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November 01, 2002 - Image 98

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2002-11-01

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First Person

Sharing their it experiences, memoir writers visit Book Fair.

`Why Bfn Like This'

In trying to help Kaplan with her
career, Lil persuaded her to call
n her first collection of autobio-
George Burns, who happened to be
graphical essays, Why In Like
This (William Morrow; $23.95), her grandmother's uncle. Armed with a
couple of family photos, Kaplan flew
Cynthia Kaplan provides insight
to Los Angeles for a meeting with
into "an ordinary life."
the legendary comedian.
With candor and humor, she
"But nothing wound up hap-
tells of growing up in a WASP-y
Kaplan says about their
New England neighborhood; her
meeting. "He couldn't have been
conflicts with her parents; her
nicer, but I didn't get the impres-
close relationship with her grandpar-
that it clicked."
ents; dating; meeting her husband,
one of the most memorable
David; and giving birth to their now 3-
Kaplan's book is the story of her
year-old son. Although it's through the
she calls "R" In a bizarre
eyes of a 30-something Jewish author-
to "borrow" Tylenol 3 with
actress-wife-mother, Kaplan hopes that
codeine from Kaplan, a medication she
everyone can relate to what she writes.
used for migraines. Then, "R" began bor-
"People think their
rowing money from other
lives aren't that remark-
and eventually
able, and then they see
out of sight.
someone write about an
unremarkable life in a
include her
funny way and it is vali-
therapist in the book,
dating," she says.
Kaplan felt it was an
Kaplan's tales begin with
important incident in
her summers at a predom-
inately Jewish girls camp
didn't want to hurt
in Maine. Trying out for
and I liked my
camp plays, she usually
she says. "But
winds up with the male
I felt she trespassed egre-
cynthi. a
role opposite the lead. The
giously on her patients'
summer they put on The
good will."
Miracle Worker, her big
The idea to write this
line is one word: "Wawa." With comedy in her genes,
came directly from
Growing up in Weston, Cynthia Kaplan finds lots
Kaplan, a ,
Conn., in the 1970s,
to say about being Cynthia.
Kaplan's peers "were
of Pennsylvania, wrote for
unduly surprised" that
the op-ed page of the New York Times •
she was Jewish.
and caught the attention of a book edi-
"It was only about 5 percent Jewish
back then," she says. "They couldn't
"It was one of those rare occasions in
fathom that they liked me so much
life where a work opportunity actu-
and I was Jewish."
came to me," she says with a laugh.
Some of Kaplan's essays convey
Meanwhile, Kaplan, who has
poignant memories of her grandparents.
appeared in numerous plays in New
Her maternal grandfather, Ben Siegel,
recently co-wrote and acted in a
was a comedy writer for radio in the
film called Pipe
1930s, penning jokes for the likes of the
Mary Louise Parker.
Marx Brothers and Burns and Allen.
her priority.
During one visit from Ben, she
writing a second
complimented him on his shirt. That
book," Kaplan says. "This time it will be an
night she found it folded on her bed
essay on the world, rather than my world."
with a note: "You can always have the
— Alice Burdick Schweiger
shirt off my back."
Her maternal grandmother, Lillian
Siegel, often would spread her jewelry
Cynthia Kaplan speaks 6:30 p.m.
and other items on the bed, explaining
Monday, Nov. 11, at the Jewish
the history behind each piece. One day, Community Center in West
she told Kaplan, it would all be hers.



Peace in the House: Tales
From a Yiddish Kitchen'

the Heart: Tales From a Woman's Life,
followed by Whoever Finds This: I
Love You and And the Bridge Is Love:
Life Stories. She edited Her Face in
"Faye Moskowitz" character
the Mirror: Jewish Women on Mothers
showed up as Dr. Frasier
and Daughters.
Crane's Jewish girlfriend a
The title of her newest book is
few seasons back on NBC's
the Hebrew phrase shalom
Frasier, tickling those who know the
bayit, "peace in the house." A story
real Faye Moskowitz, the 72-year-old
by the same name, set in Detroit in
accomplished author and chairman
the 1930s, tells of a woman coping
of the English department at George
with a difficult marriage.
Washington University.
"The story is meant to be a corn-
In truth, her own life experience
posite of stories I heard [from
provides enough material for many
women] as a child," says Moskowitz,
interesting stories — and she's fre-
who in another chapter, "Learning
quently drawn upon it in her writ-
Yiddish," recalls: "I overheard their
ing. Mixing chapters of autobiogra-
confidences long
phy with fiction, what she
before I understood
calls "embroidered memo-
them, from my van-
y " Moskowitz has created
tage point in a corner
a collection of poignant
of my mother's spotless
moments in her new book,
Peace in the House: Tales
The book has mostly
From a Yiddish Kitchen
first-person chapters,
(David R. Godine;
"Because I Could Not
Stop for Death"
Born to Russian-Polish
among them, which
immigrants Sophie and
tells of Moskowitz sur-
Aaron Stollman and raised
viving breast cancer
in Detroit, Moskowitz also
against the backdrop
spent some years during
of remembering how
Nts , vier'
the Depression in Jackson,
she tended her cancer-
Mich., before returning to
'104-1** "\m•
stricken mother.
complete school at Durfee
Junior High and Central
Faye Moskowitz's mostly Moskowitz was just 16
1/2 when her mother
High School.
"I was active in Labor
collection is informed
One of the author's
Zionist and went to
by women's life stories.
loveliest sentences
Habonim camp in the mid-
comes from "Birthday
dle 1940s," she says.
Wishes": "I'd like a summer day in
At age 18, she married Jack
Michigan when I was a child, a
Moskowitz'and they quickly pro-
musty darkened cottage and outside,
duced four children: Shoshana,
my mother in her coolee straw hat,
Frank; Seth and Elizabeth.
young again, knee-deep in lake water
The family moved to Washington,
— water so pure the sun shoots
D.C., in late 1962. Jack, now a
through it to dapple cold stones on a
retired attorney, went to work for
wrinkled sand floor."
Michigan Sen. Patrick McNamara.
Moskowitz is pleased that a talk b y
Her brother and sister-in-law Hy and
cousin, Windsor native Aryeh
Barbara Stollman still live here, in
Stollman, will follow hers at
Farmington Hills.
Book Fair. He is the author of The
Faye Moskowitz, who entered
11111117inated Soul.
kindergarten speaking Yiddish, took
— Esther Allweiss Tschirhart
her love of English literature to
George Washington University,
Faye Moskowitz speaks 3:30 p.m.
where "one day, I found myself a
Nov. 10, at the Jewish
tenured professor," she said.
Community Center in West
At age 40, Godine published her
first book of short stories, A Leak in


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