EXCERPT: Rosanne Cash's 'Composed'

Photo: Book Cover: Composed: A Memoir

Rosanne Cash's "Composed" is a memoir of her own upbringing in southern California and the cast of characters who've helped to shape her story. The daughter of legendary country music singer Johnny Cash and his first wife, Vivian Liberto, Cash talks about her relationships with her father, her mother, and later, her stepmother, June Carter Cash. A gifted songwriter and storyteller, Cash skillfully interweaves tales of her own musical career as they unfolded alongside the events of her personal life.

Read an excerpt of the book below, and then head to the "GMA" Library to find more good reads.


I was born in Memphis, Tennessee on May 24, 1955, a month before my dad's first record, "Cry, Cry, Cry," was released on Sun Records. My mother had only two dresses that fit her in late pregnancy, she told me, and in her final month, during the most summerlike of the sultry late spring days in East Memphis, she would sit on the steps of the front porch and eat an entire washbasin of cherry tomatoes. It was her one craving.

VIDEO: The award-winning singer writes a memoir about her life and her music.
Rosanne Cash on Her Memoir 'Composed'

On the afternoon of May 24, my mother went to her regular appointment with her obstetrician, who examined her and told her to go straight to the hospital. "This baby is going to be born today," he said.

I was born after only four hours of labor, at eight o'clock that evening. My mother later told me that the loneliest feeling she had ever felt was when she was wheeled through the double doors of the hospital maternity ward to give birth and looked back to see my dad standing forlornly in the waiting room. He paced and smoked for the next four hours while she labored alone and chewed on a wet washcloth when the pains overtook her; she always spoke with great resentment about the fact that she was given a damp washcloth to suck and then left alone in a hospital room. She was awake for the entire four hours of labor and given nothing for pain, and then put to sleep for the actual birth.

It all sounded like a mean-spirited, medieval exercise in physical endurance and emotional isolation. Her accounts of it were so cinematic and full of emotion that I grew up terrified of the prospect of childbirth. I had very few fantasies about having children or being a mother, because I could not get past the specter of childbirth, which seemed almost a horrible end in itself, with something only vague and indefinable on the other side of it. The fact that I eventually did bear four children, delivered both "naturally" and with pain medication, never really lessened my fear.

When my mother went back for her six-week checkup after my birth, the doctor informed her that she was pregnant again. My sister Kathy was born ten months and twenty-three days after me. Kathy was a fragile child who had mysterious illnesses and the worst versions of every childhood disease, and I have always felt guilty that I may have taken all the nutrients out of my mother's body when I inhabited her womb, just before Kathy's arrival there.

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