Sunday, May 23, 2010

Deciding on a Book's Title

It was a pity that with such a head the child had not been born a boy, destined for a life of study. A girl with such a head, when the child is very young, is like the ostrich…a bird that has been given wings but will never fly.” This is what people in the shtetl thought about intellectually curious girls.

I learned from my research of women in the shtetls that the ideal woman was submissive, docile, decorous, retiring, modest, patient and utterly devoted to family. She had no personal ambitions. In her own right, the woman was nothing except to bear and socialize children, and to provide a harmonious home conducive to men’s study and prayer.

A woman’s prayer was not necessary and did not benefit the community. It was considered a waste to educate women. It was felt by some rabbis of the era that “an educated female is a cinder in God’s eye.”

When I began writing The Unveiling, one of the titles I considered was Wings of the Ostrich, an ironic title to highlight my mother’s strength of character. Key to her life’s story was her love of education, the disappointment she felt when it was denied her and the level of her determination to help her children receive higher education. Instead, I chose the title The Unveiling to better encompass the theme of the book, the uncovering of family secrets.

However, many readers have commented that they see both my mother and grandmother as heroines whose resourcefulness and personal achievements secured their family’s survival and hope for the future. Rather than having wings that would never be used, they had strong shoulders upon which their children and grandchildren could stand as they strove for a better life.

Photo taken in Skvira shows my mother standing on chair, her Mother standing beside her and her sister standing in front.

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