Is A Child Called ‘It’ a True Story? Sadly, Yes

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "A Child Called 'It'" by Dave Pelzer. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Is A Child Called “It” a true story? Are the events in A Child Called “It” real and is A Child Called “It” accurate about the abuse Dave Pelzer suffered?

A Child Called “It” is a true story. Some experts believe some of if it was exaggerated. If you’re wondering, “Is A Child Called “It” a true story?” the answer is mostly yes.

Keep reading to understand the answer to the question: Is A Child Called “It” a true story?

Is A Child Called “It” a True Story?

A Child Called “It” is author Dave Pelzer’s autobiographical account of the abuse he endured at his mother’s hands from ages 4 to 12. His experience was one of the worst cases of child abuse reported in California history at the time. 

The book is the first in a trilogy—the first chronicling the childhood abuse, the second his teenage years in foster care, and the third his rehabilitation in adulthood. The books showcase Pelzer’s resilience and determination in the face of horrific abuse and adversity. 

Pelzer wrote this book using the perspective, language, and tone he had as a child, without any adult insight or speculation about the reasons for his mother’s behavior. 

All the alarming statistics about child abuse and neglect—millions of cases reported each year, killing nearly five children each day—don’t begin to illustrate how victims experience abuse. In A Child Called “It,author Dave Pelzer provides a rare and grisly glimpse into his experience of severe physical and psychological abuse at his mother’s hands. 

In one of the worst child abuse cases reported in California’s history at the time, Pelzer was starved, burned on the stove, regularly locked in the bathroom with a noxious mixture of ammonia and Clorox, and forbidden from speaking to or looking at any of his family members. Through it all, Pelzer maintained an indomitable will to survive that’s a testament to the strength of the human spirit even under the bleakest circumstances. 

(Shortform note: Several sources—including at Slate, The New York Times, and The Guardian—have criticized Pelzer for exploiting his experiences for profit and doubt the veracity of Dave’s story. While they don’t refute Pelzer’s abuse, they suspect he exaggerates certain details. Pelzer’s mother and father are both dead, and two of his brothers reportedly denied that the abuse was as severe as Pelzer claims.)

Is A Child Called ‘It’ a True Story? Sadly, Yes

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Dave Pelzer's "A Child Called 'It'" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full A Child Called 'It' summary:

  • How David Pelzer survived horrific abuse at the hands of his mother
  • How victims and survivors of abuse can find support and overcome their painful past
  • Why child abuse may go unnoticed by other adults

Rina Shah

An avid reader for as long as she can remember, Rina’s love for books began with The Boxcar Children. Her penchant for always having a book nearby has never faded, though her reading tastes have since evolved. Rina reads around 100 books every year, with a fairly even split between fiction and non-fiction. Her favorite genres are memoirs, public health, and locked room mysteries. As an attorney, Rina can’t help analyzing and deconstructing arguments in any book she reads.

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