The essays in this collection were written after I’d begun pondering a divide in myself, one separating me into two selves: a daughter of Holocaust survivors and an average, liberated American woman. Born in 1950 in Brooklyn, I was—at least on paper— American. But even as a young girl I understood that being American meant being lighter and freer than I often felt. I was a painfully self- conscious child, consumed with concern for my family’s welfare.
The first piece in this collection is my first published essay. In it, I begin exploring my relationship with my mother—a gorgeous and painful presence in my life and a touchstone for much of my work—and the complex impact her Holocaust experiences had on me. This was the essay that helped me gain a third identity, as a writer. The rest touch on a range of themes. Some address the Holocaust; others spring from my experiences as the American Everywoman I’ve always longed to be. All are in some way about growing up, taking cues from society and peers, trying to make a life outside the life that had been ordained for me.
This collection contains my earliest essays. I offer them, believing that no matter how unusual my circumstances have been, they will resonate with anyone who has searched for an identity and found it in more than one place.
Sandra Hurtes has written essays and features for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Poets & Writers, Writer’s Digest and numerous other publications. She’s taught creative nonfiction workshops and currently teaches English at John Jay College and Marymount Manhattan College.