Posted: March 18th, 2023
Fish Out of Water: The Turbulent Life of Antwone Fisher’s Childhood
Finding Fish: A Memoir, is the tumultuous journey of Antwone Quenton Fisher’s fairly disturbing life story, as particularly exemplified by the former part of his existence in which he subsisted in a foster home with a rather decidedly dearth of love, affection, and positive attention which is so important to the cultivation of a prosperous life. Despite a neglectful, abusive childhood and early adolescence in such desolate conditions, Fisher was able to rally his self-respect and self-esteem shortly after leaving this foster home, which was largely organized and operated under the auspices of one Mizz Pickett, whereby Fisher was able to eventually enlist in the United States Armed Forces. It was there that he regained much of the rectitude which was conspicuously absent from his early life, and was eventually able to parley that experience, along with his own innate prowess for creativity and the written word, to a successful career as a screen writer.
The most interesting aspect of this non-fiction tale, of course, lies in the treatment which the youngster endured at the hands of Mizz Pickett and the environment which she provided for Fisher as well as for the other foster children who were under her care, and which included at one point another child named Dwight as well as a young girl by the name of Florence. There are a number of cultural aspects which distinguish this particular foster family, which also included Mizz Pickett’s husband, Mr. Pickett, from that of other families. One of the most salient of these aspects which immediately makes its presence known to the reader is the lack of affection bestowed upon the children by Mizz Picket, particularly in the face of occasions which are supposed to be joyful, such as those involving national holidays. Early on in his narration, Fisher recounts an episode which occurred the day after Halloween, in which he had happily procured a surfeit of candy which he and the rest of the foster children had been eagerly anticipating sampling the next day. However, the following quotation in which Mizz Pickett is codifying the candy by type, illustrates how unreasonably stringent her treatment of the foster children is.
“â€¦she has finished sorting every last lollipop, peppermint, chocolate kiss, Hershey’s bar, gumdrop, licorice stick, piece of bubble gum, PayDay Jujubes, you name it. Then, wiping her hands together first, Mizz Pickett slams the lid shut on the metal box and slaps on a Master lockâ€¦she ain’t gonna let us have none (p.54).” This quotation illustrated the spiteful nature of Mizz Pickett, who would rather entice her foster children by showcasing all of the candy which she will not permit them to have than simply allow them to partake in a tradition of the eating of candy after a holiday such as Halloween. Another cultural aspect which definitely separates Mizz Pickett’s foster family from that of traditional families is the sheer amount of labor which she inflicts upon the young children, at a fairly early age.
This character trait of the ill-behaved foster mother is best demonstrated in the following quotation, in which Fisher is not quite five years old and is taken to see who he believes is his biological mother. When a social worker inquires as to how Fisher has been doing, Mizz Picket replies with the following quotation which precedes Fisher’s rumination on the subject of childhood labor. “He’s doin’ well with the cleanin’.” Nothing makes her happier than having a child of four and a half do a day’s worth of cleaningâ€¦ (p. 40).” In most cultures, it is highly unusual for a four-year-old to do a day’s worth of labor, particularly in cultures where families are bound together with ties of love, affection, and joy. Yet such ties are foreign to Fisher’s foster family, and particularly to its matriarch Mizz Pickett.
Another difference between this foster family and that of traditional families is that, due to the fact that Fisher’s living in a foster home, there are more than one mother and father figures in the lives of the children. Mizz Pickett is fully aware of this fact, and aware of the strains which this presents on her authority as a matriarch. Therefore, she makes a point of disparaging Fisher’s biological mother, which causes the unnatural occurrence of a young child actually disliking his own mother, which the following quote, in which four-year-old Fisher ponders comments made by Mizz Pickett in regards to his mother, readily indicate. “And you and your no-account mammy.” Makes me feel bad, ’cause whoever she is, she’s too poor to get a bank account; and ashamed that somehow it has something to do with me (p. 40).” This quotation indicates Fisher’s ignorance as a young child; he does not even know who his mother is, and Mizz Fisher’s comments, which are in quotes, lead him to think that there’s something financially wrong with her (“no-account”) and makes him feel ashamed of her. In healthy, wholesome families, mothers are not disparaged and children are not ashamed of them; unfortunately these occurrences are fairly routine in Fisher’s foster home.
Other cultural aspects which separate Fisher’s foster family from that of traditional ones include the derogatory ways in which Mizz Fisher refers to the foster children (by words which do not deserve to be printed in an academic paper), and which are certainly not indicative of any sort of affection or strong ties between a parent and her child. All of these cultural aspects, however, merely prove that Fisher’s childhood environment was hurtful and bitter, and that it would eventually play a huge role in his turning his life around to overcome these significant obstacles.
Fisher, A.Q. (2001). Finding Fish: A Memoir. New York: William Morrow.
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