Thursday, June 30, 2011


 I was an infant when my bootlegging father, and innocent uncle were murdered in my father’s turf war with the Mafia.

When I was old enough to ask my mother about my daddy, she told me that he died of pneumonia and never acknowledged my uncle’s existence. I think I knew even at three or four years old that she was lying.

So at the age of 18, I began a search for the truth. I read old newspapers in the Cleveland Public Library that described the murders in screaming headlines. I asked questions of surviving relatives and researched a book about the Jewish Orphanage where my mother grew up from the time she was 3 years old until she graduated at 15. The book, “Inside Looking Out” provided a  profusion of information about the orphanage in 1900 to 1915 during my mother’s time, that was like something out of Dickens. I read the family history my older brother wrote, who remembered the night of the murders--the police, the reporters, the neighbors, the screams of our mother and aunt.

Part catharsis and part an author’s recognition of a good story, I wanted to write a book about my family. I also wanted to protect its secrets. Which meant that it had to be a novel.

 But for the first time in my life I had writer’s block. Draft after draft filled my wastebasket but, I finally I got it. It was as if there was some voice within me, or in the air, or somewhere, that said simply, "It’s time for the truth to come out of the shadows."

 I started over. As if truth has an intimate power and life force, the words now flowed as in a dream. And my memoir, LOST AND FOUND was born.

When the book was published, I went on a publicity tour and got a huge surprise. Each time I spoke to a group there were always two or three people who would pull me aside and tell me THEIR family secrets. Listening, I felt released from my feelings of shame and isolation and connected to others in a new and dynamic way. It was like opening a window into fresh clean air.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Great Depression

Since the economic downturn there has been much written about the depression of the 1930’s, as if there were some connection to today’s Recession. But those born after the Great Depression—the majority of Americans--have no idea of what it was really like.

The unemployment rate was three times what it is today. There were bread lines and suicides. Fathers couldn’t support their families and had to split up their children to live with different relatives--who were also suffering. Or they were among the thousands of homeless families housed in hundreds of miserable makeshift camps around the country. Called “Hoovervilles,” they were named after President Herbert Hoover, who was widely blamed for the depression.

My mother worked for Cleveland’s’ Engineering Department. But the city of Cleveland was so broke it  paid their employees with “script,” which was as useless to pay for food as Monopoly money. When I was six years old my mother sent me into grocery store after grocery store to ask if they took script, while she waited in the car at the curb. When I finally got a “yes” she would go in and do the grocery shopping.

But there was an extraordinary camaraderie in the country. Unlike today, with the huge income gaps between the rich and middle class—not to mention the poor—everyone was in the same boat which unified the country. There wasn’t today’s underlying anger and bitter political conflict. And potatoes were a penny a pound!