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The Watchmaker's Daughter: A Memoir Paperback – October 23, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

From the time Taitz was small, her parents’ stories about the Holocaust were “like telling me about the secrets of the cosmos.” Parts of this refugee family’s dynamics were competitions about which parent’s family had suffered most—“my life was worse than yours . . . you don’t know from suffering”—and, more happily, affection. When Sonia’s adored father pulled her toward him, “my joy was boundless—I had been ‘selected.’ Only then, chosen, did I feel fully alive.” Her Jewish home, “where even the walls were sighing,” makes her eager for an outside world and education. She realizes, however, that her promised land is not Yale Law School, and finally becomes her own “true self” while studying literature at Oxford. Even now, as the last Holocaust survivors pass away, wrenching reverberations run through Taitz’s poignant, poetic memoir. --Whitney Scott

Review

Named a Best Memoir of the Year by ForeWord Magazine

Nominated for the Sophie Brody Medal by the AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION

Featured on Beatrice Podcast (Ron Hogan), LIFE STORIES: THE ART OF THE MEMOIR

"One of the year's best reads. This poignant memoir is a beautiful and heartfelt tribute to the author's parents. Funny, yet moving, The Watchmaker's Daughter illuminates Sonia's Taitz's life growing up in New York City, the daughter of Holocaust survivors… It is the story of an ambitious and gifted daughter whose aspirations and goals collide with those of her parents."—The Jewish Journal

"There have been many books written on the Holocaust but few about being the daughter of concentration camp survivors. The love that Sonia has for her parents, in spite of all their flaws, is truly amazing. Her experiences and the people she meets open her parents' eyes and help them heal." —BOOKAHOLICS

"The burden of being the child of Holocaust survivors is a heavy one to bear. Many have written about it, but few have done so as artfully as Sonia Taitz. With her new memoir, The Watchmaker's Daughter, she takes us on a post-World War II American coming-of-age journey that differs from most. This is obviously because of the genocidal shadow cast over it, but it is also thanks to Taitz's extraordinary ability to turn a phrase and draw us in to the intense world of a daughter who knows too well that in crucial ways her life is not completely her own."—The Jerusalem Report

"Not your typical coming-of-age story....American Sonia Taitz, born to survivors of the Holocaust, lives under its long shadow in The Watchmaker's Daughter."—Vanity Fair

"Funny and heartwrenching."—People Magazine

"Taitz writes beautifully about religious roots, generational culture clashes, and a family's abiding love."—Reader's Digest

"An invigorating memoir...especially noteworthy for its essential optimism and accomplished turns of phrase." — Kirkus Reviews

"Sonia Taitz, born to survivors of the Holocaust, lives under its long shadow in The Watchmaker's Daughter." — Elissa Schappell, Vanity Fair

"Even now, as the last Holocaust survivors pass away, wrenching reverberations run through Taitz's poignant, poetic memoir." — Booklist

"A heartbreaking memoir of healing power and redeeming devotion, Sonia Taitz's The Watchmaker's Daughter has the dovish beauty and levitating spirit of a psalm. The suffering and endurance of Taitz' parents — Holocaust "death camp graduates" who met at the Lithuanian Jewish Survivor's Ball in a New York hotel (imagine Steven Spielberg photographing that dance floor tableau) — form the shadow-hung backdrop of a childhood in a high-octance, postwar America where history seems weightless and tragedy a foreign import — a Hollywood paradise of perky blondes, Pepsodent smiles, and innocent high-school hijinks where our author and heroine longs to fit in. Although the wonder years that Taitz scrupulously, tenderly, beautifully, often comically renders aren't that far removed from us, they and the Washington Heights she grew up in, the shop where her father repaired watches like a physician tending to the sick tick of life itself, the grand movie houses where the image of Doris Day sunshined the giant screen, have acquired the ache and poignance of a lost, Kodachrome age. A past is here reborn and tenderly restored with the love and absorption of a daughter with a final duty to perform, a last act of fidelity." — James Wolcott, New Yorker and Vanity Fair cultural critic and author of the memoir Lucking Out

"Sonia Taitz has a good heart and an unmortgaged soul. Follow where she leads. You want to go there." — John Patrick Shanley, Pulitzer, Tony, and Oscar-Winning author of Moonstruck and Doubt

