Head Over Heels: Stories about the 1950s
by Donna Van Straten Remmert

RemArt Publishing, 2012. ISBN 978-0-971-09596-0.
Reviewed by Lisa Shirah-Hiers
Posted on 08/07/2012

Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: History/Current Events; Nonfiction: Faith/Spirituality/Inspiration

In this, the third installment of her memoir series that began with The Littlest Big Kid and Jitterbug Girl, Donna Van Straten Remmert delights us with the lively tale of her exodus from her small Wisconsin hometown, Black Creek, to the "big city," Madison, WI to begin life as a college co-ed in 1955. As she did in her first two memoirs, Donna allows her younger voice to speak in a down-to-earth conversational style that will have you roaring with laughter. Young Donna is as spunky as she is innocent, forging her father's signature on her admission form. When she is accepted, her father is far from pleased. He warns her that she will be exposed to immoral ideas by liberal professors and anti-establishment bohemians and maybe even tricked by communists into signing something that will get her in trouble. Her mother's advice is more direct: to remember that she's a Van Straten, to say her prayers, go to Mass, and do her laundry once a week.

Donna's need-based scholarship doesn't cover everything and a college education isn't all she's after. She hopes to meet "the one," but in the meantime she has a chance to go to Europe and she's saving every penny she can to make it happen. She works hard at a series of jobs—waiting tables, supervising the playground at an orphanage, and typing for a law firm.

As Donna's world view expands so do her questions about herself, her Catholic faith and her role as a woman in a male-dominated world. What is the most important quality in a woman? Is it more important to be pretty or smart? Sexy or sweet? Creative, curious, affectionate, clever in conversation, a good hostess? Has going to college made men see Donna and her friends as too ambitious to make good wives and mothers? Is it possible to have a career, as well as a husband and children? Is there such a thing as destiny and fate or do our choices shape our lives? Is morality relative or universal?

Whether she's bargaining with God and the Virgin Mary for a good grade on her test, trying on a Bohemian tie-dyed tee over her Reindeer sweater in the back of a van, fighting off the advances of a German Baron, watching near-naked dancing girls with her brother and sister-in-law at the Moulin Rouge Theatre, or racing around Rome on the back of a scooter with a policeman she's just met, Donna's frankness and fresh-faced optimism, witty dialogue and touching inner thoughts will keep you turning pages.

Read an excerpt from this book.

Donna Van Straten Remmert is the author of two memoirs: The Littlest Big Kid and Jitterbug Girl. She is a long-time member of the Story Circle Network and past president of the Austin chapter. Her professional background includes teaching high school English and working as a journalist. For more than twenty years, she has pursued an informal study of Jungian psychology, especially as it relates to dreams. She and her husband live in Boulder, CO. For more information visit her website.

Check out our interviews (here & here) with the author of Head Over Heels.

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