RED Hearts: My Notorious Life

NotoriousCover RED Hearts are guest posts on I Heart Daily from the authors of RED: Teenage girls in America write on what fires up their lives today. Today’s RED Hearts post is from RED author Carey Dunne, 24, in Brooklyn, who just found out that her mom is also one of her favorite authors:

For the past six years, my mother has been locked in a closet, typing. Evidence of her secret project was always scattered around her desk: an old sepia print of a crabby little girl on a stoop; a portrait of a stout, evil-looking man with a white handlebar mustache and the name ANTHONY COMSTOCK printed beneath; stacks and stacks of books (How the Other Half Lives by Jacob Riis, The Woman Who Walked Into Doors by Roddy Doyle, Down By The River by Edna O’Brien). I would see piles of paper with NOTORIOUS X written on the front and have to restrain myself from snooping.

Whenever I asked what she was working on, she gave short, mysterious answers. Finally, about a year ago, she gave me her manuscript, all 800 loose pages of it, in a green plastic binder. My Notorious Life, the novel was called. I was nervous. What if all it said inside was “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” over and over? Despite being bogged down with schoolwork, I started to read -- and finished the entire thing in two days.

The heroine, Axie Muldoon, made me actually laugh out loud with her furious wit (this is a 19th-century lady who describes one man’s neck fat rolls as “a meat scarf”). And, more than any book I've read this year, it's got a page-turning plot: Axie goes from being orphaned on the mean streets of Manhattan to becoming an apprentice to a midwife, where she learns her trade. As her alter ego, Madame DeBeausacq, she peddles illegal “lunar tablets for female complaint” and comes up against the Society for the Suppression of Vice, headed by her Mortal Enemy, the priggish Anthony Comstock.

I more than “heart” this book. I want to recommend it to everyone I know. As my mother is now -- honestly -- one of my favorite authors, I asked Kate Manning a couple of questions for I Heart Daily about her new novel and about the battle for reproductive rights that shaped Axie’s life. Though she’s fictional and from the 1800s, Axie’s story is deeply relevant to every teenage girl in America in its portrayal of a time before abortion was legal and the terrible toll this ban took on women’s lives. Stay tuned for that interview soon!

RED Hearts guest poster Carey Dunne is an author of RED: Teenage girls in America write on what fires up their lives today, which is out in paperback.