Dr. Lisa Masterson of “The Doctors” says she thought long and hard before deciding to include the most bitter aspects of her bittersweet childhood in her new “Paper Dollhouse” memoir. She paints a vivid picture of her late mother as relentless, beguiling and daring, finding ways to see to it that — despite being a single mother with little money — Lisa could get into top private schools, mingle with the elite and achieve her dreams. But she also shows that among other things, her mother, on occasion, had her strip and then beat her until she bled.
“I really wanted to portray her as a hero,” says the USC-trained OB/GYN, who is on staff at Los Angeles’ Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. “Heroes are human beings. They have all the shortcomings and humanity that everyone else does. You can still be a good person and an amazing person and not be perfect. You can go down the wrong road.” Of those awful episodes of being hit with a belt, she says, “She never meant it maliciously; it was a vent.”
Dr. Lisa is also unsparing of herself in parts of the book. Feeling threatened by an also-smart Asian girl during her school days, she became downright malicious toward her — something she still feels badly about. “It’s the same thing. If I’m going to tell the whole story about my mother, I’m going to share this about me,” she says.
Her hope is that fans see her story in a wider sense, as a story of a black woman and her daughter determined to achieve the American dream — using every bit of wits, wherewithal and wiles they possessed to make it happen.
Which it certainly did. Dr. Lisa’s long list of accomplishments includes not only television fame and a thriving private practice, but speaking before the UN on issues of women’s health in developing nations, founding the first OB/GYN residency program in sub-Saharan Africa, and starting birthing clinics in Kenya and India.
“You see a woman with a lot of education sitting in front of you, one who fought very much against racism and sexism. It has not been an easy road here,” she says. “I have scrambled for what I’ve achieved. But I’m also showing that I got started in medicine as a candy striper because I didn’t want to babysit my baby brother.”