I’m Nobody: My Mother Said It: I No Longer Believe It
For a courageous, moving, and poignant life story, look no further than I’m Nobody by Erma Steppe. With grace and purpose, she shares her struggles. Without a name, a home, or any sense of self-worth, Erma grapples with the devastating rejection by her mother who made it clear from the start that Erma was unwanted and unloved. On a journey of self-understanding and eager to share with others, Erma reveals her innermost feelings in a quest for inner peace, for herself and for others who may have endured similar difficulty.
Repeatedly describing herself as a “shell of a girl,” Erma candidly acknowledges the perpetual emptiness she feels. It is easy to imagine her brittle exterior surrounding an empty space. It is easy to imagine that the slightest tap on that exterior would cause it to crack. It is easy to imagine her vulnerability, the inner child that still lives on in her today.
A powerful supplement to Erma’s words are the pictures included in the book. Of particular importance (and even necessity) is the picture of Erma as a young adult with her mom. Your eyes will study this picture. They will linger. They will try to see beyond the two-dimensional image and try to understand what could possibly motivate this woman to betray her child in such horrific fashion. Other pictures further enhance the power of the story. We see buildings Erma lived in, the graveyard where she hid, copies of court orders shuffling her and her siblings from place to place. And, we learn that the only picture of her from her childhood is super-imposed on the scene on the front cover, creating an undeniable eeriness, almost as if she is frozen in time and this “shell of a girl” is all that exists.
Despite some gaps in Erma’s memory and a disordering of the chronology of events, she does an impressive job of recounting key events and feelings in a cohesive and forward-flowing way. We grow up with this child. We feel what this child feels. We occupy that empty shell right along with her. Candidly, and with startling authenticity, Erma Steppe exposes her deepest feelings, vulnerabilities, and fears in I’m Nobody. She is haunted by a desperate yearning for the love and approval of her mother, knowing full-well that it will never come. With admirable fortitude, Erma shares a journey that may never be fully complete.