Works


Three generations of strong-­minded Rosens have gone their own ways, repairing the world while keeping a safe distance from each other, when Peter Rosen, a widowed refugee from Nazi Germany and retired German professor, takes a bad fall in the snow and a call from Spooner Street prompts his estranged daughter, Marlene Rosen, to spend a long stretch in Madison with her ailing but difficult father.

Emergencies that bring Marlene repeatedly to Spooner Street become a chance to let go of old bitterness and wounds and rekindle the love she has for her father. A final visit from her son, Noah, who has been living in Namibia, instigates a new level of honesty, as well as love, between all three Rosens.

My father, Paul Bergman, a charming but moody Viennese Jew, died suddenly of a massive heart attack when he was only fifty-nine. Six months before his death, in a fit of rage at what he considered my irresponsible behavior, he had stopped speaking to me. For decades his judgmental silence, which death had turned endless, lay over me like a condemnation that even years of therapy could not entirely ease.

In 2009, I decided to imagine the father-daughter reconciliation I had never had through one of my favorite forms, the novel. Most important, I would create in fiction the much needed forgiveness my own father’s curtailed life had precluded.

Like my father, Peter Rosen is an intellectual who fled the Nazis, and, like my father, Peter has a doctorate in German literature, though Peter, who was born ten years later, fled Germany to earn his doctorate in England. But it is my uncle, Gerard Ascher, whose story of being arrested as an enemy alien in England and sent to spend World War II in a prisoner of war camp near Quebec, Canada, I have given in simplified form to Peter Rosen.

In addition to details that are part of my family’s history, A CALL FROM SPOONER STREET includes characters I have made up and scenes I have imagined. Most important, this work of fiction is my gift of healing to myself—though I hope that it will also bring healing to my readers.

 


Ten-year-old Eva Hoffman’s family, Austrian refugees, have found precarious safety in Topeka, Kansas. It is 1951, the year of the landmark desegregation case. As the rising river inundates the town, the Hoffmans open their home to refugees from the flood, and Eva learns the complexities of prejudice—and courage—both within and outside her family.


Born several weeks after my parents' arrival in the United States, I came of age in Topeka, Kansas, where my father, a lay analyst trained at Freud's Psychoanalytic Institute, found work among the group of refugee clinicians recruited by the Menninger Clinic. Growing up, my challenge was to reconcile the Midwestern views of my neighborhood and school; the irrepressible optimism of my mother and her tendency to romanticize her Berlin childhood; and the more sardonic views of my father and his highly cultured emigre circle, for whom memory was both illness and cure.

A long stay in Vienna allows me to understand more fully the world which formed my father and his parents, as well as to understand the brutal Nazi period which destroyed everything they had built and loved, and forced them to flee. I also visit the grave site of my grandfather, who died before he could get out.

Simone de Beauvoir: A Life of Freedom
This first major study of Simone de Beauvoir traces the course of de Beauvoir's personal and intellectual achievements, as well as her deep, lasting relationship with Sartre and other friends. Unlike many conventional biographers who approach their subject with personal detachment, this book explores how de Beauvoir's political and philosophical ideas have influenced much of contemporary thought. The woman portrayed here is a courageous, energetic one, full of contradictions and ambiguities, but always daring in her thinking.

Between Women: Biographers, Novelists, Critics, Teachers and Artists Write about Their Work on Women
Between Women brings together the intimate and moving stories of women writers, scholars, and artists like Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Alice Walker, composer Elizabeth Wood, and writer Michele Cliff, and the women who have moved them, shaped their work, inspired their creativity, and shared with them a literary sisterhood. This absorbing and unusual collection reveals the complex emotional ties between women and their work.