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Shirley's Story: From Fear in Poland to Freedom in America
by Roberta Wiener
This memoir recounts my parents’ life from their youthful experiences in Poland to their honeymoon on a ship to America (not steerage, but their own cabin!) to their working-class life in their beloved new country. They had met by happenstance when my father, Sol, was trying out a newly purchased horse (his bearded, orthodox Jewish father raised horses after getting special permission from the local nobleman who liked him) and the chain of the buggy he was driving broke miles away from his home. A passing farmer directed him to a hardware store nearby. Shirley was working in her mother’s store when a thin, blond young man came in. They chatted as he replaced the chain (too heavy for a young woman to do, he chivalrously told her) and shared their dreams and learned of their mutual loathing of Poland and passionate desire for a future in America. Both grew up experiencing anti-Semitism covertly on a daily basis, overtly periodically, but when it reared its head, it terrified them and left indelible scars. Within months they married and were on their way to a new life.
This “never-fitting-in” immigrant story (although Shirley never considered herself an immigrant and felt superior to her “low-class” American neighbors) with its difficulties and sweet pleasures has universal appeal. The pain from the constant clash of personalities of mother and youngest daughter and Shirley’s unrelenting memories of the past will intrigue and engage all who read this remarkable memoir.
About the Author
Dr. Roberta Behr Wiener is Dean Emeritus, university professor, author, scholar, and book and film discussion leader. She has been an academic for more than thirty-five years. After receiving her doctorate, she taught at Adelphi University, in Garden City, NY, as Full Professor of Reading and Literacy, where she served in many leadership capacities, including Associate Dean and President of the Faculty Senate. Dr. Wiener was appointed Dean of the School of Education at Indiana-Purdue University in 1999 and remained there until she retired (she is Emeritus Professor at both institutions). Her areas of research are in psychosocial development, literacy studies, portfolio development, and adult learning.
She is also a certified psychotherapist who has worked with children, adolescents, and young adults, and has coauthored books for bilingual and young adult readers: Our Weird and Wacky World, Our Wild and Crazy World, and Interesting Careers for Interesting People. Dr. Wiener co-wrote two textbooks: Literacy Portfolios: Using Assessment to Guide Instruction and Literacy Portfolios: Improving Assessment, Teaching, and Learning, published by Merrill, Prentice Hall. She has written book chapters as well as numerous articles in professional journals, and has been a prolific speaker across the country and abroad. Dr. Wiener lives in Florida and upstate New York.
(2010, paperback, 216 pages)