In the book How I Got Cultured, Phyllis Barber tells the story of her childhood in a western Mormon household. Through stories and episodes of her early life she descriptively explains the difficulties she faces between her Mormon values and her desire to become a successful star. She wants to be noticed, and be the center of everything, and the Mormon Faith allows very little tolerance for this behavior in that they are a very conservative group. She uses her talents and abilities to assist her in her search of her "culture" I can definitely relate to Phyllis Barber in this dilemma, though she comes from a totally different faith and also era. Growing up in a strict Christian household gives me a sense of what Barber is trying to tell us in her memoir.
When I was younger I played football and was crushed when the season in my seventh grade year came to an end when my mother wouldn't let me play because it interrupted my Christian life, in that I wasn't attending youth group during the week anymore. In contrast to Barber, my childhood environment was extremely rich with culture and the battle between right and wrong was a very difficult one in that perception of right and wrong differentiated between faith and the real world. Barber struggled to find her "culture." She frequently speaks of the Hoover Dam, I think she refers to the Hoover Dam as a symbol that represents the separation that I talked about. She is stuck between two worlds: Mormonism and a place where talent could forge it's own path. She describes that the Dam separates Arizona and Nevada.
In my opinion, this is a direct reflection of her life. Not only is Barber constricted by her Mormon faith to live the life she dreams of, but she is faced with the moral value of a woman perceived in the fifties. She isn't "supposed" to want the things that she does, or dream the dreams she dreams at night. She is "supposed" to be quiet and stand to the side and not "shine." She continues to tell not only of her love for attention through music, but also through dance.
She is introduced to ballet, which, to say the least, begins to satisfy her quench for culture. Throughout the book she is exposed t many amazing people, and learns much from them. Dance has such a huge impact on her and satisfies her search to be "in the spotlight," but this is in direct opposition to her parent's religious interpretations. Her inspirations come from several "breaths of culture" not her own. She knew dancing and performing would give her the attention she craved. Phyllis was taught to just be a star for god; in this her family denounces her for her cravings.
She was warned that too much embellishment would result in the loss of her talents by god, to keep her humble. Her family felt that entertaining would astray Phyllis away from god and the respected Mormon path and purpose in life. In Conclusion, I did some background research on Phyllis Barber, despite the emptiness of her surroundings and the lack of culture in her life, she pursues her dreams and is successful in doing so while staying faithful to the Mormon Faith. Today she is professional pianist, which was originally she was exposed to the piano by her mother. She is also an author of several books, including short stories and children's books.