A Child Called It | Study Guide

Dave Pelzer

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Course Hero, "A Child Called It Study Guide," February 7, 2019, accessed September 27, 2022, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/A-Child-Called-It/.

Dave Pelzer | Biography


Pelzer's Early Years

The author, David James Pelzer, was born December 29, 1960, in San Francisco, California. He was the third of five sons. The brothers lived with their parents, Stephen Joseph Pelzer and Catherine Roerva Pelzer, in Daly City, California. Pelzer's parents were alcoholics, and his mother showed signs of mental illness.

Pelzer endured a childhood of horrific abuse at the hands of his mother. Social services considered Pelzer's case "one of the most gruesome and extreme cases of child abuse in California's then history." At age 12 he was removed from the home and placed in foster care.

When Pelzer turned 18, he joined the U.S. Air Force, and later served in the Gulf War. He married in his early 20s, and he and his wife had one son, Stephen. Pelzer and his first wife divorced a few years later, and he remarried in 1999. Pelzer and his second wife, Marsha Pelzer, divorced in 2005.

Writing Career

Following the deaths of his parents, Dave Pelzer wrote his first book, A Child Called "It": One Child's Courage to Survive. Published in 1995, the book chronicles his memories of growing up as an abused child. A Child Called "It" became the first of a trilogy of memoirs. The Lost Boy: A Foster Child's Search for the Love of a Family (1997) and A Man Named Dave: A Story of Triumph and Forgiveness (1999) followed. The three books remained on the New York Times nonfiction paperback list for an unprecedented combined total of 448 weeks. Pelzer later wrote several self-help books, and he continues to be a sought-after speaker at schools, workshops, and seminars.


Dave Pelzer's story has not gone undisputed. One of his brothers corroborates Pelzer's account and has written his own memoir. However, at least one other brother and his maternal grandmother discredit Pelzer's claims. An article in The New York Times Magazine cites Peter Vegso, Pelzer's publisher, as saying Pelzer is "a professional victim." According to the article, the publisher does not know if Pelzer's claims are accurate.

Recognitions and Contributions

Despite the controversy, Dave Pelzer's memoir has drawn attention to the problem of child abuse in a compelling way. Pelzer's vivid descriptions position readers at the scene of the horrors endured by too many children. Readers are drawn in, connecting emotionally with Pelzer's story. In addition, Pelzer's refusal to let the past dictate his future and his courage to overcome the painful events of his childhood inspire others to do the same.

Pelzer's work has received widespread recognition. Prior to becoming a published author, he received commendations for his public service from Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush as well as the J.C. Penney Golden Rule Award, also for his public service, which named him California Volunteer of the Year. He also carried the Centennial Flame for the 1996 Olympics.

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