Ruth Reichl, editor of Gourmet Magazine and author of three stunning memoirs, now settles down with an old box of letters and journals. In the process, she learn how little she really knew about her mother, Miriam Brudno.
On what would have been her mother’s 100th birthday, Reichl sits down to finally open and read the diaries of a bored housewife. Her mother, Miriam, wanted to be a doctor, at a time when people thought that was a ridiculous ambition for a young woman. So, other than a stint as a bookstore owner, she lived most of her life as a bored housewife, in the era of bored housewives. This small book gets to the heart of the time in America when stay-at-home wives lived mostly in service to the family: meals, laundry, boredom, followed by meals, laundry, complaints, and more boredom.
Reichl’s mix of memoir and reflection in Not Becoming My Mother conveys the sadness of spirit many of our Moms likely experienced in the 1930s and 1940s: “… the women of her generation, who were unlucky enough to have been born at what seems to me the worst possible time to have been a middle-class American woman.”
From Miriam, her daughter clearly learned the spirit of independence and self-acceptance her mother taught her, but never knew in her own life. Reichl went on to become editor of Gourmet, and the restaurant critic for The New York Times, as well as author of several other best-selling memoirs.
As always with memoir, the author addresses the risk of telling true stories she wouldn't have shared if her mom was living.
“She did not have a happy life, but she wanted one for me. And she made enormous emotional sacrifices to make sure that my life would not turn out like hers,” Reichl writes.