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Sonoma County Gazette
Ilene English writes with exceptional candor. Drug experiences and abortions are not skipped over
Ilene English writes with exceptional candor. Drug experiences and abortions are not skipped over

Hippie Chick
by Ilene English

Nov 23, 2019
by Diane McCurdy, Film and Book Reviews


Ilene English. Photo: Psychologytoday.comA memoir is different from an autobiography or a biography although it can contain elements of both of those genres. It is narrower and more introspective usually with a very definite personal theme. In this case, the motif in the memoir Hippie Chick by author Ilene English  is most plausibly her journey into self, finding her worth and finding her place in the universe. Now a psychotherapist living on the Sonoma coast with practices in Sebastopol and Petaluma, she was born, the youngest of six, into a Jewish family in New Jersey. Her mother was always very ill and her father was distant. 

After her mother died and when she finished high school her older sister, Carole, whom she idolized sent her a one-way ticket to San Francisco. It was the 60's, sex drugs, and rock and roll. The 60's represent one of the most tumultuous periods of upheaval and change in the history of our country: Vietnam, the assassinations of Kennedy and M.L. King, the Berlin Wall, the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the first heart transplant, mini-skirts, the Beatles. Against this background the author came of age. She was fortunate that her sister had married well and she was able to subsidize her until she was able to be independent. Thus begins the story of exploration. 

Her first sexual experience was followed by a whole list of boyfriends. She seemed to choose men who undermined her self-esteem. She became involved with The Farm a hippie community with a charismatic leader. For a while she had a fairly positive relationship with a jazz musician but his cheating precipitated her running away to Hawaii. On her return she met her future husband eventually ending up in Eugene, Oregon. While her husband studies for his PhD, she begs for a child. Her husband relents but it is obvious the relationship is doomed. They separate and at this point she begins her recovery most likely because she had the child that she had longed for and as a fiercely devoted mother she wanted to be a better person for her daughter. It is a long circuitous journey but she proves her resilience. 

She writes with exceptional candor. Drug experiences and abortions are not skipped over. Ms English is now in a healthy but non-traditional relationship, in her position as a therapist she is especially qualified to help others who have had similar issues as hers. Her writing is intimate in that it feels as if you are sitting down with her having a cup of coffee.

It is amazing how memoir writers can remember so many details of their lives. Do they keep journals? Do they use their imagination to embellish and enhance certain key events? I tried to envision my own memoir but I couldn't even get the chronology straight. Then it made me anxious and depressed to recall the people and pets who have passed on. I decided to stay in the Zen Eternal Now. However I did enjoy Ilene English's recounting of her memories. I'll stay with other people's reminiscences which, in the case of Hippie Chick, are thoroughly engrossing.

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