When It Was Our War: A Soldier's Wife on the Home Front

When It Was Our War: A Soldier's Wife on the Home Front

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by Stella Suberman, Suberman

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When Stella Suberman wrote her first memoir, The Jew Store, at the age of seventy-six, she was widely praised for shedding light on a forgotten piece of American history--Jewish life in the rural South. In her new memoir, Suberman reveals yet another overlooked aspect of America's past--the domestic side of war.

Her story begins in the Miami Beach she grew up

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When Stella Suberman wrote her first memoir, The Jew Store, at the age of seventy-six, she was widely praised for shedding light on a forgotten piece of American history--Jewish life in the rural South. In her new memoir, Suberman reveals yet another overlooked aspect of America's past--the domestic side of war.

Her story begins in the Miami Beach she grew up in, when hotel signs boasted "Always a View, Never a Jew" and where a passenger ship lingered just off shore carrying hundreds of European Jews hoping for--but never finding--sanctuary. It was a time of innocence, before that war in Europe became our war.

Stella was nineteen when America entered the fighting. By the time she was twenty-three, the war was over. She married Jack Suberman the week he enlisted and set out alone to join him in California. She was kicked off trains to make room for soldiers, her luggage was stolen, she was arrested for soliciting, but she was determined to follow her husband. And she did so for the next four years as he was sent from air base to air base, first training to be a bombardier and then training others. It wasn't until he was sent overseas to fly combat missions that she finally went back home to wait, as did so many other soldier's wives.

This remarkable memoir renders a double understanding of war--of how it matured a young woman and how it matured a country. By personalizing the patriotism of the 1940s, Stella Suberman's story becomes the story of all military wives and serves as a powerful reminder of how differently many Americans feel about war sixty years later.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This warm, simple yet artful look at her life as an army officer's wife during WWII, a sequel to Suberman's memoir, The Jew Store, is the story of a young woman-typical of so many-"who got caught up in a whirlwind and, while she was finding her way about in it, did a lot of growing up." Now 80, Suberman brings a sense of immediacy, tension and even a surprise ending (that will catch your heart) to events that took place more than half a century ago. Before being sent off to battle, Suberman's husband was stationed in California, Arizona and Kansas, and with a novelist's gift for detail and pacing, the author introduces the characters who moved in and out of her life in these locations, among them the anti-Semitic Mrs. Gillis, who inspected young Stella for the "lump" she'd been assured existed on the backs of Jews everywhere; Jerry Bulla, a Mexican-born cadet who passed himself off as Hawaiian to avoid discrimination; and Mrs. Womble, the Subermans' Kansas landlady, who spent her afternoons playing strip poker with the neighborhood ladies. Suberman's narrative retains a calm, even tone, even when her luggage is stolen and she's nearly arrested by a cop who mistakes her for a hooker when he finds her sleeping on a train station bench. And she is equally matter-of-fact about the undercurrent of racism and anti-Semitism that flows through her narrative, showing, without sanctimony, how she eventually confronted her own prejudices and challenged others to confront theirs. (Sept. 26) Forecast: With the recent nostalgia for WWII, this lovely account of wartime on the home front should have broad appeal, which will be helped by a 10-city author tour. This could be a sleeper. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
As a sheltered teenager in Miami Beach's Jewish community, Suberman (The Jew Store) paid little notice when World War II began. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, however, the conflict would consume her attention: her boyfriend, Jack, joined the U.S. Army Air Corps, and the two sweethearts soon married. Finding herself a military wife during wartime brought challenge and adventure, which Suberman recalls with enthusiasm and emotional honesty. Her story chronicles not only her homefront sacrifices but also marks her own maturation from na vet to social awareness as Jack was shipped around the country for training. Once Jack was abroad, the couple's correspondence kept their young marriage strong and blended their perspectives so much that Suberman's writing often recounts Jack's overseas experiences as if she had actually been there. She captures the mixed atmosphere of excitement and anxiety as the country braced itself "for the duration." Although an honest and well-written account, this work is similar to the scores of other personal memoirs of the era. Not a necessary purchase but suitable for public libraries.-Elizabeth Morris, formerly of Otsego Dist. P.L., MI Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Suberman's first autobiographical work, The Jew Store (Algonquin, 1999), offered readers a portrait of life in the semirural South of her childhood. The story here takes up with her coming-of-age in Florida and her home-front experiences during World War II. The author's Jewish identity didn't mean much to her when she first met her future husband, Jack Suberman, in college. Although he was not religious, he thought deeply and spoke cogently to her about the fact of their Jewishness-what it meant to their peers, what Jim Crow should mean to Jews, and how to reconsider her own prejudices. Marriage and military service happened almost simultaneously for the young couple. Stella traveled to the West to be with Jack as he trained to be a fighter pilot. They had a son. Jack, like some of their friends before him, shipped out to war. Suberman brings a strong and steady voice to this combination memory and unflinching self-analysis. Reflective teens will learn much about human nature's openness to change and moral growth, without feeling themselves confronted by anything akin to preaching. The author's excellent expository style serves as a model, too, for those wanting to create deeper nonfiction collections for high school students.-Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The author of The Jew Store (1998), which vividly described growing up in a small Tennessee town where her relatives were the only Jews, just as memorably recalls her peripatetic life as a war bride. Suberman begins her story in 1939, the year recent high-school grad Stella met husband-to-be Jack at a Miami Beach park. Stella and her family were now living in Miami; her father had bought a drugstore, and she was adjusting to a larger Jewish presence. Many locals resented that presence; hotels had signs barring Jewish guests, and the country clubs blackballed Jewish applicants. Though her father was not religious, her mother was observant, and after Stella met Jack, who was also Jewish, she began to be more aware of her heritage. Her encounters with anti-Semitism led her, with Jack's encouragement, to question her attitude toward blacks, which had been conventionally southern and paternalistic. Suberman�s recollections of confronting prejudice, her own and others�, gives this consistently thoughtful work an extra intellectual heft. Stella began dating Jack and started college, but when he enlisted with the Air Corps after Pearl Harbor she married him and, like so many young women of that era, followed him to live in a mix of accommodations as they moved to training camps around the country. The author vividly recalls not only the friendships she made, but also the times she lived through: rationing, patriotism, reactions to the war news. After their son Rick was born in 1943, Jack was sent to the Pacific, and Stella went back to Miami to wait with her family for her husband. (Sixty years later, they�re still married.) Suberman�s engaging memoir of those years is, at once, a touchingromance, sharp social history, and a subtle diary of intellectual discovery. A remarkable story that resonates with intelligence and insight. Author tour

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Product Details

Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.78(w) x 8.66(h) x 1.07(d)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

Meet the Author

Stella Suberman was born in Union City, Tennessee, the setting for her memoir, The Jew Store, and spent her teens in Miami Beach, Florida. After twenty years in North Carolina, she returned to Florida in 1966 as the administrative director of the Lowe Art Museum of the University of Miami. Now retired, she lives in Boca Raton.

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