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Excerpts from Eat First -- You Don't Know What They'll Give You

  • Jewish Geography -- this story was first published in October 1998 in Der Bay, the newsletter of the International Association of Yiddish Clubs.  Here, both the English version and a version in transliterated Yiddish are available in pdf format.
  • Return to Germany -- the story of Sonia’s return to Germany in 1978 to speak about the women’s rights revolution in the US for the then-US Information Agency (USIA), published on the website of The Jewish Writing Project on Jan. 19, 2009. That story is also contained in the anthology, Marking Humanity, Stories Poems, & Essays by Holocaust Survivors, edited by Shlomit Kriger (Aug. 23, 2010, pp. 226-234).
  • If You Speak His Language --This piece was published in Tzum Punkt (Nov.-Dec. 1999, Vol. 1, No. 2)  p. 5, the newsletter of Yiddish of Greater Washington.
  • Thai Silk -- This piece was first published in the Common Law Lawyer and then on the websites of whispersmagazine.com, iagora.com, and BankgokAtoZ.com (September 2001).
  • Florida and Beyond -- This excerpt appeared on May 25, 2001, in the Story Lady e-newsletter and on its website, the Jewish Frontier, the Jewish Internet magazine, the Jewish Magazine online, the e-zine, Home-Based Working Moms, and the Writer Online. Terry Boothman, the editor of the Writer Online, had this to say about it in the January 14, 2003, issue that carried the story:

    Everyone's life is interesting, right? Sure. So, everyone should write a memoir, right? Yeah, why not.. And everyone should publish a memoir, right? Good Lord, no. Because not everyone knows how to write a publishable memoir, which means a memoir that lots of other people will enjoy reading. Sonia Pressman Fuentes, one of the founders of the National Organization for Women, published just such a memoir--"Eat First--You Don't Know What They'll Give You, The Adventures of an Immigrant Family and Their Feminist Daughter." Now, in How I Got My Mink Stole, excerpted from that memoir, you can get a glimpse of exactly how good memoirs are written.

  • Weinberg's Glasses - the story of what happened when Sonia's father found a pair of eyeglasses.
  • Sex Maniac -- the story of the Second Wave of the women's movement and Fuentes' role in it.  
  • Harry Golden and "the Coat" -- Sonia Fuentes sues Harry Golden, published in Jewish Currents, June 16, 1997. 
  • How I Got My Mink Stole -- a lengthy struggle with an unexpected denouement.
  • Eating Out -- published in the April 11, 2001, issue of Writer's Bloc Online, the e-newsletter of the National Writers Union.
  • Graduating With My Class -- Fuentes' desire to graduate with her high school class has a significant consequence.  Published originally in the Catskill/Hudson Jewish Star 6.2 (June 1996) 17.1 and then on Harry Leichter's website.
  • Mother and the Night School -- published in the December 2001, issue of Kolot, A World of Jewish Voices. 
  • Catskills Stories -- Some of Fuentes' stories about her experiences in the Catskill Mountains of New York State may be found at the Museum of Family History.

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cover Eat First -- You Don't Know What They'll Give You,  The Adventures of an Immigrant Family and Their Feminist Daughter by Sonia Pressman Fuentes

Book Ordering Information

In the United States, EAT FIRST can be ordered in paperback and hardback from amazon.com, bn.com, and xlibris.com.  The book can be ordered from amazon.co.uk in the UK and amazon.ca in Canada. EAT FIRST is also available for Kindle which includes free wireless delivery via Amazon Whispernet.

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Eat First

Sonia Pressman Fuentes

Book Excerpts

FuentesFrom Eat First -- You Don't Know What They'll Give You,  The Adventures of an Immigrant Family and Their Feminist Daughter by Sonia Pressman Fuentes



Florida and Beyond

After my graduation from Cornell University in 1950, I moved in with my parents in Long Beach, Long Island, and went looking for a job. I found that the business and professional world was not very interested in women college graduates. So, I studied shorthand (I'd already taken typing in high school) and thereafter held a number of secretarial positions.

I felt, however, that I wanted to do more with my life and decided to go to law school at the University of Miami, Florida. My parents were strongly opposed. They believed that a woman's future lay in marriage and raising a family and that my getting a law school education would deter any future suitors.  But I had no suitors at the time. What I did have was $1500, saved from my various jobs. It was enough to get me through the first year of law school. After that, I didn't know what would happen.

