March 07, 1994 12:00 PM

“I didn’t know it would be a book,” says Christina Crawford. “It was more like a diary.” But friends sent her cri de coeur to an agent, and in 1978 Mommie Dearest sandblasted the Hollywood veneer from Christina’s adoptive mother, Joan Crawford, revealing her as an alcoholic monster. Now 54 and fully recovered from a 1981 stroke she claims resulted from childhood beatings, Christina feels that the subsequent movie sided with Joan and slighted her own ordeal. But she takes credit for making child abuse a national topic. “It was the first time it had been discussed,” she says. “After Mommie Dearest, there was no going back.”

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