Saturday, November 19, 2011

Cantaloupes in the Can - a slice of Rochester life

I was pleased to learn that one of my earliest essays, "Cantaloupes in the Can," was accepted by a panel at Writers & Books to be part of Rochester's "Story Walk" series. You can read my essay below. Or, if you'd like to hear me read it to you, just click HERE for the audio version. Enjoy.

Cantaloupes in the Can

     From my front porch swing, I gaze out over the hills of Egypt, New York, hoping to see the world go by. But there’s not much action on this country road. Before long I'm reminiscing about the good old days when I came to live in Rochester just out of college. I had an apartment on Meigs Street then, with a front porch that overlooked a constant parade of Rochester characters. I used to walk to the Genesee food co-op, earthy and warm with its wood floors, its grain-filled bins and secondhand paper bags. Hmm, I muse, I could still shop there. So I get in my car and head for I-490 west.
     As I enter the familiar co-op, housed in the old firehouse building on Monroe Avenue, a mongrel cat rubs against my leg (all kinds are welcome here). I select a decent-looking bag and start filling it with fresh produce and the block of tofu that I've managed to fish out of a deep tub. At the checkout counter, the cashier is wearing a gentle smile on her face and a sleeping child on her back.
     I return to my car with a renewed sense of serenity and glide more slowly than usual onto the expressway. But my mood is soon jolted by the driver beside me who, for no apparent reason, is honking his horn and pointing mysteriously upward. Suddenly there’s a crashing sound and my groceries are scattering across the road. Two cantaloupes roll eastward, toward home. I pull over, shaking with disbelief. A motorcyclist comes by to ask if I’m okay. But I just burst into laughter and tears, right there in the Can of Worms, while my fellow travelers dodge cantaloupes.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Good news - Paternity is an e-book!

Finally, finally my novel Paternity is available as an e-book! Okay, it's only on the NOOK right now (Barnes & Noble's e-reader). But that's a start, right? Here's the link: Paternity on the NOOK. My publisher says they're working on the Kindle version, which most people seem to prefer.

Personally, I still like my books the old-fashioned way - printed on paper. I like pulling them off the shelf and turning their pages as I read. I like burying a beloved bookmark between the pages before closing the book, and then glancing at the binding to see how far I've gotten. Most of all, after I finish reading a wonderful novel, I like handing it to a kindred spirit, knowing she will love it too.

On the other hand, I'm beginning to see the advantages of e-books. You can enlarge the print easily, which is a plus for those of us with aging eyes. And you can search on words or phrases. I really like this idea. Being in three book clubs (maybe 2 1/2), it's not uncommon for someone to bring up a particular passage of interest or controversy during our discussions. Trying to find that passage again is often, well, trying. E-books are great for that.

Whichever format you prefer, hope you're enjoying your reading life. I know I am!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Perfect Confluence (my short story - published on-line)

 You can read my short story at: A Perfect Confluence.

I originally wrote this story for a contest called The First Line. (Sometimes, as a writer, you need a little kick start). Well, I didn't win that contest. But maybe it was just as well because later I discovered a new on-line journal, started in Canada by Dr. Nora Gold, called And I submitted my piece there. Then a couple of weekends ago, as I was on my way to Cleveland, I received an unexpected call saying they had accepted my story for publication. What a nice surprise! And now, it's featured on their site. The theme of A Perfect Confluence seems to recur in much of my writing. (It featured prominently in my novel, Paternity). And that is the idea of different cultures coming together in one family. In the case of A Perfect Confluence, the cultures involved are Jewish and Muslim, each in the midst of an important religious holiday. This year, with Ramadan recently ended, and Rosh HaShanah just ahead, let us all hope for, and work toward peace and understanding between the peoples of all cultures and faiths.

And to all my Jewish readers, may you be inscribed in the Book of Life for a good year.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

My mother's memoir

What a great time we had this past weekend in Cleveland! About 80 family members gathered at the Embassy Suites Hotel to celebrate the publication of my mom's beautiful memoir entitled "Helen," the story of her mother's life - from her tragic childhood in Hungary, to her journey to America, to her family life during the Great Depression, to her untimely death at age 52. The evening was a double celebration really, as my mom will be turning 80 years young later this month.

Pictured above are: my sister Nancy, my mom (with eyes closed!) and me (the designated emcee for the evening). As requested, my daughters Hannah and Helen (named for her great-grandmother) sang a couple of songs. This one is called "I Will Remember You." What could be more appropriate than that?!

"Helen: A Memoir" can be found in Cleveland at the Maltz Museum as well as at the Fireside Book Shop (in Chagrin Falls, Ohio). Hope you'll pick up a copy!

Monday, August 29, 2011

"The Help"

I enjoyed reading The Help, but I didn't love it. There was something about it, some niggling feeling inside me, that objected. Maybe it was simply my objection to a white woman (the author, Kathryn Stockett) presuming to speak for black women, as many others have said. Or maybe, and this is a small distinction, it was an objection to a white protagonist as hero to those poor black women.

