Ernestine Schlant Bradley is a German-born, naturalized American citizen; a cancer survivor; a professor of comparative literature; a mother; a grandmother; and the wife of former Democratic senator and presidential candidate Bill Bradley. In this gentle, reflective memoir, she traces her extraordinary life, from her childhood in a small town in Nazi Germany to her early career as an airline stewardess and her emigration to America to her romance and marriage to a living legend.
"Memories, to me, are like illuminated islands floating in an ocean of darkness," begins Bradley's memoir. Wife of Bill Bradley, the former senator and candidate for the 2000 presidential election, Ernestine Bradley recounts her rocky childhood in Germany during and after WWII and her move to the U.S. as an adult. Bradley's recollections of her childhood and adolescence in Germany provide an insightful portrait of a family in flux during the Nazi regime, but the flow of emotion is often interrupted by unnecessary parenthetical comments and uncertainty (e.g., "This I don't remember, but it makes sense"). Bradley's parents' intense-and at times unconventional-relationship is a focal point of the author's childhood confusion and adolescent resentment, and inspires heartfelt descriptions. Her strength is apparent as she describes her flight from the confines of her family-appropriately enough as an airline flight attendant-and her subsequent challenges as a wife, mother, academic (in the field of comparative literature) and breast cancer survivor. Her descriptions of her later life are short but accurately relay the difficulties she dealt with as a woman balancing a career and a family during the 1960s and '70s. While at times stiff and defensive, Bradley's memoir is a fine portrait of a childhood spent in wartime and an adult's search for true identity. Illus. Agent, Philippa Brophy. (Mar. 1) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Ernestine Bradley's autobiography illustrates the value to the US of immigration. Growing up in Germany during WW II gave her a different outlook; her husband says in his autobiography that his wife "was a child of the defeat." Certainly she had a childhood that no native-born American had to experience. However, the thread throughout her book is not the German experience, but the family experience, a universal story. When she writes about mid-century German history she is clear and concise, as befits a professor of literature. When she writes about her own family, the emotional ties to her mother, father and stepfather, she is not so clear. Certainly her relationship with her mother was the most important influence in her life. The war colored her childhood, even if she did not understand the ramifications of the German defeat until she began teaching at Spellman College in Atlanta, in the early 1960s, after the collapse of her first marriage. She then began to appreciate the universal evil of racism through her growing awareness of the Holocaust: when she was growing up no mention was made of Germany's role in the murder of millions of Jews. The author has had experiences on many fronts, beginning with the care of a younger brother and sister at the end of the war. Breast cancer was diagnosed and treated in the early ‘90s; she has been cancer-free since. (She continues to talk about breast cancer on the lecture circuit.) She was active and involved in her husband's unsuccessful bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. There is much more to Ernestine Bradley's life than immigration. We do, however, appreciate the determination and contribution of immigrants like her with similarstories to tell. KLIATT Codes: SARecommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2005, Random House, Anchor, 259p. illus., Ages 15 to adult.
From a childhood in Nazi Germany to work as an airline stewardess to a professorship in comparative literature and marriage to a basketball-playing senator. With a four-city author tour. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
The spouse of the former senator from New Jersey speaks about her history and emotional life. In an autobiography characterized by such thoughts, Ernestine Bradley reveals that sometimes she thinks of herself as "a mangrove tree with roots hanging in the air," a conceit prompted principally by her childhood in postwar Germany. What with American soldiers, ersatz sausages, lice, and a truck that was fueled by wood, it seems to have been the worst of times for kleine Wuschi and her family in the Bavarian town of Passau. She had, it appears, two fathers. There was the loving biological one, who was a member of the Luftwaffe, and then there was the hairdresser, a member of the Nazi party, who was a temporary loving father of convenience for a while. It's little wonder that an operatic attitude dominates the first part of this before-and-after story. In the 1950s, when she was 21 (and had excellent language skills), Ernestine emigrated to the US and the excitement of New York, working as a Pan Am stewardess. Soon, she was living in Atlanta, the wife of a physician and the parent of a daughter. But that life didn't work out. Next, divorced and back in New York, she met the smart pro basketball player. She joined the academic world and settled in New Jersey, married to terrific Bill Bradley. He is, she assures us, the best of husbands, especially during her victorious bout with breast cancer. There are certain lacunae, to be sure, with virtually nothing relating to Senator Bill's career or his run for the Oval Office. Rather, here's Oprah-style self-awareness, presented with careful skill. It might not have helped a presidential campaign, anyway. With its bit of Teutonic flavor, this isn't thestory of a typical Jersey Girl-nor is it the most unusual or gripping of revelatory journeys.
“A memoir of self-discovery. . . . Lucid and bracing.”
—The New York Times
“An unforgettable portrait of a German wartime childhood. . . . Moving seamlessly between a child’s memories and an adult’s perspective, Ernestine Bradley involves the reader at every step along the way.”
—Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of No Ordinary Time
“Elegant. . . . Sets a lofty standard for introspective memoir.” —The Philadelphia Inquirer
"A smart, engaging memoir." —More
“Dazzling. . . . Bradley's stirring tale of obstacles overcome, goals pursued, and sacrifices made explores how one woman forged a rewarding life on her own terms." —Booklist