My Fathers’ Hous­es: Mem­oir of a Family

Steven V. Roberts
  • Review
By – July 26, 2012

There’s a sec­tion in this vet­er­an journalist’s mem­oir that may make you wish peo­ple still com­mu­ni­cat­ed as they did in the good ol’ days. The sec­tion encap­su­lates more than 100 let­ters writ­ten by Roberts’ par­ents to one anoth­er dur­ing their long courtship in the mid-1930s. Writ­ten dur­ing the throes of the Depres­sion, the let­ters record the couple’s intel­lect, ambi­tions, anx­i­eties and flir­ta­tions with Marx­ism and with each oth­er as they slow­ly and cau­tious­ly fall in love. 

Roberts’ book offers this lev­el of poignan­cy, inti­ma­cy, and respect through­out as he wan­ders through his family’s his­to­ry from his grand­par­ents’ roots in Rus­sia (where his great-uncle was an edi­tor at Prav­da), to his own child­hood and com­ing of age on the Block” in Bay­onne, New Jersey. 

Roberts’ love of words was instilled ear­ly; his father was an author and pub­lish­er of children’s books and his uncle worked as a crit­ic and short-sto­ry writer. Roberts attend­ed Har­vard, where he met his Catholic wife, Cok­ie (of media fame), and car­ried on his family’s lega­cy, hav­ing worked at the New York Times for 25 years and U.S. News & World Report for sev­en years before becom­ing a syn­di­cat­ed colum­nist and tele­vi­sion news com­men­ta­tor. His recall of details, such as eat­ing lunch at the Horn & Hardart Automat, will strike a nos­tal­gic chord in any read­er who grew up in the New York City area dur­ing the 1940’s and 1950’s.

Robin K. Levin­son is an award-win­ning jour­nal­ist and author of a dozen books, includ­ing the Gali Girls series of Jew­ish his­tor­i­cal fic­tion for chil­dren. She cur­rent­ly works as an assess­ment spe­cial­ist for a glob­al edu­ca­tion­al test­ing orga­ni­za­tion. She lives in Hamil­ton, NJ.

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