RECENT BOOKS

The history of some 30 Russian Jewish immigrant families who in 1907 began to buy land in the Ellsworth Hills above Sharon, CT, where they attempted to become dairy farmers.
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.
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 Hoffman's open their home to refugees from the flood, and Eva learns the complexities of prejudice - and courage - both within and outside her family.
Memoir
"A second generation chronicle that offers rich intellectual insights while stiring our deepest feelings." Leo Spitzer, author of Hotel Bolivia "Pursing her story across two continents, Ascher, the daughter of a Vienese psychoanalyst, explores the unsettling legacy of Nazi persecution on her complicated immigrant family and ultimately on herself, in this probing, well-written memoir." - Alix Kates Shulman
Biography
Writer, intellectual adventurer, fighter for personal and political freedom, feminist, and intimate companion to Jean-Paul Sartre for over fifty years, Simone de Beauvoir emerges from this at times highly personal book of philosophical and literary criticism as a woman who plays a major role in the lives of men and women today, and one of the most stunning and provocative thinkers of this century.
Illuminating how work on a subject transforms both the work and the author, this edited collection is an effort toward building a feminist theory of biography.

Works


In 1907, the first of thirty Jewish families settled in the Ellsworth hills above Sharon to try their hand at dairy farming. Most of the immigrants purchased land with mortgage assistance from the Jewish Agricultural and Industrial Aid Society, funded by the Belgian Jewish philanthropist, Baron Maurice de Hirsch. The Russian Czar had forbidden Jews to farm, and Hirsch hoped that farming would enable Jews to become productive and fully-respected citizens in America. But the hills were too stony for dairy farming, and most families subsidized their incomes by taking in city Jews wanting kosher vacations in the fresh air.

In the 1920s, as their children reached high school age, the immigrants began moving down from the hills, many to Amenia, New York, a town directly on the train line, where the high school was more welcoming. These families built kosher boarding houses and small hotels, as well as a range of business, and by the end of the decade Amenia was a sufficiently busy resort town to support a synagogue.

Ascher’s draws her important and moving story of Jewish rural life in the early decades of the twentieth century from photos and interviews with such descendants as Epsteins, Gorkofskys, Marcuses, Osofskys, Paleys, Rothsteins and Temkins, as well as from land records, census data and other historical documents. Thanks to funding from Baron de Hirsch, similar settlements of Russian Jewish farmers took place in other rural communities in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York, as well as throughout the United States and Canada.

“This book is not just about Ellsworth and Amenia, nor is it just about a dozen Russian immigrant families adjusting to America. It is about all immigrants who flee, arrive, and struggle to assimilate into a strange new land, learn a new language, take up an altogether new way of life.” - Norman Osofsky, descendant

“The detailed scholarship and memorable stories that make up this book offer today’s reader insight into the refugee experience and leave the reader inspired by these stories of struggle and achievement – Mary Donohue, author of Back to the Land: Jewish Farms and Resorts in Connecticut, 1890-1945


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.


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