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June 20, 1993|CHARLES SOLOMON

AMERICAN GIRL: Scenes From a Small-Town Childhood by Mary Cantwell (Penguin: $10; 209 pp.). New York Times columnist Mary Cantwell writes about growing up in Bristol, R.I., in this engaging memoir. The Cantwells never quite found their niche within the town's rigid social divisions: They were too wealthy and genteel to be a part of the immigrant community, but as Catholics, they never penetrated the ranks of the old Yankee families. This lack of a defined status complicated the problems of growing up bright, talented and female during the '40s and '50s. Like many other writers, Cantwell learned the only way to find home is to leave it.

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