Cissy Houston Reflects on Raising Whitney

In her memoir, the pop star's mom describes the folly and frustration of witnessing her daughter's life.

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That feeling of helplessness carries on until the end of the book. As I read, Cissy began to remind me of my own grandmother, also a Depression-era baby, someone who made sure her children were fed, housed and clothed but who rarely delved into their personal lives unsolicited. "We just weren't inclined to get in each other's business that way -- for better or worse," writes Cissy, who also admits that her daughter began keeping her "at arm's length."

It wasn't until Cissy actually witnessed Whitney high on drugs that she seemed to give herself the permission to press the issue. She showed up at the Atlanta home Whitney shared with Bobby Brown with two sheriffs and a court injunction forcing the singer into rehabilitation. Not too long afterward Whitney filed for divorce from Brown and moved to California. Cissy makes it clear, though, that Whitney "never, ever complained" to her about Brown.

"When she wanted my advice, she asked for it," writes Cissy. "Other times she kept her mouth shut." Such a blunt statement doesn't help to soften the blow of the fact that the mother and daughter, once so close according to Cissy, who trained Whitney herself, would eventually drift so far apart. Remembering Whitney is obviously a book for fans who are undoubtedly hungry for any details of the singer's early years. But it shines mostly as a cautionary tale for those of us who might allow the appearance of a loved one "having it together" to shade the reality of true pain.

Helena Andrews is a contributing editor at The Root and author of Bitch Is the New Black, a memoir in essays. Follow her on Twitter. 

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Helena Andrews is a contributing editor at The Root and author of Bitch Is the New Black, a memoir in essays. Follow her on Twitter.