I belong to that most provincial of species—a lifelong New Yorker who has never lived anywhere else. I ventured as far as Westchester for Sarah Lawrence College, travelled to Europe, Africa, and Asia, but moving from the Upper East Side to the Upper West Side of Manhattan has been my only true migration.
My introduction to non-New Yorkers came at camp. My bunkmates hailed from Long Island and New Jersey suburbs. They thought it borderline abusive for a child to be raised in The City. It was fun to visit though, so that’s where we held our bunk reunions each winter. We’d meet in Times Square at Toffenetti’s 1000-seat restaurant (RIP) for steak, baked Idaho potato (“Precious beauty, born of the ashes of extinct volcanoes, brings divine enjoyment, strength to dare and do. Its farinaceous beauty makes life a perfect poem”), and strawberry shortcake (“topped with an avalanche of ice cream”). The restaurant was a favorite with the nearby New Yorker, which reprinted some of the menu’s flowery prose.
The first time we met there, night fell early and my friends were scared to death. They weren’t allowed to walk around The City by themselves after dark, but we had to get to a theater on 42nd Street.
“Taxi, taxi!” They yelled, waving their arms frantically.
“But we’re only two blocks away,” I protested. We piled into a cab.
“Girls, you’re only two blocks away,” the driver said.
At that time, when I was 13 and 14 (the age of the characters in Bromley Girls), I wanted to be a nurse, a spy, an actress, a U.N. interpreter, an investigative reporter, a clothing designer, a film editor, a Modern American poet, and the wife of a professor. However, I graduated from college with the only two skills essential for a woman in the ‘50s and ‘60s—typing and shorthand—but my parents had one ambition for me—to get married!
So I got married (to a lawyer, not a professor), and had jobs, but no career. I typed for a motion picture company, translated for the French Embassy, and typed again for a publishing house. I had a baby, got divorced, remarried (a doctor), had another baby. I stayed home with my children. In my late ‘40s, I became the oldest living intern at a Jewish magazine, Tikkun. I also wrote features for The Jewish Week.
Then I came across a novel for young adults written by a former classmate of my son’s–Nobody Was Here by Alison Pollet. I loved it. It occurred to me there were things I wanted to write about that would fit the YA genre.
Fiction is liberating, I find. “Just the facts” no longer applies. You can make up dialogue; you don’t have to stick to quotes. But if everything that happens in Bromley Girls isn’t fact, it’s still true—emotionally, sociologically, psychologically.
You’ll find this disclaimer at the beginning of many novels:
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or events, is entirely coincidental. Names, characters, and situations are the product of the author’s imagination. Although some real New York City institutions—schools, stores, and the like—are mentioned, all are used fictitiously.
But if there’s even the slightest resemblance between a fictional character and a real one, a smidgen of similarity—maybe they both live on the Upper East Side of Manhattan or wear their hair in a pageboy—readers are inclined to think you’re writing about the actual person.
They might be so convinced that A___ is really G___ from 9th grade, they’ll object if A’s eyes are brown in the book when G’s were blue, or if she gets C’s when G never got less than an A.
My fiction and non-fiction have been published in The New York Times, The Jewish Week, Tikkun and Moment magazines, and online in The Persimmon Tree, Beliefnet and The Jewish Magazine.