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May 24, 1985 - Image 15

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1985-05-24

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about her old country parents and
grandparents. These are the strong
people who teach her "what any
Jewish mother knows: a country, just
like a child, needs a shove in the right
direction sometimes." Finally, the
book offers poignant memories of her
adult life in Detroit and, later, Wash-
ington, D.C., when Moskowitz reflects
on her mother-in-law — "Oy, Gott" —
living with her and her husband, as
well as on her own efforts as a teacher,
as a civil rights advocate, and, ulti-
mately, as a person.
The humor evident in Faye Mos-
kowitz the person is also evident in her
book. During one Passover in Detroit,
Moskowitz, at age 12, recalls listening
to her 13-year-old cousin Sara (the
rabbi's daughter), moan about the
eight-day dietary restrictions. "Milky
Ways! I'd give anything for a Milky
Way!" Mischevious and seriously crav-
ing candy, Sara needles young Faye
into furtively buying nine of the candy
bars in a predominantly Jewish area.
The two girls then conceal themselves
in a dark hallway to "get rid of the
evidence": "The hall reeked of gefilte
fish and Roman Cleanser, and I felt
sick even before Sara broke a Milky
Way in two and said, 'Here, we each
get two wholes and a half.' "
This recollection typifies Mos-
kowitz' writing in that it sounds good
to the ear. The series of hard "k" and
"g" sounds — reek, gefilte, cleanser,
sick — mixed with a sequence of soft
"h" sounds — hall, wholes and half —
unite to create a quality-sounding sen-
tence. This care with sound is deliber-
ate. "I care about the sound of the sen-
tences and the sounds of the words to-
gether," Moskowitz says. "I read my
things out loud after I've written them,
because I like to hear how they sound.
And I will write something over and
over until it sounds right."
Moskowitz' care with sound car-
ries over into a care with substance.
Her memories appear vividly and
clearly to the reader. How does she do
this? "I have a scene in my mind," she
says. "I try to think of how it looks —
the colors that might be involved in
that scene. I try to think of the sound of
the voices — are they loud, are they
soft? Are there scents, smells, associ-
ated with that scene? I do this just to
get myself back, back, back, back."
And her writing successfully
takes the reader back with her. "An
attic of my childhood: up steep stairs
and on the naked landing, stale sun-
shine trapped in the scent of
naphthalene." There, Ms. Moskowitz,
as a child, finds pictures of a sister she
had never known, who had died from
"a leak in the heart." As a child, little
"Faygie" cannot understand why her
mother twists her apron and cries ach-
ingly at the memory of the dead child.
"Most difficult of all to understand was
my mother's grief. She had me after
all, and the other girl had lived for only
five years."
A sad piece, but Moskowitz suc-
cessfully makes even non-mothers

understand her mother's grief. She
achieves this largely through a single
"My father married a refugee
from the Holocaust soon after my
mother died. Left with two small chil-
dren, he needed someone to care for
them. Even my mother's sisters ap-
proved his choice. It was a good deed to
marry such a woman, one who had
`lost' two sons in the death camps.
(`Lost,' as though she had carelessly
misplaced the boys somewhere and
might one day remember where she
had left them.) 'She's been through so
much,' one aunt told me. 'She'll be
grateful for anything; she'll be good to
your brothers. She lost sons, after
all.' "
"So one blistering August day,
when even the bluebottles were too
languid to buzz, I heard the woman
shout at my 6-year-old brother and the
words were ripped out of her like so
many pieces of flesh, 'Why do you live,
and my sons are in the ground?' "
With the insight of time, Mos-
kowitz herself explains the grief a
mother feels when her child has died.
The passage in her book speak for it-
self: "How could we all have so misread
her anguish?" she writes of her step-
mother. "As if children were inter-
changeable and one could take the
place of another. . . ."
Even with insights, a person can-
not be a writer without first transfer-
ing those insights onto paper. Mo's-
kowitz describes the interesting proc-
ess she goes through when she begins
to write. "I say to myself, 'You have to
sit down and write.' And I really don't
want to. So I wander around my house.
And for about three hours, I clean
floors, I wash clothes, I talk on the
telephone, I wait for the mail, I go out-
side and pull a few weeds. And all the
time, I'm thinking, 'You have this free
time. You should really be writing.' In
fact, I think that all the while I'm
poliOling, washing clothes, or pulling
weeds, something has begun to hap-
pen. A handle has begun to emerge.
And then, finally, I start putting some
thoughts down on paper. And they
center around a handle which is pre-
sented to me. And the handle is usu-
ally a vision or scene. And from the
scene, I begin to render that scene the
way a painter might render it on a
canvas. And I write sentences, and I'm
not satisfied. And I write more, and I'm
still not satisfied. And I get up and I do
something else."
"But by this time, I'm into another
state. I'm deep into the thing. So I go to
sleep. And while I'm lying there, the
good sentences start coming. And then
I get up and I write them down."
It is obvious that only the "good
sentences" are found in A Leak in the
Heart. It is a book of beautiful
memories, which Moskowitz has
picked out "far back in consciousness,
in those shadowy places where mem-
ory sometimes blurs like watercolor on
soft paper." Faye Moskowitz has taken

away the blur, leaving, for the reader,
writing as lovely as watercolor.


n exquisitely groomed crowd
of family and friends
gathered at the home of Fed-
eral District Judge Avern
Cohn, and his wife, Joyce, on
May 10, to honor their longtime friend,
author Faye Moskowitz. It was an ele-
gant evening. The guests enjoyed
lively conversation, a delicious dinner,
the view of the lake.
Joyce Cohn was a friend for many
years with Moskowitz while both were
active in Democratic politics. Mos-
kowitz recalls, "One of the first times
Joyce and I met was at a little coffee
hour at my house for Blair Moody,
then candidate for Senator." The two
women, together with their husbands,
often went bicycle riding through their
neighborhood in Huntington 'Woods.
After Moskowitz moved to Washing-
ton D.C. with her family in 1962, she
and Mrs. Cohn continued their friend-
ship through correspondence and vis-
its. "Faye's letters through the years
have been a joy," Mrs Cohn says. "She
writes so beautifully. She writes the
best letters and she writes the best es-
says. Faye reminds me of a happy
Emily Dickenson."
Jack Moskowitz has
been married to his author-
wife for 37 years. "He is my
biggest fan," Faye says,
while her husband calls her
"a very successful woman in
a lot of endeavors other than
writing. When we were in
politics, Faye was the power
in politics here (Oakland
County Democratic vice
chairman). She's also a great
performer. She taught more
people guitar and singing in
Washington than you can
name. She's a very good folk
singer and guitarist. She's
also an excellent teacher.
She teaches English to the
best and brightest students
in Washington, at a private
school. She has students from
ten years ago who still insist
on having lunch with her at every
opportunity. She's simply a very
talented woman and she's always been
In 1962, she, Jack and their four
children moved to Washington, D.C.
where Jack went to work for Senator
Pat McNamara as staff director for a
Senate subcommittee on aging. There,
Moskowitz attained her bachelor's de-
gree from George Washington Univer-
sity — "My goal was to get my
bachelor's by the time I was 40, and I
did it!" she says.

"I had gone back to school with
Jean Hart, wife of then Senator Hart of
Michigan. She and I both got our
bachelor's degrees at the same time.
When we were done, Senator Hart and

Continued on next page



Friday, May 24, 1985


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