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My Mother's Wars Hardcover – March 5, 2013
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Drawing on the stories told to her when she was a girl, Faderman recontructs her mother’s life, devotions, and tragedies in early 1930s America in a memoiristic tale. At 17, Mary Lifton leaves her shtetl in Latvia for New York City, where she takes up residence with her half sister. It’s a short-lived arrangement, and Mary supports herself by working on and off in the garment industry. Eighteen years later, Mary, now 35 and never married, by chance meets the younger, charismatic Moishe, Faderman’s father. The two embark on a passionate, tumultuous affair that lasts for years as Mary participates in a labor-union uprising and has a romance with another man, and, while barely making ends meet, two unplanned pregnancies. An affecting undercurrent is Mary’s unending loyalty to her family left behind in Latvia. When the Nazi movement begins to gain ground in Eastern Europe, Mary’s affections for Moishe are outweighed by her harrowing desperation to save her family. As Faderman vividly chronicles her mother’s intense personality and complex experiences, she also freshly illuminates the Jewish immigrant experience. --Leah Strauss
"This is an exquisite piece of history—both resonantly personal and full of revelatory moments in the history of women, and of New York in the early days of the garment workers union and the shadow of the Holocaust. The sympathy and understanding Faderman shows for her immigrant mother, and her whole family, reminded me again of what I love about memoir. This is not just a story; these are lives on the page." —Dorothy Allison
“Faderman’s story of her immigrant mother is so vividly imagined that you can taste the borscht Mary eats, squirm at the claustrophobia of her tiny rented room, and be swept up in the sensual delight that will betray her.” —Janice Steinberg, author of The Tin Horse
“This book is a work of originality, written with such imaginative sympathy that I read it with unabating pleasure from beginning to end.” —Vivian Gornick, author of Fierce Attachments
“Lillian Faderman is an extraordinary storyteller, one of the few who can tell a painful story with a complex ending—and imbue it with humor, sensuality, and earthy grace, in every sentence.” —Amy Bloom, author of Away
“The sympathy and understanding Faderman shows for her immigrant mother and her whole family reminded me again of what I love about memoir. This is not just a story; these are lives on the page.” —Dorothy Allison, author of Bastard Out of Carolina
“My Mother’s Wars tells the aching story of immigrant factory workers in the decades preceding World War II—sad lives made sadder by the terrifying knowledge that their families in Europe are being extinguished. The book is part memoir, part reconstruction . . . and all artistry.” —Edith Pearlman, author of Binocular Vision
“Faderman is a skilled storyteller and a careful documentarian . . . the historical details in the book have been provided by extensive research. It is these historical details and Faderman’s lyrical storytelling skill that make this book such an inviting read.” —Carol Poll, Jewish Book Council
“A remarkable work of reconstruction . . . As usual, Faderman’s seemingly effortless prose is the result of years of patient research. As far as possible, she has made sure that the past will be accurately remembered.” —The Gay & Lesbian Review
“To be sure, the Holocaust figures crucially in [Lillian Faderman’s] new memoir . . . but her book is more than a testimony of the Holocaust— it is a love story, a family memoir and, above all, an American tale.” —Jonathan Kirsch, The Jewish Journal
“[A] strikingly intelligent and emotionally wrenching narrative.” —Philip Jason, The Washington Independent Review of Books
“A gripping personal testimony. Author Lillian Faderman shares her mother's story of immigrating to America with high hopes of dancing, only to be swept up in the undercurrents of New York, and the struggles of being a worker in the garment industry. . . . A must for history and memoir collections focusing on personal tales.” —Midwest Book Review
“Faderman expertly explores a jarring view into the immigrant life of Jewish Holocaust survivors living in the US.” —Nick Pachelli, The Advocate
“As Faderman vividly chronicles her mother’s intense personality and complex experiences, she also freshly illuminates the Jewish immigrant experience.” —Booklist
“Faderman commands her material in this page-turner—no small feat with a subject so close to home.” —Make/shift
Top customer reviews
The mother is believable. The daughter (the author) makes occasional appearances and adds to the story. The siblings and mother provide insight into the horrible happenings in Europe. You can almost smell this era in NYC and Jewish history, all matters relevant to my own family evolution.
Much more so then many of her earlier books.
Of course, her mother's wars were also hers in so many ways.
I highly recommend this book.