BOOKS: The Story of My Life

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 2003:

The Story of My Life by Shayna
As Told to Greta
by Greta Marsh
1st World Library (8014 Shoal Creek Blvd., Suite
100, Austin, TX 78757), 2001. 221 pages,
paperback. $24.50

Ex-racing greyhounds tend to be quiet,
despite the frustrations of their often muzzled
former lives. Horse and greyhound rescuer Greta
Marsh, on the other hand, has much to say on
their behalf, and on behalf of all abused and
exploited creatures, including disadvantaged
humans.
Thus the decision by Marsh to write The
Story of My Life through the imagined voice of
her deceased first greyhound Shayna was not
fortuitious. Because Shayna sounds much more
like Marsh than like a dog, The Story of My Life
never quite transcends disbelief. We supposedly
have a dog here who pays little attention to most
subjects of concern to dogs, but can sometimes
talk to her former racing handler and Marsh, as
well as fellow dogs, and is familiar with both
animal rights and human rights issues.

Because the narrative voice is wrong,
the message comes across as thinly disguised
preaching, unlikely to elude school and library
censors to reach many of the young people Marsh
hopes to address.
Ironically, Marsh as Marsh might have
succeeded–but the story of her own life is left
to a note on the very last page.
“Since her teenage years, Greta Marsh
has been active in the civil rights movement,”
the note explains. “In August 1963 she
participated in Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on
Washington for Jobs and Freedom. For many years
Greta was a probation officer and worked with
troubled, abused and neglected children,
battered women, and an occasional battered man.
Then, in the early 1980s, she crossed the
barrier that separates the species and became an
advocate not just for human animals, but for
other-specied animals as wellÅ  Greta is the
mother of five, grandmother of seven.”
If the late Shayna had really possessed
the depth of knowledge that Marsh attributes to
her, she would probably have agreed that Marsh
could best tell the stories of the greyhounds and
other creatures she defends by telling her own
story. Human readers can much more readily
identify with a human who attempts to exemplify
humane ideals than with a dog who sounds as if
she has a masters’ degree at age six.

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