"Sonia Taitz captures time in this deeply moving memoir of a women's journey back to herself. A love letter to a long ago New York, The Watchmaker's Daughter is written with a wise eye and a generous heart. Unforgettable!" — Christina Haag, author of Come to the Edge

"Sonia Taitz's memoir of growing up as the daughter of a master watchmaker who survived the Holocaust is also a haunting meditation on the nature of time itself. With a painter's eye and a poet's voice, she conveys how it took her away from her loving but fearful parents then brought her back again, and allowed her to blossom as a modern American woman." — Mark Whitaker, former Editor-in-Chief of Newsweek and author of the memoir My Long Trip Home

"Heartwrenching, moving, and yes, hilarious, Taitz’s extraordinary memoir explores culture clash, Jewish roots, and the struggle to break the bonds of the past and forge your own kind of Promised Land future. But it’s also an astonishing love letter to Taitz’s Holocaust survivor parents, one that’s so fiercely tender and gorgeously written that each page seems like a revelation." — Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You

Sonia Taitz's memoir of coming of age in postwar America is unusually gentle, loving, and insightful. Her parents' indelible experience in the Holocaust is a constant presence, but the author's compelling story is anchored by her own battles with conflicting notions of success and values. The book's understanding of family dynamics and the realities of the American Dream will resonate with us all." — Joshua Halberstam, author of A Seat at the Table

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: McWitty Press (October 23, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 097556188X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0975561881
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 7 x 4.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (69 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #297,455 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sonia Taitz is an award-winning author whose books have been praised by The New York Times Book Review, Vanity Fair ("Hot Type"), The Reader's Digest ("Can't Miss List"), The Chicago Tribune, and many other publications. She has appeared on C-SPAN and NPR, as well as on many other TV and radio venues, and is a book club favorite.

Her newest book, DOWN UNDER, was recommended by VANITY FAIR.

PRAISE FOR SONIA TAITZ:

"Beguiling ... elegant and astringent,"
THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW

"Provocative, lyrical and profound,"
Caroline Leavitt, novelist and reviewer for The Boston Globe and People Magazine.

"In the ranks of the best poets, playwrights and novelists,"
FOREWORD Reviews

Sonia Taitz has written for The New York Times, The New York Observer, More Magazine, Working Mother, and other national publications. Her book, MOTHERING HEIGHTS (published by William Morrow in hardcover and Berkley in paperback), was reviewed by People Magazine and quoted by O: The Oprah Magazine as "one of the best things ever said" by famous writers on motherhood. A selection from MOTHERING HEIGHTS was featured in the PBS Special, "The Mystery of Love," narrated by Anna Deveare Smith. IN THE KING'S ARMS, a novel, was nominated for the Sami Rohr Prize by the Jewish Book Council, and THE WATCHMAKER'S DAUGHTER, a memoir, was awarded a Medal by ForeWord Reviews. It was also nominated for the Sophy Brody Medal by the American Library Association. Her latest book, DOWN UNDER, a novel based in part on the life of Mel Gibson, is receiving widespread attention and praise.

Sonia Taitz earned an M.Phil in English Literature from Oxford (where she won the Lord Bullock Prize for her fiction). At Oxford, she began writing plays, which have been performed at the Oxford Playhouse, in many New York venues (including Ensemble Studio Theatre, where she was Writer-in-Residence), and in Washington D.C., at the National Theatre. Her latest play, based on a section of THE WATCHMAKER'S DAUGHTER, was commissioned by NPR.

Sonia Taitz also holds a law degree from Yale. She has served as a pro bono advocate for foster children, as well as for victims of rape and domestic violence.



