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Who She Was


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About the Author

Samuel G. Freedman is a columnist for The New York Times and a professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He is the author of six acclaimed books, four of which have been New York Times Notable Books of the Year. Freedman also has written frequently for USA TODAY, New York magazine, Rolling Stone, The Jerusalem Post, Tablet, The Forward, and Salon.com. He lives in Manhattan with his fiance and his children.


This thoughtful work tells the life story of the author's mother, Eleanor Hatkin, a feisty woman who tried to buck tradition and died at 50 of breast cancer nearly three decades ago. "Besides having been my mother, besides having been my father's wife, besides having been someone who died miserably and died young, I did not know who she was," explains Freedman, author of the National Jewish Book Award-winning Jew vs. Jew. Bothered by the vanishing memories of his dead mother, the author, at 45, set out to reexamine the life of the introspective, witty woman who grew up in a stifling, conservative, Jewish East Bronx home during the 1930s, '40s and '50s. With touching anecdotes supplied by Freedman's relatives and Eleanor's surviving friends, the author relays how Eleanor clashed with her domineering mother, with no support from her dad, "a doting father but a weak man," over issues of love, marriage, education, culture and career. A vivacious, attractive woman, Eleanor had her pick of several beaux, but was denied the love of her life because of his Catholicism and the calculated wrath of her mother. The book's final section shares some deeply captivating moments, with Freedman blending poetry, his own emotions watching his mother's life end, and painstaking detail to create a moving finale. Photos. Agent, Barney Karpfinger. (Apr.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

"Who She Was is a precise, meticulous re-creation of a woman's experience that attempts -- as does all great literature -- to take a stand against time and loss and insignificance."
-- Alice McDermott, Author Of Child Of My Heart and Charming Billy
"Freedman has succeeded brilliantly in finding out who his mother was and how she lived; the result is a book that is deeply satisfying to read, as close to time traveling as most of us will ever experience."
-- Diane Ravitch, The New York Sun
"Nothing less than a triumph of the biographer's art, a work that takes a woman lost to time and restores her to the world."
-- Davod L. Ulin, Chicago Tribune
"A testament to how every life is a living and memorable embodiment of the past and history. One feels the author's affection and wonderment for his subject on every page."
-- Oscar Hijuelos, Author Of The Mambo Kings Play Songs Of Love
"Who She Was is a subtle analysis, with all the pathos and depth of a portrait by Rembrandt.... Freedman's odyssey into his mother's past explains who she was and paints an affecting portrait of the woman and her times."
-- Tony Lewis, The Providence Journal

By reconstructing the long-lost Jewish immigrant Bronx, Freedman (Jew vs. Jew) reconstructs the life of his remarkable mother. With a five-city tour. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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