My Mother’s Wars

Lil­lian Faderman
  • Review
By – July 9, 2013

In her mem­oir, My Mother’s Wars, the his­to­ri­an Lil­lian Fader­man has pur­sued the wish of many chil­dren — an oppor­tu­ni­ty to ful­ly under­stand her mother’s life. Faderman’s quest has pro­duced an inter­est­ing book that describes the harsh­ness and joys of liv­ing as a Jew­ish immi­grant in the ear­ly twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry. Her mother’s pluck and inge­nu­ity shine through as we learn about her life with her lover Moishe, her efforts to help her fam­i­ly in Latvia, her oppres­sive work sit­u­a­tion in the gar­ment indus­try and then her preg­nan­cy and the birth of her daugh­ter, Lil­lian. Her moth­er was a pio­neer in many ways. She was a sin­gle moth­er who nev­er mar­ried the father of her child and gave birth to her beloved daugh­ter at the age of 44 years old.

Fader­man is a skilled sto­ry­teller and a care­ful doc­u­men­tar­i­an. As she says in her After­word,” many of the his­tor­i­cal details in the book have been pro­vid­ed by exten­sive research.” It is these his­tor­i­cal details and Faderman’s lyri­cal sto­ry­telling skill that make this book such an invit­ing read.

Lil­lian Fader­man is an inter­na­tion­al­ly known schol­ar of eth­nic and les­bian his­to­ry and a respect­ed mem­oirist. Her books include To Believe in Women, Odd Girls and Twi­light Lovers. Her hon­ors include Yale University’s James Brud­ner Award for exem­plary schol­ar­ship in Les­bian and gay stud­ies, the Mon­ette-Hor­witz Award, and the Amer­i­can Asso­ci­a­tion of Uni­ver­si­ty Women’s Nation­al Dis­tin­guished Schol­ar Award. Bib­li­og­ra­phy, index, notes, and pho­tos (b&w).

Car­ol Poll, Ph.D., is the retired Chair of the Social Sci­ences Depart­ment and Pro­fes­sor of Soci­ol­o­gy at the Fash­ion Insti­tute of Tech­nol­o­gy of the State Uni­ver­si­ty of New York. Her areas of inter­est include the soci­ol­o­gy of race and eth­nic rela­tions, the soci­ol­o­gy of mar­riage, fam­i­ly and gen­der roles and the soci­ol­o­gy of Jews.

Discussion Questions