Follow Sonia Taitz on Twitter @soniataitz. Her website and blog may be found at http://www.soniataitz.com, and she blogs for Psychology Today at http://www.psychologytoday.com/experts/sonia-taitz

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Lynn Schwartz on October 21, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a poignant coming of age memoir about the daughter of Holocaust survivors growing up in America. Beautifully written, surprisingly funny, tender and full of love and healing -- an inspiring tale of forgiveness, tolerance, and the necessity of discovering and following one's own path.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By dep on February 3, 2013
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I don't think I have ever so thoroughly enjoyed reading a book until I read this one. This is the story of Sonia Taitz growing up in Washington Heights with her brother and her parents, both Holocaust survivors from Lithuania. Her father was a master watchmaker and had his own shop. This was also the very skill that kept him alive in the camp of Dachau, fixing watches for the Germans. The authors maternal grandmother also lived with them, she being a survivor too. Because I am around the same age as the author, so much of what she wrote about were also my own childhood memories. Romper Room, Mr. Softee trucks, American Bandstand, the movie The Miracle Worker, Doris Day movies; everything was so familiar to me. The book basically covers her entire life; college, marriage, divorce, her parents aging. As I said, I just loved this book, it had such a wonderful feel to me. If I could I would give six stars to The Watchmakers Daughter. A great book and a great read that I highly recommend to everyone.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Talia Carner on February 5, 2013
Format: Paperback
In lyrical, strong and evocative prose, Sonia Taitz describes life in a household of two people that had crawled out of the ashes of the Holocaust to build a new life in New York. But a new life could not escape the dark shadows of the hunger, degradation and losses that never lifted from the home and cast a pall over every moment, every action and reaction.

In this detailed memoir, Ms. Taitz draws great pictures of each of her parents, starting with her father the watchmaker and fixer, and her kitchen-busy mother. The author does not shy away from her own shortcomings or from the ways she failed her parents when trying to live a life and make choices that were not dictated by the legacy of the past or what her parents expected of her. Luckily, as she moved in her own tracks, there was little outward conflict, and the relationship between daughter and parents remained intact throughout. It takes away the drama of someone who must rebel and fight against the dictates of the memory of dead people, but as a memoir, the story needs to stay truthful to the events.

There is also some humor in the tales of the author's attempts to cross the divide from the world of her immigrant Jewish parents to the world of goys in the form of boyfriends--and later into the ivy-climbing institutions of highest learning.

The end of the book though, seeing each of the parents through the last stages of their lives got bogged down, not because it was not beautifully written, but because it was emotionally charged for the author but not for the reader who've observed or read these end-of-life journeys.

The only thing that stood out for me at that point was how little Ms.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By GatorReads on March 26, 2013
Format: Paperback
I LOVED the Watchmaker's Daughter! I savored every beautiful word. It allowed me to laugh, cry, and deeply reflect on my own family history. I am normally a very quick reader, eager to finish a book and move on to another. I must tell you, I purposely and consciously took my time to fully digest every thought on the page and then forced myself to put the book down to reflect before reading further. I can say without hesitation that The Watchmaker's Daughter is one of my new favorite books!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Doyle on January 28, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Gave interesting insights into the values and determination of two holocaust survivors, but of particular interest was their influence on the daughter--her achievements and values passed from the parents.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Amelia Gremelspacher TOP 1000 REVIEWER on November 2, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Sonia is the daughter of Holocaust survivors. Although she yearns for the American dream of the suburbs and the carefree television families, she is also deeply a Jewish daughter. This book is a love affair to her flawed, but loving parents. In her life she deals with her ambivalence over and over but ends up keeping her vow to her father to keep faith. It's a story with resonance, told with unflinching honesty to include her own flaws. It is a book I recommend.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Susan R. Chalfin on January 6, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The Watchmaker's Daughter is a truly moving (tears rolled down my cheeks for the last 30 pages) account of the author's experiences as the daughter of Holocaust survivors. Taitz grows up in glossy, repressed 1950s America with refugee parents who argue at the dinner table over which of their families endured worse tragedies at the hands of the Nazis. Her parents are both deeply flawed and hugely admirable. Her father hits his son, and belittles his wife (whom he nevertheless loves very much), yet he is amazingly supportive of his brilliant daughter and turns out to have been a hero during the war. Her mother, a former concert-level pianist turned housewife and shop clerk is often warm, positive and generous, but can grow cold and withholding to her daughter in reaction to the competition her husband sets up between them. Yet she is happy and proud when her nerdy, skinny daughter blossoms into a voluptuous "hotsy totsy." When Taitz marries a gentile from an anti-Semitic British family, the unexpected sympathy and connection between the two sets of parents heals both families. Taitz conveys her parents' characters, and her relationship with them, in all its messy, complicated humanity. The book is beautifully written, and filled with humor despite the tragic subject matter.
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