Day My Mother Changed Her Name and Other Stories

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Editorial Reviews

Association of Jewish Libraries Newsletter Review
A master storyteller, ninety-three-year-old William Kaufman has eloquently transformed tales based on his childhood and that of his immigrant parents into his own, captivating audiences wherever he can find them and now making their way into print. With sharp wit, detail, and a colorful life to draw experiences from, Kaufman has written a winner that epitomizes the oddities
found in Jewish life.
Hadassah magazine
[A] mesmerizing collection of tales . . . .Kaufman's voice lets us see the reward of a long, well-lived life. I hope he's working on his next book.
Jewish Book World
In these thirty short stories, we have thirty slivers of life as lived by William D. Kaufman over the better part of the 20th century. Written from a desk in the lounge of the assisted-living center in which Kaufman currently resides, the author has made his time and place in the world sing and dance its way to life. The stories are semi-autobiographical, many of them set during his childhood, but the immediacy and intimacy of the writing make the events feel as if they are occurring as the reader turns the page. Evocative of an era, one can taste the flavors, smell the scents and see the sights that Kaufman describes; all this is presented with an economy of language and a talent for finding the perfect phrase at the perfect time. The author started writing in his nineties and his look back at the past is mellow, forgiving, and filled with humor. We see the day World War I ended through his long-ago child's eyes; his big sister's reactions are more important than the day's grand events. We experience his first day of cheder, his first cigarette, and his immigrant mother's encounter with a bigoted public school teacher (as well as the mother's ultimate subtle but brilliant victory!). We are there for his induction into the Army at the start of World War II and his return to Italy many years after having been stationed there. And we hear about his present life as a resident in an assisted-living facility where he has allowed his creativity to blossom and flourish for the benefit of us all. In a modest and unassuming style, Kaufman entertains and enlightens us. This book is a gem. MHM
MultiCultural Review
How much all of us loved it when an older relative would tell stories about how things were many years ago when they were young. What fun to see the storyteller as a child and get to know all the relatives and neighbors we only know by name, but never met. How lucky we are that Kaufman turned his storytelling abilities into a book for us to read ourselves.
The Jewish Week
I would love William D. Kaufman's stories even if he weren't 95 and this wasn't his first book.
The 30 tales collected in "The Day My Mother Changed Her Name and Other Stories" (Syracuse University Press) unfold with an elegant simplicity; Kaufman's voice is original, kind-hearted and funny. His characters are mostly family members and friends, and the cops, rabbis, teachers, prostitutes, politicians and coal miners he grew up among in Scranton, Pa. Max Apple, one of the best American storytellers, has written a foreword, praising the intimacy of Kaufman's voice and his modern style.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780815609322
  • Publisher: Syracuse University Press
  • Publication date: 1/1/2009
  • Series: Library of Modern Jewish Literature
  • Pages: 190
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Table of Contents


Foreword   Max Apple     ix
Foreword   Carol Montparker     xiii
Introduction     xvii
The Maftir Chronicles     1
The Swindle     9
The Midwife     15
The Day the War Ended on Penn Avenue     20
A Chanukah Gift     26
Cheder     32
Viola     39
The Day My Mother Changed Her Name     45
Cigarettes     51
Fractions     56
Miss Wheatley     60
My Life in the Theater     67
The Mortgage     75
Bar Mitzvah Soliloquy     81
The Second Industry     86
The Informer     92
The Search for God at the A&P     98
The Atrocity     104
Miss Portia's Bosom     109
The Great Wop Donaldson     114
The Incident     120
My Cousin Izzy     126
The Barn     130
My Mother and the Illui     140
The Shadchen     146
The Day I Left     155
Return to Pisa     160
The Library     167
Disappearing Act     172
The Day the Messiah Came     176
Glossary     187
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