First and most important, tell us about your book.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to do what authors like to do best- Kvel and Kvetch. First the kvelling, a quintessential Yiddish word, conjuring up images of beaming parents; proudly boasting about their offspring. While I do my fair share of maternal boasting, today I’m kvelling about another sort of offspring. I have written a Creative Non Fiction, a memoir to be exact.
My book, “With Love, the Argentina Family~ Memories of Tango and Kugel; Mate with Knishes” speaks to the impetus of a family’s exodus to America; namely a Peronista government, a stagnant economy and an anti-Semitic culture. The family transform into jet-setters relentlessly traveling back and forth across the continents thanks to a mother that never stops crying about "The Argentina Family" and a father who works for Pan American Airlines. The story unfolds in "die goldene medina" -America- sharing the insecurities and confusion of a young, immigrant girl faced with identity issues. As one brash classmate stated, "She is too white to be Latina, and too Latina to be Jewish." Wearing out five passports before her twentieth birthday, she learns to deal with never-ending jet lag; dividing her life in between her adopted country and her native land. Almost inevitably, a long distance, whirlwind romance begins in the aftermath of Argentina’s “Dirty War.” Complications abound, including a frightening interrogation with the Argentine Police and an astonishing encounter at the American Consulate. Readers will follow the sometimes poignant, sometimes comical trials and tribulations of a young girl coming to terms with her Jewish heritage, her Argentine traditions, and her fierce American patriotism.
What inspired you to write the memoir?
The inspiration for the book came about like one of my mother’s recipes…a pinch of this, a dash of that and a healthy dollop of the other. First and foremost, I wrote it for my kids; I have three adult children. My sense of family and constancy urged me to give them a tangible link- something that will forever remind them that they came from this loving, enduring stock made up of Jewish values, Russian ancestry, and Argentine culture. In addition to that rather emotionally charged motivator, I was encouraged to write the story by friends, family, and strangers alike; people who have continually said that my story was unique and enlightening. Recently, I found myself whiling away a few hours on a tour bus. My fellow passengers and I engaged in customary small talk, “Where are you visiting from?” which led to, “What is your name?” which led to, “How unusual! Where are you from originally?” My decision to write this memoir was validated once again as two lovely ladies, both teachers and lovers of history, genealogy and romance said, “That is the greatest story I ever heard! You should write a book!” Imagine my pride and sense of accomplishment when I turned to them both and said, “I did!”
What was the hardest thing for you about moving to a new country?
I was only 11 months old when we immigrated to the United States; so naturally, I can’t say that I personally experienced any angst or any sort of emotion struggle. The hardest thing for me was what I absorbed from my parents; my mother in particular exuded anxiety and melancholy. Because of my father’s employment with the airlines, we were able to fly back and forth quite often. Rather than being a positive factor, for me as a child, it proved to be a very unsettling matter. My sister and I never knew if we were coming or going. Although leaving Argentina was probably the wisest decision my parents ever made, dealing with the loss of family was a lifelong struggle.
What helped the most in adjusting to a new life?
My recollection of our immigrant experience is that my parents and the others in our group were adamant about integrating themselves into American life. The need to assimilate was a priority, especially for my father. We watched quite a bit of television, which might be frowned upon nowadays, but it helped! We socialized with Americans, celebrated and partook in American holidays and activities and by doing so; we learned to adapt and to become part of the American tapestry.
Since I’m a speech pathologist, I’m always interested in language issues. Did you speak English before you came or did you learn it here?
My first language was Spanish, Castilian Spanish to be exact. While in Argentina, my father had studied English at the British academy, Toil and Chat however; my mother only spoke Castellano. Eventually, through dedication and hard work, my mother learned to speak, read and write English far better than she ever gave herself credit. When I began elementary school, E.S.L. (English as a Second Language) programs didn’t exist. You were just put into a classroom and you were expected to learn, and so I did!
It seems, as with many immigrants, your family’s ties with Argentina were very strong. Did America live up to their expectations?
America was die goldene medina, where the streets were paved in gold. My father’s love for this country began in his youth and he wouldn’t settle for anything less than to become a full-fledged citizen of this nation. My father always said that he was a “simple working man” but he lived like a king in America. When I was young, I believed that he was speaking of monetary achievement. As an adult, I realized that my father held peace of mind in higher regard. America allowed us to live in peace and comfort and my parents were eternally grateful and proud to call themselves American.
What was your family’s reaction to the book? Were they aware you were writing it? Involved in bringing up any memories?
For over two years, I brought up the subject of my book at every family gathering. I asked for their opinions and begged for anecdotes. Every time I began a sentence with, “Do you remember when…?” I could see the eyes roll and hear the sighs of exasperation, “Here she goes again!” I don’t believe that the majority of my relatives took me seriously until I began talking about publishing. When I presented them with the finished product, I was happily rewarded with great support and appreciation for the work I accomplished.
What is your writing background?
Besides being an English major in high school and Mrs. Doyle’s darling, none whatsoever! Which leads me back to the other word I mentioned; the other “K” word, kvetching- a great Yiddish word and one with which any Indie author can relate. Kvetching means complaining. Having no prior experience, I simply had NO IDEA how difficult it would be to write, to publish, to promote, or to merely get people to “Like” my book’s page. I always knew I had at least one good book in me. I had the material- fifty years’ worth at least, but I struggled. I struggled with first person vs. third person, real names or fictitious, copy right regulations and the oh-so-beloved Chicago Manual of Style. I struggled to appease family members who wanted to be removed from the story line and then, complained when they were not included! It took me about two years of work and yet; once I typed that final word, the real struggle began. I had no clue how to get the book published “the old-fashioned way.” Researching on the Internet, I learned about marketing proposals, submission requirements and inquiry letters; the entire undertaking felt like a full time job that required a university degree. It seemed an impossible task for this “newbie” memoir scribbler, so I began considering the self- publishing route.
If you could compare this to any other book, what would it be?
My story is a bit like “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” meets “Father Knows Best” meets “Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret.” You could probably add “Fiddler on the Roof” into that mix, as well as the classic, “I Remember Mama.” I know- I’m mixing media and your question was actually about books. My story is unique as it takes an intimate look at my particular circumstance as a Jewish, Argentine immigrant that continually traveled back to her native country, but I think the following are examples of other books that might be included in this multicultural or ethnic memoir genre: “Black, White & Jewish: Autobiography of a Shifting Self” by Rebecca Walker, “Burnt Bread and Chutney: Growing Up Between Cultures-A Memoir of an Indian Jewish Girl” by Carmit Delman and “The Book of Memories-Jewish Latin America Series” by Ana Maria Shua.
Any advice for writers, especially memoir writers?
I recall the scene from the classic movie, “I Remember Mama” where the mother, at the behest of a famous, well-known author, offers her daughter expert advice, “Write what you know.” Jo and Professor Bhaer had the same conversation in “Little Women.” The amount of memoirs on the market is daunting; my wholesome story is competing with some pretty serious material in the same category, not to mention the coming-of-age vampires and charming sorcerers in other genres. My advice is to write from your heart. My book was written out of love- love for my parents and the memories we created. It was written out of love for my children and for hopefully, those yet to come. And lastly, it was written for the love of creating something enduring, something of worth… something by which to be remembered.
Where is your book available?
My book can be purchased directly from my E-Store:
And you can find me on Facebook: