cover image Miss American Pie: A Diary of Love, Secrets and Growing Up in the '70s

Miss American Pie: A Diary of Love, Secrets and Growing Up in the '70s

Margaret Sartor, . . Bloomsbury, $19.95 (192pp) ISBN 978-1-59691-200-7

Beginning in 1972, at age 13, Sartor records the highlights and low points of her formative years in Montgomery, Ala. Through succinct diary entries (Mar. 1, 1973: "I hate my buck teeth. I love Edgar Napoleon") that grow more insightful as she ages, the author, who teaches documentary studies at Duke, reveals her insecurities, spiritual awakening and early sexual encounters. Hers is a very normal American childhood, though a few things stand out: she experiences desegregation firsthand (she's white, but witnesses racism toward black kids) and is torn between her evangelical Christian community and her sectarian household. There are moments of impressive maturity and self-awareness, such as the May 18, 1977, entry: "I'm giving the invocation at the graduation ceremony. I'm sure they asked me because I'm the only kid willing to pray out loud who doesn't hand out pamphlets on the Second Coming"; or June 1, 1977: "Can you be alone when you are physically with someone?" Sartor's reproduction of her diaries differs from traditional memoirs in its lack of adult interpretation of events, told through the distance of time and wisdom. That may make it unusual, but publishing such generally mediocre diaries feels self-indulgent. Author tour. (July)