Bestselling author Ruth Reichl examines her mother’s life, giving voice to the universal unarticulated truth that we are grateful not to be our mothers
In Not Becoming My Mother, bestselling author Ruth Reichl embarks on a clear-eyed, openhearted investigation of her mother’s life, piecing together the journey of a woman she comes to realize she never really knew. Looking to her mother’s letters and diaries, Reichl confronts the painful transition her mother made from a hopeful young woman to an increasingly unhappy older one and realizes the tremendous sacrifices she made to make sure her daughter’s life would not be as disappointing as her own.
Growing up in Cleveland, Miriam Brudno dreamed of becoming a doctor, like her father. But when she announced this, her parents said, “You’re no beauty, and it’s too bad you’re such an intellectual. But if you become a doctor, no man will ever marry you.” Instead, at twenty, Miriam opened a bookstore, a profession everyone agreed was suitably ladylike. She corresponded with authors all over the world, including philosophers such as Bertrand Russell, political figures such as Max Eastman, and novelists such as Christopher Marlowe. It was the happiest time of her life.
Nearly thirty when she finally married, she fulfilled expectations, settled down, left her bookstore behind, and started a family. But conformity came at a tremendous cost. With labor-saving devices to aid in household chores, there was simply not enough to do to fill the days. Miriam—and most of her friends—were smart, educated women who were often bored, miserable, and silently rebellious.
On what would have been Miriam’sone hundredth birthday Reichl opens up her mother’s diaries for the first time and encounters a whole new woman. This is a person she had never known. In this intimate study Reichl comes to understand the lessons of rebellion, independence, and self-acceptance that her mother—though unable to guide herself—succeeded in teaching her daughter.
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Format: Hardcover, 128pp
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Pub. Date: April 2009
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.
Ruth Reichl Biography
Take equal parts family history and food history, simmer with humor, and you get Ruth Reichl’s irresistible, self-styled genre: the culinary confessional (recipes included). In her two bestselling memoirs, Tender at the Bone and Comfort Me with Apples, renowned restaurant critic turned editor-in-chief at Gourmet magazine Ruth Reichl proves she understands herself — and human nature — as well as she does food.