Saturday, April 15, 2017

Book Review: "My Life to Live" by Agnes Nixon

If you've heard of any American soap operas at all over the last fifty years, there's a pretty good chance you're familiar with Agnes Nixon's work. The creator and longtime head writer of the soaps "All My Children," "One Life to Live," and "Loving," and head writer of "Search for Tomorrow," "Guiding Light," and "Another World," this autobiography/memoir describes Nixon's career and life paths - and how the two influenced each other. 

Not surprisingly, given that the author won multiple Emmys and Writers' Guild of America awards for her writing, this book is a beautifully written and poignant story of a talented and determined woman forging a career in a male-dominated field, without sacrificing her femininity or her home life. Nixon begins her story in her tumultuous childhood; her mother and her often-absent father's rocky, on again-off again relationship doubtless inspired many of the passionate yet dysfunctional relationships depicted in her storylines through the years. Nixon narrates the difficulties of her life, not in a self-pitying way, but in a way that demonstrates her inspiration to depict interesting, sometimes tormented, emotionally moving relationships. Events and people as diverse as her beloved fiancee, who was killed in action during World War II; a tutor who introduced her to the drama of opera and Shakespeare; her father, who continuously made her promises that he never kept, alternately cajoling and threatening her; loved ones suffering from disease - all these found their way into her writing, whether as directly as a plotline of a character suffering from that same disease, or as subtly as an understanding of a character's egotistical, narcissistic personality. 

Nixon had to continually fight for her career. She was fired from various jobs; told that she couldn't address "sensitive" issues like cancer, homosexuality, teen pregnancy, drug addiction, and racial prejudice; threatened with lawsuits for collusion; even called an irresponsible and uncaring mother. But she persisted in following her dream, working long hours with no days off, continually fighting for and defending her choices and her work. And the result is that she became the first female writer inducted into the Soap Opera Hall of Fame, a legend in the world of television. Her legacy lives on in her influence on every soap opera currently on television. She was truly a visionary and a pioneer, and her story is as fascinating and intriguing as the scripts she penned for more than 40 years. 

I received this book for review from Blogging for Books. For more information about My Life to Live by Agnes Nixon, please see the Penguin Random House website.

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