Scott Hardie | June 2, 2002
Last night I read the book A Child Called "It" by Dave Pelzer (available here), the autobiographical telling of how he survived a childhood of physical abuse. It's a truly powerful story - this kid was stabbed, burned, choked, drowned, poisoned, and continously starved and beaten for five years - but its weakness is an improper focus. Pelzer, in his mid-thirties when this book was published, is now a motivational speaker, and tries to pull generic life lessons in "believing in yourself" and "finding motivation from within" out of his own tale.

It's true, he did make it through his horrible childhood by his own sheer determination; I buy that. But I don't think that can be applied to general things in life. How can that help me not get discouraged while job-hunting? How can it help me repair a bad marriage? His situation and story are not general motivators and would work much better if he used them exclusively for preventing child abuse.

Still, aside from that one flaw (and its brevity; it's 170 pages in large print and I read the whole thing in two hours), it's a harrowing book that will thoroughly crush your sense of optimism for a while. It will also get you to care about child abuse if you don't already. A lot of people agree that hitting a child once in a while is an acceptable form of discipline, but this book demonstrates how easily that practice can get out of hand. Child abuse is too big of a problem for any of us to actually do anything about it, but you know what, the least we can do is care. I strongly recommend this book.

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