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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Guest Post by Peter Lefcourt + Excerpt

Today I have the pleasure of introducing author Peter Lefcourt to you all.  He is currently on tour for the release of his book, An American Family and has taken the time to stop by and tell us about how his personal experiences influenced his book.  Also, stay tuned at the end for the next excerpt in the series.

How My Personal Experience as a Jewish American Influenced the Book

Guest Post by Peter Lefcourt, author of
An American Family

My experience growing up as a first-generation Polish American Jew in New York was the genesis of this book. I wanted to capture the emotional and psychological effects of the clash of the immigrant Jewish culture with the adopted American one. I was not interested so much in telling my story personally – this book is not an autobiographical novel – but the story of all immigrant cultures, Italian, Irish, African-American, Vietnamese, as well as Jewish. My father came to New York from a shtetl village in Poland in 1922 not knowing a word of English and became a lawyer; I grew up playing stickball on the streets of Queens and became a writer; my son grew up in Los Angeles, went to Yale and became a humanitarian worker who at the moment is in Kyrgyzstan. This evolution, over merely three generations, fascinates me. Our life experiences have been so different, and yet there is an identity linking us together.

I wanted to set this story against the enormous social changes that took place in the second half of the twentieth century: the cultural rift created by the Vietnam War, the rise of feminism, gay identity, the pervasive influence of music. And to show how my characters navigated these changes. I created the fictitious family, the Perls, and decided to tell the story through the shifting point of view of five siblings, all, like me, born in the 1940’s. I chose the two iconic dates of this period – November 22, 1963 and September 11, 2001 – as a parenthesis to enclose the era.

I was interested in the evolution of the family through all these changes – how it adapts to the most dramatic and sweeping changes and still survives as the emotional focus of our lives. I disagree with Tolstoy: all happy families are not alike.

Excerpt: If you haven't read any of the other excerpts and would like to (I'm stop #9 on the tour) please visit the tour site.

“He’s got these big ears, and big hands. I bet you he’s a groper…”

“Who knows with men? Joey come home the other night smelling from ten dollar Shalimar…”

And that was the last thing Lillian heard Vicky Boni say before the shriek came from Karen D’Abbruzzi, the cashier and Joey’s cousin, who had picked up the phone and listened as someone told her the news from Dallas.

“They shot him! They shot Kennedy!” The chubby, overly made-up girl screamed.

Lillian felt Vicky’s hand close around her own in a death grip, and heard the woman whisper, “Holy mother of God…”

Jacob “Jackie” Perl was running late. These days he was always running late. His life was complicated enough without having to take an unscheduled trip back to Brooklyn to see someone he didn’t want to see. But there was no talking down Carmine, who said that he had to see at least two hundred of what Jackie owed him before three that afternoon.

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

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