Dave Pelzer has found a way to cash in on the years of torture he suffered at the hands of his mother, a mentally ill alcoholic. She took most of her confusion and rage out on her four-year-old son, while treating his four brothers well. She put him in ice-cold baths, starved him for weeks, then made him vomit to make sure he wasn’t stealing food; locked him in the bathroom with s fuming bucket of bleach and ammonia, which nearly killed him. She stabbed him in the chest and beat him with a broom and a dog chain while his father looked on.
In his 11th or 12th year – reports vary – Dave was rescued by teachers, police and social workers, and spent the rest of his youth in foster homes. At 18 he joined the Air Force. During his service, he did volunteer work and in 1990 was awarded the JC Penney Golden Rule Award. He was also chosen the California Volunteer of the Year. In 1994 Dave was honored as The Outstanding Young Person of the World, and in 1996 he carried the Centennial flame for the 1996 Olympics.
Dave’s three books: A CHILD CALLED IT: One Child’s Courage to Survive, which has been on the New York Times’ Best Seller list for years – all his books combined have graced that list for 12 years – THE LOST BOY: A Foster Child’s Search for the Love of a Family; and A MAN NAMED DAVE: A Story of Triumph and Forgiveness, have inspired thousands of abuse victims (and nearly all of them have written to him to tell him so, if his online bulletin boards are any example.
His fans speak of him in glowing terms and explain over and over how his books helped them endure or heal from their own abuse. There’s no way Pelzer’s books wouldn’t sell; they have everything the public wants: cruelty, infant trauma, inspiration and hints on pulling yourself out of the muck by your own bootstraps.
Pelzer’s sales are also helped along by dedicated marketing. He traveled all over the country for years, books in hand, lecturing on the abuse of children. Other such works may blame social workers, cops and judges as part of the problem, but Dave lauds them.
Also contributing to his fame is his unusual talent for humor – the Robin Williams kind. He has ambitions to become a stand-up comedian, and his lectures are filled with jokes and wild imitations of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bill Clinton, and others.
An accomplished writer he is not – he’s only irritating in his self-congratulatory back-patting, and the relentless cheer is wearying at times. But there can be no doubt that he’s inspired a lot of victims like himself to attempt healing based on his methods. Not everyone has heard of him, but he’s been an influential person and a best selling author for a good many years, and he certainly deserves plenty of credit for that.