After my aunt died, I discovered photographs and other bits and pieces she left behind in a high school scrapbook. It contained newspaper articles about a school play, annual auditions for an all-girl debating society, and the outdated attitudes (even for the 1920s) of the male teacher who was its adviser. All of which I fit into ALMOST AMERICAN, along with tales of the still my grandfather built in the attic of their home and the traumatic death of a beloved uncle.
There are twelve chapters in FOREIGN GIRLS, one for every month of Sarah’s twenty-first year. The letters throughout the book explore parts of her character not usually on display in her day-to-day life. Aunt Sarah was not interested in school. But she was agile with numbers, something that gives her fictional counterpart a decided advantage over her peers and coworkers.
Here's a picture of Aunt Sarah at ninety reading the novel based on her life. She gave me the greatest gift of all, her story. I recorded my aunt’s memories and transcribed them. Hers is the voice of Serene, the child narrator of GLASS HEARTS.
Serene tells the breath-taking story of survival and grit, including the three years the family spent as refugees in a one-room shack on the outskirts of Budapest. My grandmother was so devoted to educating all of her children that she made them attend a convent school, even though they were devout Orthodox Jews.