Randy Susan Mey­erss fourth nov­el, The Wid­ow of Wall Street, came out over Passover last week! With the release of her new book, Randy is guest blog­ging for the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil all week as part of the Vis­it­ing Scribe series here on The ProsenPeo­ple.

The acknowl­edge­ments for my first nov­el, The Murderer’s Daugh­ters, begin with these words: Before offer­ing thanks to those who helped with this book, let me say this: I wish this sto­ry were sci­ence fic­tion instead of real­ism. For ten years, I worked with men who destroyed their fam­i­lies — men who weren’t mon­sters, but who did mon­strous deeds. This book is for their chil­dren, the ones who suf­fer unno­ticed, and for all the amaz­ing men and women who ded­i­cate their lives to help­ing these chil­dren. You may nev­er know whose life you saved. Thank you, Fed­er­a­tion of Jew­ish Phil­an­thropies, Doris Bedell, and Camp Mikan.

The nov­el was about sis­ters wit­ness­ing their father mur­der their moth­er. What I didn’t add in my acknowl­edg­ments was how years ear­li­er, my father tried to kill my mother.

Chal­leng­ing child­hoods take many forms. Usu­al­ly it’s an amal­gam of hard­ships — from emo­tion, phys­i­cal, and fis­cal prob­lems to abuse to lone­li­ness. Smacks and screams thank­ful­ly have a time lim­it, but neglect is the evil gift that nev­er stops.

Even benign neglect — like being a latchkey kid — can fos­ter loneliness.

When trou­ble fills a fam­i­ly, kids are pushed to the back­ground. I lived in a land of my own imag­in­ing, where I believed my real par­ents, Pres­i­dent Kennedy and the First Lady, had left me to fend for myself, test­ing a cream will rise to the top’ the­o­ry. Mean­while, my belea­guered sis­ter, Jill, was try­ing her sullen best to cook us sup­per by nine years old.

If it hadn’t been for the Fed­er­a­tion of Jew­ish Phil­an­thropies, I doubt my sis­ter and I could have end­ed up strong at the bro­ken places. Our mom was a strug­gling sin­gle moth­er who did her very best. Our dad suf­fered in ways we’ll nev­er under­stand, paper­ing his sad­ness with drugs and dying at 36.

But we had the sum­mer. Through the mag­i­cal gen­eros­i­ty of the Fed­er­a­tion of Jew­ish Phil­an­thropies, we spent our sum­mers at Camp Mikan, our par­adise. We entered a bus some­where in Manhattan’s Low­er East Side and came out of the bus blink­ing in the sun­light and breath­ing the sweet green air of Har­ri­man State Park. Sun­shine! Swim­ming! Friends!


In mem­o­ry, it was a Wiz­ard of Oz tran­si­tion from a black-and-white life in Brook­lyn to the tech­ni­col­or of Camp Mikan. At camp, we went from unno­ticed to the cool­ness of being all sum­mer campers. My sis­ter became a big shot, a mem­ber of an envied clique, mov­ing up the ranks of camp hier­ar­chy until even­tu­al­ly she was head of the water­front (only the coolest job in the world). I became part of a pack of safe­ly rebel­lious friends who kept me going through the lone­ly winters.

We got to be kids.

I starred in Guys and Dolls. Jill gath­ered swim­ming groupies. We hiked. Canoed. Short-sheet­ed coun­selors. The head coun­selors, Frenchy and Dan­ny, a mar­ried cou­ple, taught me I could be lov­able, and through lov­ing them I learned ear­ly on that inter­ra­cial mar­riage was a non-issue; Luke Bragg taught me to get up on stage, and from being with him I learned through osmo­sis that gay or straight made no difference.

We got to be kids.

Women ran Camp Mikan. They taught me and Jill that women were strong and lov­ing and firm and trust­wor­thy. They taught us that is was pos­si­ble to be pro­tect­ed in this world. The camp was racial­ly, cul­tur­al­ly and eth­ni­cal­ly mixed. We learned to be friends across all borders.

Back home, we were once again invis­i­ble and qui­et chil­dren clean­ing the house, uncom­plain­ing and obe­di­ent, wait­ing for the year to pass so we could again have a child­hood. Sum­mer came and once more we could swim, sing, mold clay, hit a ball, learn folk­dance (I still dance the misir­lou in my mind), and unclench from being coiled watchers.

Doris Bedell, the camp direc­tor, shaped our lives more than she’d ever imag­ine. She loved us, she scold­ed us, and she made us feel seen. She prob­a­bly helped my sis­ter become the best teacher in Brook­lyn. Her mem­o­ry stayed with me when I ran a camp and com­mu­ni­ty cen­ter in Boston.

Sum­mer can save a kid. One per­son can offer a child enough hope to hang on. Think about this as we get ready to slide into school vacation.

One adult can change a child’s world.

Remem­ber this.

Think of who you can touch.

Thank you, Fed­er­a­tion of Jew­ish Phil­an­thropies. Thank you for my childhood.

Randy Susan Mey­ers is the best­selling author of Acci­dents of Mar­riage, The Com­fort of Lies, The Murderer’s Daugh­ters, and The Wid­ow of Wall Street. Her books have twice been final­ists for the Mass Book Award and named Must Read Books” by the Mass­a­chu­setts Cen­ter for the Book. She teach­es writ­ing at the Grub Street Writ­ers’ Cen­ter in Boston.