CHAPTER 1 Why You Need to Read This Book

Gladys and her girls

Don't let the sunshine yellow suit fool you. This is the unapologetically unhappy face of a woman who does not like cameras.

The unfortunate circumstance for my nana, Gladys Mason: her beloved husband was what we'd now call “an early adopter.” The movements of my mother's side of the family were well documented on film, and the Martin Scorsese behind the movie camera was my grandfather, Harry.

Gladys was a frequent if unwilling participant in his 8mm films, so consequently, we all became intimately familiar with certain angles and parts of her body—the back of her head, perhaps a quick glimpse of the side of her face as she pivoted away from the offending lens before running rabbit to a faraway glen. If she couldn't dash away, she would try to hide in plain sight by extending her palm toward the camera, precursor to the paparazzi pose seen on the covers of tabloids the world over.

The good news for Gladys? For the most part, she only had to juke out my movie-making Papa to maintain her credentials as a Professional Camera Avoider. For the most part, Papa brought his camera out only for special occasions: family reunions, the first day of school, holidays. (On Christmas morning, no one was allowed to come downstairs to see what Santa brought until the room was properly illuminated by his own massive bank of lights. ...

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