Not Becoming My Mother

Not Becoming My Mother

And Other Things She Taught Me Along the Way

Book - 2009
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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's one 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.
Publisher: New York : Penguin Press, 2009.
ISBN: 9781594202162
Branch Call Number: 641.5092 R351r6
Characteristics: 112 p.


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Oct 13, 2015

The author had a very complicated history with her mother, a woman whose erratic behavior was often not funny anymore, but verging on terrifying. After her mother's death the author found a box of letters and scraps of paper with her mother's handwriting on them and proceeded to attempt a better understanding of the woman she'd tried so hard to distance herself from. My only complaint is that I wish the book was a little more detailed, a little longer, with more anecdotes. But otherwise, a very interesting read and something many of us, who have strived to understand a parent after their death, will find sympathetic reading.

Jul 25, 2014

I thought this book was a beautiful gift this mother gave to her daughter. I read this book in two (short) sittings, and then shared it with my friend, who did the same!

Jul 11, 2010

A memoir of her mother written after reading her mother's diaries and letters years following her death. Reichl has a much deeper understanding of her mother's generation, her struggles as an educated ambitious woman whom everyone said should be fulfilled as a wife and mother.

After regaling us in her funny 'Tender at the Bone' about her mother who could not cook and had little sense about food, Reichl's take here has a depth of understanding for her mother quite different.

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