Few of Ingall’s useful, reader-friendly prescriptions would be out of place in a goyish child development manual, but the...

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MAMALEH KNOWS BEST

WHAT JEWISH MOTHERS DO TO RAISE SUCCESSFUL, CREATIVE, EMPATHETIC, INDEPENDENT CHILDREN

Forget the tiger mom. What an aspiring superchild—or just a mensch, even—needs is a good Jewish mother.

What’s the difference, asks Tablet columnist Ingall (The Field Guide to North American Males, 1997, etc.), repeating an old Borscht Belt joke, between said mother and a Rottweiler? A Rottweiler eventually lets go. Granted, writes the author, in a fraught time, compounded by the Holocaust being a living memory, there are reasons for mamaleh to keep a close eye on the kids. Whether pampered and overprotected or not, the success of Jewish children in adulthood is all out of proportion to the population. If 1 percent of the world is Jewish, then half of the Pulitzer Prize winners in nonfiction and one in five Nobel Prize winners belong to the tribe, a pattern that extends far back in history. So how to keep from suffocating the kid before he or she grows up into that genius of promise? Maybe worry a little less, try to be a little happier, and try to relax. Still, raising a “family with traditional Jewish values” involves plenty of nurturing and plenty of time. Admonishing that the parent is the child’s primary educator, Ingall counsels careful attention to transmitting those values of education, spirituality, honesty, and the like while encouraging independence and the untrammeled development of personality. This entails a bit of risk, of course. “I want my kids to learn to cook,” she writes, adding good-naturedly, “because, hey, less work for me.” But learning to cook means ruining a few dishes, scorching a saucepan or two, and maybe destroying a few utensils—which means getting used to the idea of letting the kid fail in order to learn.

Few of Ingall’s useful, reader-friendly prescriptions would be out of place in a goyish child development manual, but the flavor is echt Jewish and plenty tasty at that.

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8041-4141-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harmony

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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A vivid sequel that strains credulity.

THE ESCAPE ARTIST

Fremont (After Long Silence, 1999) continues—and alters—her story of how memories of the Holocaust affected her family.

At the age of 44, the author learned that her father had disowned her, declaring her “predeceased”—or dead in his eyes—in his will. It was his final insult: Her parents had stopped speaking to her after she’d published After Long Silence, which exposed them as Jewish Holocaust survivors who had posed as Catholics in Europe and America in order to hide multilayered secrets. Here, Fremont delves further into her tortured family dynamics and shows how the rift developed. One thread centers on her life after her harrowing childhood: her education at Wellesley and Boston University, the loss of her virginity to a college boyfriend before accepting her lesbianism, her stint with the Peace Corps in Lesotho, and her decades of work as a lawyer in Boston. Another strand involves her fraught relationship with her sister, Lara, and how their difficulties relate to their father, a doctor embittered after years in the Siberian gulag; and their mother, deeply enmeshed with her own sister, Zosia, who had married an Italian count and stayed in Rome to raise a child. Fremont tells these stories with novelistic flair, ending with a surprising theory about why her parents hid their Judaism. Yet she often appears insensitive to the serious problems she says Lara once faced, including suicidal depression. “The whole point of suicide, I thought, was to succeed at it,” she writes. “My sister’s completion rate was pathetic.” Key facts also differ from those in her earlier work. After Long Silence says, for example, that the author grew up “in a small city in the Midwest” while she writes here that she grew up in “upstate New York,” changes Fremont says she made for “consistency” in the new book but that muddy its narrative waters. The discrepancies may not bother readers seeking psychological insights rather than factual accuracy, but others will wonder if this book should have been labeled a fictionalized autobiography rather than a memoir.

A vivid sequel that strains credulity.

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982113-60-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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