“Get Tough or Die” by Barbara L. Sellers

Barbara L. Sellers
Momosa Publishing (2019)
ISBN 9780984480418
Reviewed by Carol Hoyer for Reader Views (8/19)

Barbara Sellers, a gifted writer and survivor of severe child abuse, takes readers on a journey no child should experience in her memoir, “Get Tough or Die.” Barbara is the sixth of fourteen children; two sisters died because her Pa would not seek medical care for them.  Living in rural Minnesota times were hard, but nothing prepares you for this devastating journey.

Throughout the telling of her story, I felt that two people wrote this book. One was Barbara, the child, who tells the story without an adult’s analysis of what was happening. Even with the child-like matter-of-fact telling, however, the fear that a child feels when confronted with an unstable and cruel adult comes through loud and clear. The other writer is Barbara, the adult, who rose above the neglect and cruelty to become a successful, strong woman. Barbara is a kind and insightful person and a gifted writer. Thank you, Barbara, for the courage it took to share your story, but even more for reminding us of the power of love and forgiveness.

As a former psychologist, I have treated numerous clients with a history of abuse from a parent and certainly understand the impact it has later in life. Each child deals with abuse in their own way, some block it out, and others like Barbara face it head-on. While reading the author’s memoir, my mind floats back to another book that had a huge impact on me, “A Child Called IT.”

In the section on My Story of Survival, the statistics on child abuse are staggering but not surprising. The United States loses an average between four and seven children every day to child abuse and neglect. If you don’t believe this, watch the news. There were no child protective services in those days to run to, nor were there services to aid the adult in dealing with their demons, and most turned a blind eye to the bruises and injuries from parental abuse,.

I found it interesting that Barbara felt her mother regretted marrying her husband every day of her life, and somehow that impacted the constant conflict. Barbara’s father, an extremely violent man, exhibits sheer indifference and self-involvement, putting his needs and money before the family. Also, Barbara’s mother never had the emotional maturity, courage and stability one needs to protect her children.  

I enjoyed the lessons learned from both parents, as well as the positive characteristics of each parent. Every word in this book will become burned into your mind like a hot branding iron on skin. This haunting story will never leave you.

The author’s writing is from her own experience as she sees it. It is brutal, honest, and I imagine therapeutic even though it must have been hard to write. Some may find they will need to read it in small portions, especially if one has never experienced abuse. It is hard to read, but also gives readers important information about abuse and the long-lasting impact.

I highly recommend “Get Tough or Die” by Barbara L. Sellers. Coming away from this reading, I have a better understanding of why I feel the need to be overprotective of my children and the impact it has on them.

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