My Mother's Keeper
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An exposé of sorts, My Mother's Keeper is often compared to the 1978 book Mommie Dearest by Christina Crawford, the daughter of Joan Crawford. Published after Crawford's book, Hyman also paints a very unflattering portrait of her mother, depicting her as a self-centered, emotionally abusive alcoholic. Unlike Crawford, Hyman does not accuse her mother of any physical abuse. Indeed, she claims Davis was a battered woman and states that Davis' actor husband Gary Merrill was a violent alcoholic. Unlike Crawford's book, which was published after the death of its subject, Hyman's book and a sequel titled Narrow Is the Way were published during Davis' lifetime, thereby affording the actress an opportunity to respond to their allegations. Davis tried unsuccessfully to block publication of the books.
After publication of My Mother's Keeper there was a groundswell of public sympathy for Davis, who had suffered a stroke only months prior to the book's release. Many celebrities came forward to defend her, stating that far from being emotionally abused, B.D. Hyman had been spoiled by Davis. Many came forward to dispute Hyman's version of events as being exaggerated and taken out of context. Among others, Gary Merrill publicly denied Hyman's allegations, stating in a CNN interview that Hyman was motivated by "cruelty and greed." She was primarily portrayed as an ungrateful daughter trying to cash in on her mother's name. Hyman stands by the statements made in her two books.
Davis's only public response to her daughter's allegations was an open letter to her daughter published in the actress's own book, This 'N That (1987). Davis wrote:
"Dear Hyman, I am now utterly confused as to who you are or what your way of life is. Your book is a glaring lack of loyalty and thanks for the very privileged life I feel you have been given. If my memory serves me right, I've been your keeper all these many years. I am continuing to do so, as my name has made your book about me a success."
Davis disinherited not only her daughter, but also her grandchildren from Hyman's marriage.
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