By Suzi Brozman
If you loved Anita Diamant’s iconic novel “The Red Tent,” you’ll want to hear her talk at the Marcus JCC on Feb. 23. But don’t expect “Red Tent” talk because Diamant has a new book to discuss, more contemporary but just as full of insights into Jewish life and values.
“The Boston Girl” invites you to enter the mind and life of a girl growing up in the tumultuous early years of the 20th century, trying to decide where she belongs in America and how she can escape the traditional European mindset of her immigrant parents. In other words, this story relates to a common American Jewish experience — if not for us, then for our parents or grandparents.
The young girl is Addie Baum, and the story is told as tape-recorded reminiscences for her granddaughter, who asked her, “How did you get to be the person you are today?” (Don’t we all wish our families had left us such priceless treasures?) In her usual fashion, Diamant sketches the world of Boston, filling in vibrant detail until we feel as if we are living through those memories with her heroine.
We learn about her incipient feminism, the strong bonds of family and the pressures of American society that threaten those ties. We meet a young woman who wants to do it all: finish high school, go to college, fall in love and become a real American. We learn how people lived — tenements, settlement houses, sweatshops, personal relationships — all so grounded in reality that it’s a treat to pick up the book and a struggle to put it down for the mundane necessities of everyday life.
No “Fifty Shades of Grey” here, but 50 shades of a life lived to the fullest and remembered lovingly. Of course, memory can be a problem or a blessing. Some characters are brittle and one-dimensional, but so what?
Addie is full of life, curiosity and a zest for whatever the world offers her, and Diamant has the gift of letting the reader sip from the same sparkling water of life as Addie.
I plan to be there Feb. 23 at 7:30 p.m. at Zaban Park in Dunwoody to hear Diamant tell more about a world not so long gone. Tickets are $10 for Marcus JCC members and $15 for others and can be purchased by visiting the box office, calling 678-812-4002 or going to atlantajcc.org/bookfestival.