A memoir of growing up in the Northwest, living below the federal poverty line, with a father who was larger than life, sometimes abusive, and always a force to be reckoned with. One of the things I really loved about this book was how it illuminated new corners of the Northwest — towns I’d never heard of, places I’ve only passed through. Ontiveros’s love of the natural world comes shining through. I also loved her refusal to reduce her father to a simple villain. She shows us his complexity without excusing his abusive behavior. Recommended By Mary Jo S., Powells.com
Ontiveros's memoir of growing up in an itinerant logging family details intergenerational poverty, abuse, trauma, addiction, and violence, but is also fully infused with a deep familial love. Set in the small, often forgotten logging towns of Washington and Oregon in the ’70s and ’80s, rough house is a daughter's fraught, compassionate reckoning with her abusive, mercurial, loving father. Recommended By Emily B., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
Tina Ontiveros was born into timber on both sides of the family. Her mother spent summers driving logging trucks for her family's operation, and her father was the son of an itinerant logger, raised in a variety of lumber towns, as Tina herself would be.
A story of growing up in turmoil, rough house recounts a childhood divided between a charming, mercurial, abusive father in the forests of the Pacific Northwest and a mother struggling with small-town poverty. It is also a story of generational trauma, especially for the women — a story of violent men and societal restrictions, of children not always chosen and frequently raised alone.
Ontiveros's father, Loyd, looms large. Reflecting on his death and long absence from her life, she writes, "I had this ridiculous hope that I would get to enjoy a functional relationship with my father, on my own terms, now that I was an adult." In searingly honest, straightforward prose, rough house is her attempt to carve out this relationship, to understand her father and her family from an adult perspective.
While some elements of Ontiveros's story are universal, others are indelibly grounded in the logging camps of the Pacific Northwest at the end of the twentieth century, as the lumber industry shifted and contracted. Tracing her childhood through the working-class towns and forests of Washington and Oregon, Ontiveros explores themes of love and loss, parents and children, and her own journey to a different kind of adulthood.
"rough house is a deeply realized memoir about family, addiction,
violence, molestation, and the ways regular people endure and overcome
inter-generational family dysfunction." Keenan Norris, author of
Brother and the Dancer and
By the Lemon Tree
"In spite of her struggle,
there is something so plucky and honest about this book's narrator, you
will be converted to a new view of your own troubles. You will look at
your own life through the lens of this book, knowing with Ontiveros that 'certain beauties can only be seen in the complication of hardship.' This kid's got the goods to survive, and this book's got a big story for
you." Kim Stafford, author of
Singer Come from Afar
"rough house is at once a study of a disappearing culture, and an
exotic and achingly familiar meditation on family. Amidst an
unforgettable world of sawdust and grime, snarling chainsaws and
privation, Ontiveros is as vivid in her description as she is
unflinching in her honesty." Jonathan Evison, author of
Lawn Boy and
West of Here
About the Author
Tina Ontiveros is a writing
instructor at Columbia Gorge Community College, book buyer at Klindt's
Booksellers in The Dalles, and president of the Pacific Northwest