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Comment: Condition: As new condition., As new dust jacket. Binding: Hardcover. / Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The / Pub. Date: 2009-04-21 Attributes: Book, 128 pp / Stock#: 2047742 (FBA) * * *This item qualifies for FREE SHIPPING and Amazon Prime programs! * * *
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Not Becoming My Mother: and Other Things She Taught Me Along the Way Hardcover – April 21, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The; 1st edition (April 21, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594202168
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594202162
  • Product Dimensions: 4.9 x 7.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #242,890 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The slender size of Reichl's memoir of her late mother's life belies its powerful tale of a young woman, Miriam Brudno, who bowed to societal and familial pressure to become a wife and a mother over pursuing a fulfilling career. While Reichl, editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine, is well known for writing about her culinary adventures (Tender at the Bone; Garlic and Sapphires), this beautifully crafted homage follows a more personal path as she pushes past Mim Tales—stories she told about her mother to entertain her readers and friends—to dive deep into her mother's diaries and letters, paying tribute to a woman who was raised when good women didn't work if they didn't have to. So Miriam Brudno struggled to fit the mold of the perfect housewife, until she finally told a friend, Who cares about menus... when there are so many more interesting things to think about? When Reichl discovers an unopened letter to herself, she reads that her mother was cheering me on and pointing out that I had an obligation, both to myself and to her, to use my life well. Reichl has created a masterful portrait of a mother-daughter relationship that will resonate with readers across generations. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Irreverently immortalized as the klutzy cook who renounced edibility in favor of creativity, Reichl’s mother, and her quirky kitchen habits,provided frivolous fodder for Reichl’s previous culinary memoirs. But in this keenly felt retrospective, Reichl reveals another side of her mother, whose life seemed a shining example of what not to do. Where once Miriam harbored visions of being a doctor and applied her formidable intellect in the business world, she ultimately subjugated her own ambition and desires in favor of those of her family, thus providing her daughter with a seemingly negative role model. Sadly typical of her time and generation, Miriam surrendered personal dreams to suit society’s restrictive ideals of feminine conduct, and paid a steep psychic price. Only upon discovering a hidden trove of diaries and letters after Miriam’s death was Reichl able to understand the full extent of her mother’s sacrifices. Candid and insightful, Reichl’s intensely personal and fiercely loving tribute acknowledges her mother as both the source and inspiration behind her success. --Carol Haggas

More About the Author

Ruth Reichl, Gourmet's editor in chief, is the author of the best-selling memoirs Tender at the Bone, Comfort Me with Apples, and Garlic and Sapphires, and the forthcoming Not Becoming My Mother and Other Things She Taught Me Along the Way. She is executive producer of the two-time James Beard Award-winning Gourmet's Diary of a Foodie, which airs on public television across the country, and the editor of the Modern Library Food Series. Before coming to Gourmet, she was the restaurant critic for the New York Times, receiving two James Beard Awards for her work. She lectures frequently on food and culture.

Customer Reviews

I eagerly awaited getting into this book after reading "Tender at the Bone" by the same author.
rude dog
I feel kind of bad writing this, but I guess when you put yourself in the public sphere, you can expect feedback.
Alex
In fact, short as this book is, it repeats some of the stories from other books, compounding the disappointment.
Kristine Lofgren

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

89 of 99 people found the following review helpful By JackieO on April 24, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Having loved Reichl's three other books and having loved the bits of her mother throughout them, I was really looking forward to this book. Right out of the box, it makes a bad first impression - it's small (really small) with large type and large margins. She starts off by recounting how stories involving her mother in her previous books were embarrassing, and consequently approaches this one cautiously. Maybe too cautiously? I liked the concept of Reichl using her mother's old letters as a framework on which to build the story, but nothing ever really happened with it. Worse than not having a solid story, this book lacks feeling, something you'd expect, and hope, to find so prevalent in a daughter's retelling of her mother's life. What you get here is a plain vanilla version of the story of an intersting, colorful woman that reads more like a Wikipedia biography than anything else.

The woman in Reichl's other books was so real, so believable, so much like other women I've known from that generation all stitched together. That woman is barely recognizable here. We learn a bit about why she became the woman she did, but nothing about that woman. Reichl's mother seems more real through a quick memory in any of her previous books than she does in all 128 pages here.

