My Mother's Wars by Lillian Faderman

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Synopsis

An acclaimed writer on her mother’s tumultuous life as a Jewish immigrant in 1930s New York and her life-long guilt when the Holocaust claims the family she left behind in Latvia
 
A story of love, war, and life as a Jewish immigrant in the squalid factories and lively dance halls of New York’s Garment District in the 1930s, My Mother’s Wars is the memoir Lillian Faderman’s mother was never able to write. The daughter delves into her mother’s past to tell the story of a Latvian girl who left her village for America with dreams of a life on the stage and encountered the realities of her new world: the battles she was forced to fight as a woman, an immigrant worker, and a Jew with family left behind in Hitler’s deadly path.

The story begins in 1914: Mary, the girl who will become Lillian Faderman’s mother, just seventeen and swept up with vague ambitions to be a dancer, travels alone to America, where her half-sister in Brooklyn takes her in. She finds a job in the garment industry and a shop friend who teaches her the thrills of dance halls and the cheap amusements open to working-class girls. This dazzling life leaves Mary distracted and her half-sister and brother-in-law scandalized that she has become a “good-time gal.” They kick her out of their home, an event with consequences Mary will regret for the rest of her life.

Eighteen years later, still barely scraping by as a garment worker and unmarried at thirty-five, Mary falls madly in love and has a torrid romance with a man who will never marry her, but who will father Lillian Faderman before he disappears from their lives. America is in the midst of the Depression, Hitler is coming to power in Europe, and New York’s garment workers are just beginning to unionize. Mary makes tentative steps to join, despite her lover’s angry opposition. As National Socialism engulfs Europe, Mary realizes she must find a way to get her family out of Latvia, and she spends frenetic months chasing vague promises and false rumors of hope. Pregnant again, after having submitted to two wrenching back-room abortions, and still unmarried, Mary faces both single motherhood and the devastating possibility of losing her entire Eastern European family.

Drawing on family stories and documents, as well as her own tireless research, Lillian Faderman has reconstructed an engrossing and essential chapter in the history of women, of workers, of Jews, and of the Holocaust as immigrants experienced it from American shores.

 
 

 

About Lillian Faderman

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Lillian Faderman is the award-winning author of numerous books on lesbian/gay history, including Surpassing the Love of Men and Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers, which were both named among the New York Times Notable Books of the Year. Her most recent book, Naked in the Promised Land, received the Judy Grahn Award for nonfiction, and a Lambda Literary Award for memoir. She also has been given several "lifetime achievement awards" for gay/lesbian scholarship, including the Paul Monette/Rogler Horwitz Award, Yale University's James Brudner Award, and the Publishing Triangle's Bill Whitehead Award. She lives in California. Stuart Timmons' The Trouble with Harry Hay, chronicled a century of gay life in Los Angeles, and became a Book of the Month Club selection. He has covered gay politics and culture from theater to AIDS, as well as reported on education, environmental, and other topics. His work has appeared in papers such as LA Weekly, The Advocate, Frontiers, Vibe, and Spin and his short stories have appeared in various anthologies.
 
Published March 5, 2013 by Beacon Press. 265 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History. Non-fiction

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Faderman (Naked in the Promised Land, 2004, etc.) reconstructs her mother's experiences as a Jewish immigrant in 1930s New York.

Dec 11 2012 | Read Full Review of My Mother's Wars

Beacon Broadside

Posted by Beacon Broadside on December 25, 2012 at 08:32 PM in A Queer and Pleasant Danger, All Souls, Biography and Memoir, Biography and Memoir: Autobiography and Memoir, Dark Tide, Fiction, Literature, and the Arts, Health, Health Care, History, Kindred, Literature, Man's Search for Meaning, N...

Apr 30 2014 | Read Full Review of My Mother's Wars

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