My Mother and Me, Making it in New York After Making it Out of Berlin and Beirut by Peter Schrag ’55. This charming memoir saves a great deal of information about the life of Ilse Schrag from falling into oblivion and preserves a record of her struggles to make a life for herself and her son, the author, in New York, when Germany became too dangerous for their survival. She and the father of her child ended their short relationship in Beirut; she eventually linked up with the artist Karl Schrag, who adopted young Peter. The intensity of the mother-son relationship was a mixed blessing. Peter has to face the challenge of asserting his own identity and making his own choices. Many of the remembrances are funny and reveal Ilse’s strengths and weaknesses, one in the same since she was quite overbearing. Peter was admitted to Friends Seminary back when Mr. Prinz was the principal. Ilse is convinced that her hat was the key element in the admission’s process. Mr. Prinz liked that hat, and Peter got in. (Times have changed). Peter is haunted by his desire to know his biological father; the closest he comes to condemning his mother is on this subject. He does his own research and does meet his father, who ended up in Australia. The book is chock full of details; I can only imagine how valuable it will prove to Ilse’s grandchildren.
May 6, 2019
Not That Kind of a Girl, A young woman tells you what she has “learned” by Lena Dunham, attended lower school. I really enjoyed Lena Dunham’s series Girls, and was intrigued to hear that she had attended Friends. So, she’s “not that kind of girl.” In my day that was what we said to put off unwanted amorous advances. What could it mean after the sexual revolution? In Lena’s case I can’t imagine, but I’m not sure she’s any kind of a girl; to me, her original voice is sui generis . At first I thought she had taken on the pose of a fausse naïve, who faked the surprise of a newborn as she faced all of life’s little adventures. After reading this book, I see her more as a curious and troubled spirit who is generous enough to put into words her experiences, stripped of any prepackaged filmy overlay. What I though was a pose is the real thing. She tells her story more thematically than chronologically (love and sex, body, friends, work), but it all leads to a sweeping feminist vision: “And the goal is big: radical self-acceptance for woman everywhere, political change so total it shakes the ground, justice and joy for those who have been used and tossed aside. And the goal is small: utter and unbridled selfhood.” As my daughter would say, “You go, girl!”