Like another reviewer, it seemed obvious to me that this was published only to satisfy a contract. Otherwise, why would it have made it to the shelf? Of all the quips about her mother that Reichl has put into print, this is the most embarrassing. Save your money and wait to find this one in the bargain bin.
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42 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Corsma on April 21, 2009
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have really enjoyed so many of Ruth Reichl's previous books and I JUST got my Kindle, so I was really excited to make this my first purchase. Sigh, I was so excited, I didn't realize it was a slim, slim volume. 128 pages or so. I finished it in about an hour. This should have been an article in the New Yorker, not a book. Glad I didn't pay to have the hardcover. It was a nice little story, but again, not a book, more an essay. Ah well, I will wait for the next one to come out.
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Natalie Chenault on June 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Yes, it's small and if you're looking for another of Reichl's complex food memoirs, you will be disappointed. Instead, this is a moving account of how Reichl rediscovered her mother through her mother's letters and notes.

Reichl's first memoir, Tender at the Bone, contained a lot of her mother and most of what was there was difficulty-- a mother mental illness with no talent for being a homemaker. This new work examines why her mother was a homemaker at all and the resounding answer is that she, like so many other women at that time, had no other choice.

In the end, what makes this book truly revelatory is that fact that it does the work that so many daughters cannot-- she tells her mother's story and by telling that story, Reichl comes to understanding. Then you can feel forgiveness in the pages and that forgiveness transformed into gratefulness. This book wasn't what I expected at all but I am so happy to have found it.
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28 of 33 people found the following review helpful By BW on April 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this on the Kindle, so I had no idea how short it was. If I had, I wouldn't have purchased it. I'm a big fan of Reichl's books, and am very puzzled why she's published this. As I read it, I kept wondering when the real book was going to start. It's a prelude, or a magazine article, not a book. Save your money and get it from the library; it's not worth the price.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Laura on May 22, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed Reichl's previous memoirs but was disappointed by this book. I understand the motivation to make sense of a difficult relationship with a mother who even when described in sugar-coated terms comes across as a bitter, attention-seeking monster. But by blaming society and her own grandmother for her mother's misery - a misery that mother was willing to inflict on all those around her - Reichl cops out.

In retrospect, with her mother long gone, Reichl finds a way to reassess her mother's cruel statements. They weren't insults! They weren't messages that nothing you do will ever be good enough! They were lessons designed to help her daughter have a better life! I'm not convinced. Nothing in this vivid portrait supports the conclusion that "Mom" was anything other than selfish, angry and judgmental. It is a testament to Reichl's strength and intelligence that she was able to make her mother a likable character in her previous books. To try and justify her mother's behavior by seeing good intentions that probably weren't there is understandable, but doesn't ring true.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Lauren Klein on November 9, 2009
Format: Hardcover
When my mother died I scoured the corners of her home for her. She was neat to a fault...leaving nary a note or memo or letter. She had neatly listed each item of jewelry she owned and written my name or my sister's name next to it...so we wouldn't fight over it.

But there was no box of letters or notes to mine for the stories. So, my mother, a lifelong story teller, left a void.

And when combined with Ruth's clean, compact story telling the book is a gift..a treasure.
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Edie Sousa on April 23, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
My feelings are so close to the first reviewer's that it seems almost redundant to write this. I am a big fan of Reichl's, but after the richness and density of her first 3 books, this slim little tale is a letdown. Reichl's zesty, earthy style is nowhere in evidence here. In actuality it is 110 pages of reading with copious front and backmatter. The pages are small, and the type is large. I, too, read it in an hour, and I agree that it would have made a great New Yorker article. It feels very "blown up" into a book. (Did she, perhaps, need to satisfy a 4-book contract?? No doubt "reviewers" will promote it as a great Mother's Day gift.) Like Reichl, I think we all live out our adult lives in reaction to what we knew as children--on some level and to a certain degree we either accept or reject it and move on. The fact that Reichl's mother was more of a character who wanted more for her daughter is probably more interesting to Ruth herself than anyone else--I think most mothers want the best for their kids. I am glad that she's made peace with her memories of her mom, but to be honest, I don't think readers of this book will come away any the richer for it.
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