Memoirs can be interesting recollections or just self-indulgent, but “Color Me Butterfly” falls somewhere between the two. L. Y. Marlow tells about four generations in her family and their struggle with domestic violence.
At first, the story centers around Eloise, who grew up in the South and moved north with her abusive husband and children. And the family was huge, since birth control wasn’t widely available. The author makes a point of connecting her family’s history with the nation’s history. That helps put the four generations into context.
Farther into the story, it’s clear that the book is merely a vehicle for the author’s poetry. She incorporates the poetry into the story nicely, but a more sophisticated reader might find them jarring or annoying.
Each woman in the story has to learn her lessons firsthand, and they all make mistakes that they have to live with. And each woman has to learn that she can’t trust the man she fell in love with. Every time one of the women gets beat up, her lover apologizes, promises never to do it again, and is taken back. Dumb.
But that’s the dilemma of the abused woman: she never believes she has choices. The eldest generation didn’t have the same kind of support that the youngest generation has. Eloise must depend on her family and live with her bad choices, while Treasure (the youngest generation) has a therapist as well as family to fall back on.
It seems like all the men in their lives were scoundrels, criminals or just plain mean. What sets them apart is that the oldest generation just walks away from his family, while the younger generations actually spend time in prison to pay for their crimes.
In the end, the reader is hopeful that the women’s lives will be better — having more access to support, more choices open to them, and more self-respect in order to reject ill treatment from the men their lives.