Not Becoming My Mother
And Other Things She Taught Me Along the Way
On Sale: April 21, 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.
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