grew up in the same era in a different place.....Detroit and suburbs. I had many girlfriends who attended parochial Catholic schools, so the details of her religious education were familiar to me. This is a story of a dysfunctional family trying to cope with their normal d ...more
Pierced Librarian
Jun 24, 2014 Pierced Librarian rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, grief
Smith is a powerful writer. He memoir of growing up in the idyllic 1950's with a brother that is 'retarded" ,but really is an idiot savant, a mother who is indifferent at best, and a young friend, Irene, who is brutally murdered in the neighborhood- is searing and honest.

I love how Smith just lays it all down and does not try to explain or shine anything up. I also love how she gives brief chapters to what was happening in the life of the murderer at the same time her life was unfolding in Conn
Mar 18, 2010 Susie rated it it was amazing
I re-read this book recently and found it just as compelling as I did the first time. It is an exceptional memoir that blends personal history, true crime, and a portrait of autism - seamlessly. I wish I could write like Mary-Ann Tirone Smith.
Oct 20, 2014 Xerodog rated it really liked it
One of those books best read in a single sitting if possible. Just tracking who is who amongst the many family members requires energy, but the effort is well rewarded. This memoir has the added strand of the author's eventual recall and address of repressed memories about her school friend. Her getting to know about a monstrous adult and her account of dealing with difficult life circumstances simply because there was no alternative to doing so makes for a very satisfying read. Along the way we ...more
Meredith Crawford
Jul 13, 2014 Meredith Crawford rated it it was amazing
One of the best memoirs I've read. Writing so good it seems effortless. A real page-turner.
Mar 13, 2013 Stefanie rated it really liked it
This book grew on me, big time. If only I could write something half as good as this one day...
Aug 26, 2015 Margi rated it it was amazing
This is such a great memoir/true crime story. The author covers coming-of-age, autism, pedophilia, murder and social and legal issues of the 1950's. I was intrigued by the telling of the two stories and then when they merged in mid book. This is a story of the author's life pre-crime, during the crime, and post-crime. It is also a story of how the author comes to terms with this along with so many other issues from her life. This young child had so much to deal with for someone so young. I was d ...more
Dec 16, 2014 Dolores rated it it was amazing
The Smith household in post-World War II Hartford, Connecticut was "different" because Mary-Ann's older brother, Tyler, was autistic before anyone knew what that meant. But she grew up happily in her extended French-Italian family until a serial killer in the neighborhood changed her life. Years later she tells the story of her murdered friend.

This book is so well-written, combining humor and horror, that I could hardly put it down. It is the first non-fiction book by this author....I plan to re
Jul 25, 2011 Nancy rated it liked it
I'm torn as to how I feel about this book. The author is an absolutely amazing writer. She really draws you in to the story. She does a good job in the first part of the book weaving together the strands of a story that has affected her entire life--the brutal murder of her childhood friend in the 5th grade. She tells the background of her own life, the serial killer's life, and the world of Hartford, Connecticut in the 1950's. She has a harder time later on in the story describing what happens ...more
Jul 07, 2010 Nicole rated it really liked it
Well-written, insightful, and original; a great read. As with The Glass Castle, I wondered how the author turned out so well-adjusted after such a harrowing childhood. For example, Smith knows that both having an autistic brother before the diagnosis existed and surviving a childhood friend's murder affected her; however, she says little about her mother's indifference to her and the rest of her family. Smith learned early on not to complain nor question her parents' authority. (The nuns told he ...more
Aug 22, 2008 Stephanie rated it it was ok
Shelves: biographical
Publisher's Description:

"In 'Girls of Tender Age,' Mary-Ann Tirone Smith fully articulates with great humor and tenderness the wild jubilance of an extended French-Italian family struggling to survive in a post-World War II housing project in Hartford, Connecticut. Smith seamlessly combines a memoir whose intimacy matches that of 'Angela's Ashes' with the tale of a community plagued by a malevolent predator that holds the emotional and cultural resonance of 'The Lovely Bones.'
Smith's Hartford n
Insightful, vivid memoir about autism, murder, sexism, rape, beauty, power, and sadness. It's a serious book, but it has many lighthearted moments. Tirone Smith grew up with friends and relatives named Yutch, Pidgie, and Kekkie, and she describes favorite meals and holidays.

The author grew up lower-middle-class in Connecticut and has a sharp-eyed way of describing things:

* "All little Catholic children are insanely envious of the children of Fatima."

* The book The Power of Positive Thinking is
Apr 07, 2011 Doreen rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Diane and everyone who grew up in homes whose doors were never locked.
Recommended to Doreen by: met the author at a luncheon
I was intrigued by the book's content and by the familiar, innocent childhood portrayed within. The author's home situation is a special one, because her brother is autistic, a condition that no one understands at that time. Their mother isn't particularly loving or warm, but their father and extended family are affectionate and fun. She was fortunate to have her father, grandfathers, aunts and uncles in her life.

When a neighborhood schoolmate is murdered, the author's life, and the entire neigh
Nov 25, 2012 Amber rated it liked it
This is an interesting, well-written memoir about the author's dysfunctional childhood, growing up in 1950s Connecticut with an autistic brother, a depressed mother, and a ragged father trying to keep the family running. The author also explores the circumstances around the murder of a childhood friend, which traumatized her at the time and she had subsequently blocked out.

