Sisterhood Blog

Our Rack: Cooking for Picasso; Mother-Nanny Relations

By Elissa Strauss

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What’s on ‘Our Rack’:


“97 Orchard: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement” (Smithsonian) by Jane Ziegelman looks at the eating habits of five immigrant families living in New York’s Lower East Side between 1863 and 1935. Relying on census date, cookbooks from the era and newspaper clippings, Ziegelman chronicles the lives of the families — who are Irish, Italian, German, Russian Jews and German Jews — and how their respective cuisines evolved in their new homeland.

Harper Perennial has put out a new edition of “The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook,” which was first issued in 1954. Toklas, most famously the companion of Gertrude Stein, wrote this cookbook in a casual narrative style and includes sections like “Dishes for Artists” and “Food in French Homes.” Stein and Toklas were part of France’s vibrant expat scene, which provided Toklas a chance to cook for friends such as Ernest Hemmingway, Pablo Picasso and Thornton Wilder.

In “After the Girls Club: How Teenaged Holocaust Survivors Built New Lives in America” (Lexington Books), women’s studies professor Carole Bell Ford has pieced together the life stories of a small group of orphaned teenagers who relocated to Brooklyn after surviving the Holocaust.

In “No Place Like Home: A Memoir in 39 Apartments,” (Crown) award-winning playwright Brooke Berman chronicles her life in New York, from her time as a bright-eyed 18 year-old, new to the city, and her subsequent yearnings for success, love, and better real estate. Berman’s writing is direct and funny, and looks at what it means to belong, to feel at home.

“Everything Is Going to Be Great: An Underfunded and Overexposed European Grand Tour,” (Harper Perennial), a new memoir by writer and performer Rachel Shukert, recounts her days traveling through Europe in her twenties. Moving through Vienna, Amsterdam, and Zurich, Shukert describes with humor the hi-jinks and debauchery that paved her way to adulthood.

In Sloane Crosley’s new collection of essays, “How Did You Get This Number?” (Riverhead), she writes about topics such as traveling abroad on her own, dealing with an anorexic and kleptomaniacal roommate, and attending a wedding in Alaska. Crosley writes with humor and ease as we witness her let go of the illusions she held in her 20s, and move into the more humble territory of 30.

Save the Assistants, a popular blog dedicated to the glory and horror of assistant life, has now been expanded to a book by former Jewcy editor Lilit Marcus. “Save the Assistants: A Guide to Surviving and Thriving in the Workplace” (Hyperion) has advice on how to navigate office politics, as well as horror stories and celebrity assistant gossip that will likely put in perspective the work lives of many young assistants.


Allegra Goodman tells the story of two sisters — one a successful businesswoman, and the other a philosophy student in “The Cookbook Collector” (Dial Press). Through storylines that deal with the stock market, environmentalism, book-collecting and technology, Goodman looks the ways that we create meaning in our lives and trust in our relationships.

“Red Hook Road,” (Doubleday) Ayelet Waldman’s new novel — read The Sisterhood’s Q&A with Waldman here — begins with the son of Jane Hewin, a taciturn cleaning woman, marrying the daughter of her employers. Set in a small town in Maine, the book follows the Copakens, a wealthy Jewish family from New York who come to the town yearly for vacation, and the Hewins, a hardscrabble local family, as they form an unlikely bond in the wake of a tragedy.

In E.M. Broner’s “The Red Squad” (Anchor), Anka Pappas discovers that during the 1960s, she and her fellow English graduate students were under surveillance for anti-war activities. Pappas recalls the time with her colleagues — a motley group that includes a friend that disappeared, another one that was obsessed with Israel, and a former priest — as she tries to figure out who among them was the rat. The book takes a good look at the idealism of the time, and the way it shaped individual lives.

“My Hollywood” (Knopf), Mona Simpson’s new novel, tells the stories of Claire, a composer and new mother who relocates to Santa Monica, and Lola, the middle-aged Filipina woman Claire hires to help take care of her son. Their stories appear in alternating chapters, working together to deliver both tender and wry insights about parenthood, marriage, and the role of nannies in the lives of upper-middle class women.

In “Fly Away Home,” (Atria) Jennifer Weiner’s latest novel, Sylvie Serfer, who dropped 20 pounds and straightened her hair to become Sylvie Serfer Woodruff, a politicians wife, must deal with the fallout when her husband publicly admits to an extramarital affair. Sylvie finds refuge in her daughters, Lizzia, a recovering addict, and Diana, a doctor stuck in a dull marriage.

Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Sloane Crosley, Our Rack, Mona Simpson, Jennifer Weiner, Jane Ziegelman, Ayelet Waldman, Allegra Goodman, Alice B. Toklas

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