The Pornographer's Daughter: A Memoir of Childhood, My Dad, and Deep Throat, by Kristin Battista-Frazee, 2014, Skyhorse Publishing, $24.95 hardcover, $16.99 Kindle, $11.95 Audible.
I selected this book as a read for The New Social Worker's Book Club, a group of more than 5,100 social work book lovers on Facebook. It is the true story of a young girl growing up in a family that experiences some unusual family circumstances, and that young girl grows up to be a social worker.
The book follows the story of Kristin and her parents, Anthony and Frances Battista. The story begins in the early 1970s, when Anthony has a steady job with a good salary as a stockbroker in Philadelphia. He is a good provider for his young family, but an opportunity comes along that intrigues him and promises him the chance to provide even more for his wife and daughter. He decides to distribute the iconic 1970s adult film, Deep Throat.
Through her own memories, interviews with family members and others, and newspaper articles, the author has pieced together the details of her family's history - including how her father's decision that day in 1974 affected her parents' marriage, her mother's mental health, and her own development from childhood to adulthood.
The first half of the book, gleaned from interviews and news clippings, portrays her family's life as a happy family taking trips to the beach, and how her family changes as her father gets involved in distributing the film, eventually leading to legal troubles. In the later chapters of the book, Battista-Frazee speaks in first person about her experiences and relationships as a teenager and young adult. What does she tell her friends about what her dad does for a living? How does she relate to her boyfriends? How does she feel about her father's work?
There is much in this book that can be discussed by a group of social workers, or for an individual social worker to consider. The story encompasses the pornography industry itself, related legal issues, first amendment issues, depression, suicidality, marital relationships, and parent-child relationships. There is a colorful cast of characters that includes Grandma Maria, Uncle Tony, some probable members of the mob, and a stripper named Honeysuckle Divine. The reader can see how different members of the nuclear and extended family are affected in different ways, and how the young girl develops into an independent and mature young woman.
As a social worker, you may not have a caseload of clients in this exact situation, but you probably will be able to relate some parts of this story to some of the people you see. How do family secrets come into play for your clients? And you may be able to relate to the fact that, whatever your own personal story and family background, it shapes who you are and how you are personally and as a social worker. One quote from the book that stood out for me is: "It was clear that what my father did for a living didn’t shape who I was. It was how my parents handled being in the pornography business and raising a daughter that did influence me."
The book, of course, is written from a daughter's point of view. Readers might wonder how the story would differ if told from another vantage point. Some readers may also find themselves wanting deeper analysis of the social and emotional aspects of the story.
The Pornographer’s Daughter reads easily, like a novel, and held my interest. Battista-Frazee writes clearly and has an intriguing story to tell. She describes what happened without sensationalizing or judging anyone, instead allowing the reader to draw his or her own conclusions.
Reviewed by Linda May Grobman, MSW, ACSW, LSW, publisher/editor of The New Social Worker.