As she makes clear from the start of her memoir, Am Still Standing, Anushka Thompson is a troubled woman. “As a child,” she writes, “I always got the message that I was defective, inadequate, incompetent…and this message became engraved in me.”
It also becomes a disturbing travel companion in the misadventures she chronicles in these pages, from her native South Africa through a dozen countries, a host of menial jobs and countless self-destructive relationships. “Throughout my childhood right into adulthood, I saw myself as the victim and accepted my status.”
Her compulsion to undermine herself informs her writing and lends her story its most consistent narrative thread. Thompson holds fast to her victimhood, whether getting ripped off in India; losing her passport in England or her possessions in South Africa; lying to immigrations officials about her green-card marriage to a man in his 60s, or calling the police to report she’d been scammed by a dope dealer – and giving them her name.
Despite near-constant immigrations hassles on four continents, she manages to stay in the U.K. for nearly 14 years, earning a college degree at minimal expense. But just as she’s feeling “on top of the world,” she determines within a single page that “everything was going wrong in my life.” She then decides to return to South Africa and the misery she struggled so hard to escape.
There she resumes her string of terrible choices, living with various bullying relatives and wearing out her welcome with all of them, particularly the brother-in-law who calls her “a filthy piece of dirt.”
Errors in grammar and punctuation are plentiful in this text, and the author has a tendency to go on at great length about seemingly inconsequential matters. Ultimately, though, it’s her many bouts of weeping and self-pity, coupled with poor judgment and lack of insight, that make Am Still Standing a frustrating read.