Gloria's childhood was challenged by poverty, divorce, and her mother's mental illness. Because her father, Leo, bought and sold antiques across the country, for the first twelve years of her life Gloria never spent a full year in school. She and her family lived in a trailer. In her teens, she had the sole responsibility of looking after her mother, Ruth. Ruth's depressions and hallucinations ended her career as a journalist. When Ruth could no longer balance the claims of family and a job, Gloria had to become housekeeper, cook, and caregiver for her mother.