Now, of course, the novel has been made into a movie (some writers have all the luck!) and so there is a fresh batch of reviews of this story. Today in the New York Times, a criticism that rings true for me. Patricia A. Turner (a black woman) wrote a piece called "Dangerous White Stereotypes" that gets it right. Ms. Turner didn't hate the story either. But she put her finger on what was missing, and therefore how "The Help" can be misleading. In short, "The Help" portrays a group of unsavory white women treating their help badly. As Ms. Turner so perceptively points out...

"To suggest that bad people were racist implies that good people were not. Jim Crow segregation survived long into the 20th century because it was kept alive by white Southerners with value systems and personalities we would applaud... In Jackson and other bastions of the Jim Crow South, the pervasive notion, among poor whites and rich, that blacks were unworthy of full citizenship was as unquestioned as the sanctity of church on Sunday. “The Help” tells a compelling and gripping story, but it fails to tell that one."

Read the book, see the movie (I plan to), just keep a clear eye. And let me know what you think.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

a voice of reason - Charles M. Blow

Once again Charles M. Blow hits the nail on the head in his NYT piece "Failing Forward." He is afraid for the children of our country, and for all of us, in light of the new gaggle of religious extremist who are vying to become our next president. Even if the term "pro-choice" makes you a little queasy, as it does me, I simply cannot see how Blow's argument in support of our society's greater good can be rationally countered. Here is an excerpt...

"We simply can’t keep turning to pills and prisons to solve issues of poverty and poor parenting. This is unhealthy, unsustainable and unwise.

We have to do a better, more focused job of teaching sex education and providing contraceptive options (kudos here to the administration for moving this month to require insurance companies to provide birth control services to women at no extra cost). We have to remove the stigma and judgment around sex. Sex isn’t bad or unnatural. It’s one of the most natural things that we do. It just needs to be safe and responsible."

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A little folk music

Lately, while driving around town I've been listening to 88.5 FM radio. Scott Reagan hosts a terrific weekday morning program. A couple days ago I heard a song performed by the lovely voice of Mollie O'Brien (accompanied by her husband Rich Moore on guitar). I'd never heard of either of them. Have you?

Just thought I'd share a couple of their songs with you here. The first (and the title of their CD) is called "Saints and Sinners" and was written by David Francey.

The other one I really like is called "Lonely for a While" . It was written by Jesse Winchester and is more jazzy than folky. But you decide. Let me know what you think!

Remembering Nora Bredes

I wish I had known Nora better, wish I could have claimed her as my close friend. We sometimes sat next to each other and chatted while watching our sons play soccer. She was a devoted fan of all three of her sons – on the soccer field and off. I can say that I once enjoyed a delicious soccer team dinner at her house and found her to be every bit the gracious host. But mostly I admired Nora from a distance, supporting her bid for a seat on our county legislature, listening intently when I heard her voice speaking eloquently on a radio talk show. She and I were facebook friends. We shared family photos and articles on women in politics, her greatest passion. I knew Nora was someone special. And I felt proud to know her. I only wish I had known her better.

Then yesterday I received a note from Nora’s husband Jack in which he shared the New York Times article about Nora chronicling her public life and untimely passing with reverence. I learned that Nora had run for Congress while living on Long Island and I reflected on what a brilliant Congresswoman she would have made. The NYT piece also described Nora’s incredible determination, hard work and ultimate success in shutting down an unsafe nuclear power plant on Long Island. What a huge achievement, one that I hadn’t even known of. I’m so glad that Nora came to live in Rochester to serve as the director of the Susan B. Anthony Center for Women’s Leadership at the University of Rochester. She was a powerful women’s advocate and a shining example in our community.

I grieve for her husband and sons. Their loss is truly immeasurable. But Nora has left behind – for them and for all of us – a most inspiring legacy. May her memory be for a blessing. Rest in peace, Nora.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Motherly Musings - a new collection of essays & poems on motherhood

Well, I'm a mom and a writer. So naturally I've written a few pieces on motherhood. Two of them (plus a photo of me with my daughter) were included in the new anthology Motherly Musings. Pictured above are a few of the contributors, gathered together for a book signing afternoon at The Lovin' Cup Bistro & Brews in Henrietta. Our book got a glowing review in the Philadelphia PA's! Hope you'll check it out!

Using my "blog" to blog!

Today I read a piece by David Brooks of the NYT that finally inspired me to blog. Here is the excerpt that inspired me...

Rye Barcott was a student at the University of North Carolina who spent a summer sharing a 10-by-10 shack in Kibera, the largest slum in Nairobi, Kenya. One night he awoke with diarrhea and stumbled to the public outhouse. He slid onto the cement floor and vomited as his bare body hit puddles of human waste.

He left his soiled pants outside the hut, but when he went to find them later they were gone. He was directed to another hut where a stick-thin girl, with missing clumps of hair, had the pants, scrubbed and folded, in her lap. Barcott said softly, “I’m grateful,” and asked her why she had cleaned them. “Because I can,” she replied. A week later, she died of AIDS and her body was taken in a wheelbarrow to a communal grave.

You can read the entire essay here: