Jackie's Reviews > Even Tough Girls Wear Tutus: Inside the World of a Woman Born in Prison

Even Tough Girls Wear Tutus by Deborah Jiang Stein
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Feb 11, 12

bookshelves: nonfiction, work-review-related-reading
Read in February, 2012

This is an intense memoir/autobiography, and brutally honest. Stein always knew she was adopted, especially since she was the only brown member of her academic and nominally Jewish family. She had great difficulty bonding with her family and was a thrill seeking (and therefore a rather naughty) child, a loner to the bone.

During one preadolescent snoop through her parent's bedroom, she discovered a letter from her mother to a lawyer asking that Deborah's birth certificate be changed to erase the fact that she had been born in a prison. Already angry and rebellious by nature, this put her into a spiral of negative behavior for the next 20 years--drug addiction and trafficking, alcoholism, thief, larceny, and more. Somehow without getting caught, always without bonding to a single person, never revealing her secret.

When she finally hits bottom after a near death experience, she finds a therapist who makes sense to her, and confronts her adoptive parents about all the secrets. She and her adoptive mother begin to bond with each other, and their relationship grows.

But Deborah still longs to know more about her birth mother. At last, the penal system cooperates and she is allowed to tour the prison where she was born, even see the room she was born in, and is given her birth mother's files. She even makes contact with several members of her biological family, including a a half brother.

The story doesn't stop there. Deborah goes on to write about, then publicly speak about, and to, women in prison, telling them how she finally overcame her past and found a way to love and life, and so can they. She has created The unPrison Project: Freedom on the Inside, a nonprofit to serve the 150,000 incarcerated women in the U.S., and the 2.3 million under age children with a parent in prison. The project advocates for education, mental and emotional wellness, and addiction rehabilitation.
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