Change Me Into Zeus's Daughter
by Barbara R. Moss

Touchstone Books, 2001. ISBN 0743202198.
Reviewed by Lee Ambrose
Posted on 04/08/2003

Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: Relationships; Nonfiction: Cultural/Gender Focus

Change Me Into Zeus's Daughter is a powerful and poignant story of impoverished life as experienced by Barbara Moss.

Surrounded by poverty, alcoholism, abuse, malnutrition and facial deformities, Moss could easily have allowed herself to be trapped in that negative world. Instead, through determination and the kindness of a few strangers along the way, she rose above adversity and has been able to escape the clutches of childhood demons.

In 1996, Moss won the Gold Medal for Personal Essay in the William Faulkner Creative Writing Contest. Her winning essay became the first chapter of Change Me Into Zeus's Daughter. Her life, her determination, and her writing acheivements serve as an inspiration to the aspiring writer in me.

When I first read this book, I was working through the emotional impact of having undergone facial surgery to remove a malignant melanoma and recreate a nose. At the time of that first reading, I was more tuned into the parts of Moss's story which dealt so poignantly with the emotional effects of her deformed face and people's unkind reactions to that deformity. Her drive to find a way to resolve the situation was nothing less than admirable. Now that I am a few years beyond my surgery and have re-read her story, I find her desire to become Zeus's daughter (the goddess of beauty) pales in comparison to the beautiful person who writes this remarkable story.

With grace and insight, Moss takes us back in time to a place where life seemed to surely be waging war against her. In what she calls an effort to heal wounds and reclaim her family, she writes of both the challenges and the triumphs of childhood, adolesence and adulthood. Throughout the story, Moss interjects memories of a humorous nature - proving that even in the most desparate of situations, it is possible to find joy.

In what can only be described as a "wise beyond her years" approach, the ninth grade Moss wrote a list of eight things she wanted to do to improve herself. At the top of the list were "1. Remove moles on face, 2. Get braces on teeth, 3. Fix face." It is incredible that one so young would seize such determination and not let go until she had accomplished these seemingly insurmountable goals. Shortly after writing these goals, she began to act upon them. Her book reveals the ways she accomplished them. With remarkable insight, Moss writes about how each achieved goal created both negative and positive issues for her.

Moss's writing talent is evident in this deeply personal and moving story. Her gift to her readers is the lesson of redemption and grace in the midst of life's biggest hurdles.

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