Welcome to Imprint Friday and today's featured imprint: Algonquin Books. Stop by each week to be introduced to a must-read title from one of my favorite imprints. I know you'll be adding many of these books to your wish list.
One of the casualties of modern, mobile life is the special connection between grandchild and grandparent that develops when the two generations live close enough to affect each other's lives. In The Smartest Woman I know, Irene Beckerman honors that bond and remembers the pearls of wisdom she gathered from her grandmother Ettie.
It’s been said there’s nobody as smart as an old woman. That’s Gingy’s grandmother, Ettie, though she had no more than a third-grade education. She dispensed unforgettable wisdom to Gingy and her sister, Tootsie, as well as to the customers at her and (her husband) Mr. Goldberg’s stationery and magazine store, where customers ranged from Irish nannies to Sara Delano Roosevelt to Marlene Dietrich. Clever about life and love, food and men, Ettie had advice for everyone, and it didn’t hurt that she got some of her best ideas from talking things over with God, out loud.I was fortunate to know both my grandmothers well. They lived within a few miles of my childhood home and thus were a true part of my everyday life. And because they lived into their mid-nineties, I was able to know them through adult eyes. And like Irene Beckerman's, my life was enriched by grandmotherly wisdom.
Known for bringing wit and emotion to issues that concern women, depth and poignancy to subjects as seemingly trivial as clothes, beauty, and bridesmaids, Gingy now magically brings the irrepressible Ettie Goldberg to life.
The Smartest Woman I Know is part memoir and part tribute to Beckerman's grandmother Ettie. Owing to circumstances that Beckerman does not discuss, she moved in with her grandparents in 1947 at the age of twelve. This slim volume, which recounts life in the Goldberg household in New York's Upper East Side, is a refreshing, loving story of a special woman and is devoid of contemporary dysfunctional drama.
Using fun illustrations, self-deprecating humor, and an informal style, Beckerman remembers the ups and downs of her teen years and her grandparents' relationship. Ettie and her outlook on life will touch your heart.
To give you a feel for the book, I'd like to share some of Ettie's advice to her granddaughter:
- After complaining about her looks: "There's nothing wrong with how you look . . . even Rita Hayworth doesn't look so good in the morning." (p. 42)
- After an embarrassing incident at work: "Never worry what anybody thinks. Only worry what God thinks." (p. 63)
- Commenting on three spinster sisters who did good works: "Sometimes life is all about the song you sing." (p. 75)
- At high school graduation: "Smart people are smart because they make smart choices. There are some things maybe you want to do, but you don't do them good. It wouldn't be smart to choose them to make a living." (p. 97)
Algonquin Books is a featured imprint on Beth Fish Reads. For more information about the imprint, please read Executive Editor Chuck Adams's introductory letter, posted here on January 7, 2011.