Summer, Lauralee 1976-
SUMMER, Lauralee 1976-
Agent—c/o Author Mail, Simon & Schuster, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020.
Student and author.
Learning Joy from Dogs without Collars: A Memoir, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2003.
Lauralee Summer was raised by a peripatetic but loving mother who moved from state to state, and lived cheaply—sometimes even making a temporary home in a shelter. Living on welfare in order to be able to spend as much time with her daughter as possible, Elizabeth Summer passed along her love of books, as well as "cultivating her daughter's sense of wonder and interest in the world," according to Boston Globe contributor Jan Gardner. With no car, no stable home, no father that Lauralee knew, and little money, the girl learned to be resilient, open to new experiences, and self-reliant, although she also felt periods of anger and frustration as poverty and class differences made her feel inadequate among her peers. Due in part to a dedicated teacher at Massachusetts' Quincy High School, Summer finally got her first taste of what consistent, long-term effort could achieve—and gained the first inkling that her life was somewhat out of the ordinary—when she won a wrestling scholarship to Harvard University as a member of the boys' team. When armies of reporters began showing up, begging for interviews, and Summer was asked to appear on television interviews, she realized that it was important for people to realize that she did not feel deprived by her unusual childhood. Her book Learning Joy from Dogs without Collars, written during her college career, is her attempt to set the record straight.
Calling the book "part mother-daughter road trip, part antimaterialist manifesto complete with low-budget decorating ideas, and part meditation on the challenges of being the first woman on the varsity wrestling team at Harvard," Gardner commented that Learning Joy from Dogs without Collars serves as a "tribute to mothers who—often with little more than sheer determination—make a better life for their offspring." While finding Summers' story compelling, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reviewer Ruth Hammond noted that the author's "approach is a bit uneven. The intellectual analysis she imposes on her story [due to her college studies in child development and education] does not always graft well.…The mother of the girl's early years is such a well-drawn character that it's a shame the reader doesn't get a chance to know her better." In Publishers Weekly a reviewer praised the book as a "memorable" work in which the author "writes frankly about poverty, shame and class distinctions." a Kirkus contributor found Summer's memoir "both forgiving and perceptive," while in Library Journal Dale Farris found Learning Joy from Dogs without Collars a "sophisticated, literary" book in which both teen and adult readers will "admire the author's determination not to dwell on disappointment or live with anger."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, May 1, 2003, Hazel Rochman, review of Learning Joy from Dogs without Collars: A Memoir, p. 1560.
Boston Globe, August 4, 2003, Jan Gardner, "A Mother-Daughter Journey through Homelessness," p. B10.
Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 2003, review of Learning Joy from Dogs without Collars, p. 598.
Library Journal, April 15, 2003, Dale Farris, review of Learning Joy from Dogs without Collars, p. 98.
Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), June 20, 3004, Ruth Hammond, review of Learning Joy from Dogs without Collars.
Publishers Weekly, May 12, 2003, review of Learning Joy from dogs without Collars, p. 57.
USA Today, July 14, 2003, Kathy Balog, "From Homeless to Harvard and the World Beyond."