Sisterhood Blog

Turning Advice Into a Novel

By Judy Bolton-Fasman

  • Print
  • Share Share

There is an impressive trifecta of female Jewish advice columnists based in Boston. Among them is Meredith Goldstein, the popular relationship columnist at the Boston Globe. Goldstein has an active blog on the paper’s Website called “Love Letters: Sometimes Love Stinks. Let Us Help.”

Courtesy of Meredith Goldstein

Her local colleagues are Margo Howard — daughter of Ann Landers with a syndicated column that is as blunt as it is wise — and Robin Abrahams, the woman behind “Miss Conduct,” a cross between personal advice and a discourse on formal manners that appears in the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine.

Goldstein recently fictionalized her work in “The Singles,” her new novel about five single guests at a wedding.

In a recent conversation with The Sisterhood, Goldstein observed, “I’m following in the great tradition of Jewish women who were advice columnists. It’s not surprising that most of these advice givers are Jewish. We’re good listeners and talkers. And maybe we’re a little nosy too.”

Goldstein, who is 34 and “happily single,” receives hundreds of letters a week, five of which are published on her blog each weekday. It’s not unusual for a given conundrum to garner over 2000 comments. For print, she picks her favorite letter of the week from subjects that can range from a boyfriend repaying a loan to the best way to end a relationship. Goldstein then curates the best readers’ comments and prints them along with the letter for the Globe’s Saturday entertainment section.

Goldstein grew up in Columbia, Maryland, a bedroom community between Baltimore and Washington DC. Her parents were the first couple on the block to get a divorce and Goldstein says the experience adds depth to her work as a relationship columnist. “Dozens of nuclear families in the Jewish community were put off by us. I grew up unaffiliated, but always had a strong Jewish identity.”

The Goldstein home was a busy one. Her mother gave piano lessons in the living room and there was a constant flow of music and people in the house. The fancy bat mitzvahs that Goldstein attended as a young teen presented her with a skewed view of Judaism until she arrived at Syracuse University. “Journalism became my identity [in college],” she noted. “But I also met broad diverse groups of Jewish women who expressed their Judaism in dance, song and even their relationships with grandparents. They were hilarious, warm and loved their families intensely even when they despised their families.”

After graduating from Syracuse’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Goldstein worked as a reporter at the Providence Journal and began stringing for the Boston Globe. Her freelance work for the Globe led to a full-time job covering communities north of Boston. After a couple of years she came back to the city proper as a reporter for the Globe’s living arts section. “It was the dawn of online-dating and the first generation that did not depend on a land line to communicate. I was writing a lot of trend pieces on how technology affects relationships.”

In Boston, Goldstein also gravitated to her aunt and her family who are modern Orthodox Jews. “I didn’t realize how Jewish I was until I moved to Boston. Spending time with my aunt’s family, I realized that Hebrew is a different way of talking to God.” In addition to sharing holidays, Goldstein wrote a lot of “The Singles” in her aunt’s basement.

As for Hannah, her main character, Goldstein identifies with her confusion over her Jewish identity. Although Goldstein’s parents are both Jewish, in the book Hannah is a patrilineal Jew who embodies some of the marginalization Goldstein felt growing up. “I only felt kind of Jewish and tried to fit in. I identified, but I didn’t know how to say it.”

These days Goldstein says she embraces her Judaism. At a recent conference for Jewish teenagers celebrating their own Judaism and power as young women, Goldstein encouraged each member of her audience to follow their intuition and stay true to their values when negotiating relationships.

As for taking her own advice: “I don’t always do it,” said the relationship columnist with a wry smile.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.