This book is a pretty quick read, and a very compelling page-turner. I thought the level of detail around her friend's murde
Feb 16, 2008 Kirsten rated it it was amazing
When Mary-Ann Tirone Smith was in fifth grade, one of her classmates was raped and murdered. If you've ever been through the violent death of someone close to you (or even someone you're acquainted with), you know the hush that falls around that person's name. People don't want to bring it up. They talk circles around it, they come up with euphemisms that make it less frightening to refer to. For Mary-Ann, the hush was even more drastic. The day after Irene's murder, her desk was removed from th ...more
Sep 04, 2011 Julie rated it really liked it
I was not sure if this book was fiction or truth when i started reading, i had not heard of this author before, however this book was really good, this was a period of the authors life growing up in the 50's in Connecticut.The daughter of a French/Italian family with uncles ,aunties and cousins in her life which seems chaotic and happy, but the period was blighted by the murder of one of her school friends and how in those days no one explained or helped children come to terms with such things. ...more
May 09, 2013 Lori rated it it was amazing
Girls of Tender Age, by Mary-Ann Tirone Smith, is a memoir set in Hartford, Connecticut during the 1950s. One will find many points of interest and historical facts about Hartford and Old Saybrook. The author does a nice job of describing life in the 1950s, with its throwback to “non-working women” and the mentality of people at that time period. She describes living in Hartford where you “eat guinea food, drink harp beer, ostracize frogs (since, as the most recent immigrants, they are at the bo ...more
Aug 02, 2011 Melissa rated it really liked it
Page turning memoir of a girl growing up in Hartford, CT, whose classmate was murdered by a serial killer. The adults in her life didn't allow she or her friends to speak of the friend ever again, and she essentially blocked it out and forgot about it. When in college she mentioned it somewhat casually in a writing assignment and her professor encouraged her to find out what had happened. So began a journey of finding out about the killer, and throughout the book chapters of her childhood are in ...more
Aug 28, 2015 Lauren rated it really liked it
So I bought this book without a summary on the back cover telling me what it was about. Instead, the front cover offered a few blurbs stating that it was a book about a journalist who tracked down her childhood best friend's murderer in a real-life mystery. That's actually not really what this book is about, so I'm here to set the record straight so no one else is lured to this book under false pretenses.

This book was a memoir, not a mystery. That's not to say it wasn't divinely interesting, bu
Jul 31, 2007 Sherrie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone!
What a great memoir of a girl growing up in 1953. It's not your typical 50's picture perfect family. Distance, illness and murder keep things interesting. Her autistic brother, Tyler, chews at his arm if he hears loud noises such as crying, loud talking, or laughing. If you had emotions, you had to stifle the sound...or risk Tyler going beserk. This means, the author, Mary-Ann Tirone Smith, never really gets to show her true emotions. Crying? What is that? She is also expected to take care of he ...more
Bookmarks Magazine

After reading Girls, critics saw parallels between Smith's life and fiction, in particular the second novel in the Poppy Rice mystery series, She's Not There, which features a serial killer of teenage girls. Girls, at once a moving, frank, and often funny memoir, also painfully examines the evil that lurked beneath the surface of a quiet, all-American, working-class neighborhood. Smith alternates memories of her childhood with descriptions of Bob Malm's sexual predation; as an adult, she tracked

Nov 06, 2009 Jennifer rated it it was amazing
A wonderfully written memoir! Mary-Ann Tirone Smith writes about her childhood growing up in Hartford, CT in the 1950s. She reminisces about her family, the neighborhood and living in a simpler time. This book also covers the horrific murder of a young girl in the neighborhood during this time and the possible murder spree of a serial killer.
I aboslutely loved this memoir! I usually love reading memoirs but since I'm from CT, this particular book was extra good! You'd think that the crime aspec
Badly Drawn Girl
Apr 10, 2010 Badly Drawn Girl rated it really liked it

Mary-Ann Tirone Smith strikes the perfect balance with her moving account of her childhood. She is able to combine her memoir with a true crime book seamlessly. This book is heartbreaking on many different levels. From watching an emotionally distant mother and an autistic brother before that term was used, young Mary-Ann learns to hold in her emotions. With the murder of a neighborhood girl, and the surrounding hush that covers up the truth, Mary-Ann suppresses her emotions to the point that sh
Sep 11, 2007 Marisa rated it really liked it
I listened to this one, read by the author which in this case is a good thing.

This memoir is approached with candor and humor, telling the story of the author's childhood, her autistic older brother (in the 50's, when "autism" is unheard of and he is instead referred as to retarded), and the molestation and murder of her 5th grade classmate. She and her classmates are forbidden from discussing the murder of their friend, and subsequently Smith represses the memory of it until she is well into h
Kathy Spada
Feb 23, 2011 Kathy Spada rated it really liked it
Girls of Tender Age captures 1950s Hartford in this endearing memoir that has several stories within one. We hear about Smith's Italian French heritage and her colorful family life. Yet her brother has autism during a period when no one knew or even talked of disabilities. Tyler is protected, shielded and ultimately kept at home and this tugs at Smith's heart throughout the book. It illuminates the difficulties people had expressing their emotions in the '50s and it's a real time capsule of life ...more
Jan 18, 2016 Nancy rated it really liked it
This book was recommended to me mostly because of its setting. It takes place in Hartford, probably about five minutes from my house. Although the murder of a child happened before I was born, I am surprised that it is not part of our local lore. I found the descriptions of the people and places to be a great piece of nostalgia for me.
Nov 06, 2015 Jean rated it it was amazing
I'm giving this book five stars because for me it has stood the test of time. I read it years ago but have never forgotten it, and wanted to be sure it was on my list of read books. To know that we used to mark the disappearance of a dead child with silence for her classmates is shocking--no counseling, no guidance.
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Mary-Ann Tirone Smith is the author of eight novels. She has lived all her life in Connecticut, except for two years when she served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Cameroon.
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