Sharron Ann Sibley
Hardcover (also available as an e-book and in paperback), 978-1-0878-5987-3, 422 pgs., $34.95
Sharron Ann Sibley is backstage at San Francisco’s Majestic Theater, dressed for her role as Morgan le Fey in Camelot, when she is served with divorce papers.
Sibley was born and raised in Abilene, Texas, during the 1950s and ’60s, elder daughter of a well-off and well-respected doctor and housewife. Her father regularly stated that, with her talent and smarts, it was just such a shame she wasn’t a boy. Sibley writes that there was no need to “assert your own identity . . . As a proper Texas belle, Sharron Ann never thought to question the status quo. Men were tall, dark, and handsome; women were beautiful, submissive, and adoring.” Conditioned like a prized mare, a girl’s highest calling was to reflect the glory of her husband.
Now it’s 1973, and Sibley, whose little family had moved to California so her husband could perform his military service, is devastated, standing backstage. She had dropped out of college to marry, gave birth to her first child at nineteen, and stood by her man through thick and thin.
Men, Money & Gypsy Blood: A Memoir of Love, Survival, and My Rise to Wall Street is the first of a planned trilogy from Sharron Ann Sibley, a retired stockbroker, popular lecturer, and grandmother. In this first installment, Sibley takes us on a bumpy ride from country clubs and cheerleading to bankruptcy and efficiency apartments and back again. Funny, tragic, and inspiring in turn, Men, Money & Gypsy Blood is the story of a woman who tried to fit the mold and ended up shattering it, forging a new life on her own terms.
The book sports a striking cover and is well edited. Curiously, this memoir is written in third person, an unusual choice that is never explained and can be distracting. Each chapter, with titles such as “The Age of Innocence,” “The Age of Happiness,” and “The Age of Mastery,” begins with an aphorism from a varied cast, including Shakespeare, Davy Crockett, Bear Bryant, and Kim Novak.
Reading Men, Money & Gypsy Blood sometimes feels as if you’re exploring an unfamiliar anthropology, marveling at a time when a woman couldn’t obtain a loan, take out a credit card, or sign a lease on her own. While these practices—almost impossible to imagine—are now illegal, other aspects of this society are still with us: boys and men are still “lucky,” while girls and women are still “sluts.” In the era of #MeToo, this memoir is a reminder of how far we’ve come, that our opportunities have expanded exponentially, and that the job is not finished yet.
Sibley has a remarkable recall and an eye for details. The recall serves her and the reader well, but the profusion of minute detail is repetitive and sometimes irrelevant to the narrative. But Sibley writes passionately and persuasively about her transformation. For the first twenty years of her life, she was an ambitious but naïve and unworldly girl, raised to believe that beauty was more important than talent or intelligence and a suitable husband was the pinnacle of female achievement. When her husband left her for another woman, Sibley had to step up and learn to support and assure a future for herself and her children, engineering a metamorphosis so radical that it was practically cellular.
It’s a real pleasure to go on this journey with Sibley as she works her way back to take center stage; this time, she’s the star.
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