The Skin Above My Knee

The Skin Above My Knee

A Memoir

Book - 2017
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The unflinching story of a professional oboist who finds order and beauty in music as her personal life threatens to destroy her.
Publisher: New York, NY :, Little, Brown and Company,, 2017
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780316392280
Branch Call Number: 921 BUT
Characteristics: vii, 258 pages ; 24 cm


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Aug 09, 2018

Riveting read . . . .Butler writes with searing honesty.

Jan 17, 2018

Well-written memoir about how devotion to music transformed the life of a young woman trapped in a cold home of abuse and denial, and brought her to perform on the finest stages of NYC. Marcia's family never talked about the bad things regularly happening under their roof. From the regular vicious beatings of her rebellious sister, to the unspoken "bargain" between Marcia and her father, submitting to his desires as payment for being driven to her music lessons: it was all kept in the shadows, hidden, denied. The discovery of a love of opera and her own nascent skills as an oboist opened a door to escape, where hours and hours of practice helped keep the demons at bay and lead Marcia down the path to breaking away. Her virtuoso skills both impressed and threatened the various men she would encounter on her bumpy ride to adulthood. An engrossing account that will speak to music lovers and resonate with survivors of broken families.

Dec 10, 2017

This is one of those books which you might not assume any interest. The writer isn't rich or famous, not someone you'll ever hear about or know, and if you hadn't picked up this book, you might not ever hear about it.

But let me tell you, it is incredible and worth every minute of reading time. I read it in a day and a half, as once I got started, I started quoting passages to my husband and he didn't want me to stop, either. So don't judge a book simply because you aren't familiar with orchestras, oboes, classical music or music of any variety. It's going to give you an education about those subjects, as well as let you live through the rich experience of performing music vicariously.

And really, it's so much more than the oboe. The music is the thread that carries the writer through some of the harshest living you'd ever want to read about, almost bleeding through the page, written in an almost understated way, revealing secrets in the quiet way you'd expect from someone who plays oboe in Carnegie Hall for a living. And through this quiet, steady, lyrical, honest, realistic yet totally in denial-filled voice, you understand and live her story.

And it's incredible. If you enjoy the triumphant, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps, square peg in a round hole, quirky, unique/nobody you've ever heard of type of memoir, this is for you. You can experience being so poor you eat a head of iceberg lettuce with a bottle of Russian salad dressing for your one meal. You can get your empathy expanded for women who stay and who return over and over to horrible abusers. You can live through what it's like to perform on Broadway, what it's like to develop talent into something spectacular that becomes noticed and valuable even while you have to take rides from people driving you from one performance to the next in lightning speed while drinking bottles of vodka.

We're all nobodies, really, yet we all have some special thing that gets us up in the morning. This is the best description I've read in a long while of exactly that drive, that grit, that motivation that pulls us normal humans through sheer terror and trauma to ultimately make it to something of a successful life.

Sep 07, 2017

POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERTS. I am a huge fan of memoirs. But I feel that people who live fairly ordinary lives should not write them. The writing here was reasonably good, although Butler's precious, ambiguous account of her sexual abuse at the hands of her father left me wondering what, if anything, happened. Although I usually do not need things spelled out for me, with regard to a very serious allegation of sexual abuse one should make clear unequivocally what happened and not be ambiguous about it.
Anyway, not much happens aside from a bad relationship or two, which have happened to pretty much all of us, and the unrequited love she desires from her cold/distant mother.
Throw in some classical music, music lessons, reed-making, concerts and the like and you have the makings of a pretty ordinary book. Maybe women would like this one better (I am male). I found myself skipping chunks of paragraphs just to slog through to the end. C+

BTW, a great memoir I read recently was "Liar" by Rob Roberge. Loved it much.

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