Sunday, February 18, 2018


This memoir is the clear-eyed story of a white woman, Ruth, raising her 12 children, in the projects in Brooklyn.  Both of her husbands were black, but Ruth was raised as an Orthodox Jew, mostly in Virginia.  She ran off to New York as a teenager, abandoning her beloved mother and sister but escaping her abusive father.  Both of her husbands predeceased all of their children, leaving behind their devastated wife with a house full of children to support and raise.  This book is Ruth’s story, as told with love, humor, and admiration by son James.  He devotes minimal coverage to his siblings, all of whom graduated from college and had successful careers.  Ruth, having buried her past completely, was a tough nut to crack, and James quit a lucrative job in journalism in order to devote himself to extracting Ruth’s story.  James himself was somewhat of a problem child as a teenager and spent 3 summers with his stepsister’s family in Harlem.  There he managed to straighten himself out, just by discovering and immersing himself in the kind of life he finally realized was not exactly glamorous.  Ruth may not have been a saint herself, but she certainly comes across as one.  I am so glad this was not a tearjerker.  It’s a tale of triumph, peppered with no-nonsense admonitions from mother to children to pay attention to what she considered to be important—school and church, not money.  Her children were her primary legacy, but after she raised all twelve of them, she never slowed down, becoming involved in the community.  She was a pretty smart cookie and earned her own degree at the age of 65.

No comments: