My Father’s Bonus March

  • Review
By – September 9, 2011

Adam Langer has writ­ten a small, ele­gant book about his search for the inte­ri­or life of his father. For most of the author’s life, his father had spo­ken of writ­ing a book about a lit­tle-known his­tor­i­cal event, the Bonus March. World War I vet­er­ans had been promised pay­ment for their ser­vice dur­ing the war, which they would not receive for sev­er­al years. But dur­ing the Great Depres­sion, they marched on Wash­ing­ton demand­ing the mon­ey, fear­ing they would nev­er live long enough to receive it. Mr. Langer uses this event and his search for his grandfather’s part in the Bonus March to research his fam­i­ly his­to­ry and explore his rela­tion­ship with his father. 

Dur­ing the research process Langer real­izes that his father was not always hon­est about his fam­i­ly his­to­ry. He would some­times embell­ish events or add facts. Why would his father do this? He was a respect­ed doc­tor, high­ly intel­li­gent and accom­plished. This rais­es an inter­est­ing ques­tion — to what extent do we all con­struct our iden­ti­ties, and what part is truth and what part is myth. And is it the myth that real­ly defines who we are? 

Langer leaves us with anoth­er ques­tion to pon­der: how many of us real­ly know our par­ents, their life’s dreams and dis­ap­point­ments, and how they find con­tent­ment and happiness?

Bar­bara Andrews holds a Mas­ters in Jew­ish Stud­ies from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go, has been an adult Jew­ish edu­ca­tion instruc­tor, and works in the cor­po­rate world as a pro­fes­sion­al adult educator.

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