"Mom saw me and made a run for me. I could see how mad she was and that she was out of control. I knew that look; I had seen it many times. Mom was trying to get to me to hit me, but the policeman caught her before she could."

Erma Steppe grew up feeling hated by the one person who should have loved her most—her mother. Victims of the most extreme neglect and abuse, the children spent much of their childhood at Meigs County, Ohio, Children’s Home. When forced to stay with her cruel, alcoholic mother, Erma was also subjected to sexual abuse by her mother’s boyfriends, making her feel “like an old can, rusty and dirty with nothing inside me.” A counselor named Barbara was the only ray of hope in her young life, making efforts to get her and her siblings to the relative safety of the children’s home. Erma took to hiding: under a porch, even in a graveyard. Survival became her priority, and escape, too. As an adult, she cared for her mother but in the end, was rewarded only with more hate, shutting off all hope for real reconciliation. She had a tumultuous teen marriage and children, though she had no clue how to clean a house, relate to a husband, or care for babies. Later in life, she found a kind, understanding female partner and very gradually recovered from most, if not all, of the emotional scars of her horrible childhood.

Written in plain language, sparing few details, and accurately depicting her chaotic psychological state much as she experienced it, I’m Nobody is a harrowing portrait of what can happen to children of an alcoholic parent. With few social safeguards and a lot of power given to the parent despite the obvious abuses, it’s remarkable, even miraculous, that such children ever grow up to find even a small amount of happiness or positive self-esteem. To be read by people who have suffered in a similar situation, this offers a ray of hope. Erma’s loyal friends and her children have sided with her and taken care of her, making this book possible.

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