The University of Miami Law School put me up in a garden apartment type of building with three other young women. The four of us shared two bedrooms, a living room, dining room, and a kitchen. We were an unmatched lot.  None of the others were law students. One was in graduate school; one never attended classes and did not intend to, although her parents thought she did--she was only there to meet college men; the third turned out to have psychological problems; she was my roommate.

Our first arrangement was for one of us to cook dinner for all four one week, after which another one would cook the following week. Even though cooking had never been my forte, I managed to prepare the first week's dinners. Thereafter, however, none of the other three did any cooking.  Seeing this, I suggested that we each maintain our own food supplies and cook for ourselves. My housemates took umbrage at this proposal but eventually agreed.

This new system necessitated my labeling all the food I had in the refrigerator. It also resulted in a considerable amount of awkwardness since I appeared to be the only one doing any cooking. When I would seat myself at the kitchen table to eat, the others would circle around me and give me dirty looks.

One morning shortly after I moved into this apartment, I realized something was terribly wrong with my roommate. When I awakened, she was holding her hairbrush in her hand and shrieking in a hysterical voice, "You moved my hairbrush!" She believed her hairbrush was not in the exact same spot on the dresser where it had been the night before and that I had moved it, and she was terribly disturbed about this. From then on, I only went into our shared room for my clothes and slept on the floor of the living room.

I wrote my parents a letter, telling them about my experiences on campus but not about my living situation. I did, however, mention casually that it was somewhat difficult for me to grocery shop without a car.

When my mother read this letter to my father, he didn't say a word but left the living room for the bedroom. My mother, surprised by this, followed him a few minutes later, only to find him packing a suitcase.

"What are you doing?" she asked.

"Didn't you hear that letter?" he responded.

"Yes, so?" she asked.

"The girl needs a car," he said. "I'm going down to buy her one."

"But it's erev Rosh Hashanah -- the eve of the High Holy Days," protested my mother.

My father repeated, "The girl needs a car," and continued packing.   Then he took the train from New York City to Miami, checked into a Miami Beach hotel, and called me.

"Who is this?" I asked.

"It's your father," he answered.

"My father's in Long Beach," I said. "Who is this?"

I did not believe it was my father because my father had a strong Yiddish accent and this man did not, and because I had left my father in Long Beach only a few days ago.

"It's your father," he said again.

"Is this Hal?" I asked.

I had just broken up with Hal Levine, a man I'd dated off and on for a couple of years. I'd met Hal one New Year's Eve in Miami Beach on one of my family's winters there. He lived in New Haven, Connecticut, but it would not have been out of character for him to follow me down to the Miami area.

"No," he said, "This is your father.

"If you're my father," I asked, "what's my Yiddish name?"

"Sheyndel," he said.

"Hi Dad," I said.

I'd never spoken to my father on the phone before. He never made phone calls, and when I called home, my mother always answered the phone.  Apparently, my father's Yiddish accent was not evident on the telephone.

My father arranged to meet me so he could buy me a car. After we accomplished that, he came by to see my living quarters.  That's when he learned that I was sleeping on the living room floor. He said nothing to me about it.

When he returned home, the first thing he said to my mother was, "Lina, we have to sell the house and move to Florida."

"Why?" she asked.

He explained to her that "the girl" was sleeping on the floor and they had to move down there so I would have a decent place to live while I attended law school.

Within two weeks, my parents had sold the house to my brother, Hermann, a realtor in Long Beach; had had their furniture and personal belongings shipped; and were ensconced, with me, in a newly-built home in North Miami Beach.

Three years later, when I graduated from law school, I was twenty-nine years old. My mother was still preparing all my meals, washing my laundry, and doing my ironing. She still waited up for me to come home when I was out in the evening.  During the time I had gone to college, if I ever came home later than my mother expected, the police were always there to greet me.

The moment Mother heard that I was going to move to Washington, DC, to take a job with the Department of Justice, she began planning a move there with my father. I told her she could not continue following me around the country, and, reluctantly, she and my father agreed to remain in Florida.

©1996 by Sonia Pressman Fuentes

This excerpt appeared on May 25, 2001, in the Story Lady e-newsletter and website.