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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



Mother and the Night School

With the increasing number of women working outside the home, one of the issues of our day is how women with families can balance the competing interests of work and family. This was never an issue for my mother. She didn't distinguish between work and family; she simply did whatever had to be done. When my father was in the men's clothing business, she helped him in the store and with the bookkeeping. When they ran the bungalow colony in Monticello, she joined the cleaning women at the end of the season in cleaning the bungalows.

But the core of her life was her husband and children. And from the time I was ten, children meant me, because Hermann married then and moved to Long Beach.

Mother cleaned the house, cooked the meals, did the laundry and ironing, took care of Father and me when we were ill, and supplied liberal doses of love. She had only one abiding interest that ever took her out of the home or the family business: education.

When we moved to Long Beach, Mother was able to feed her hunger for learning by attending the local night school, where she quickly became the star of the class. At first, she made some attempt to get my father to go along with her, but this was doomed to failure. Father had always kept a healthy distance between himself and formal education and was not about to change.

Every Thursday evening, Mother would prepare the evening meal, leave it on the stove ("Just turn on the burners and put it on the plate.") and leave for her night school class. She would come home later with wonderful tales of what she had learned, interspersed with exclamations at the erudition of her teacher, Mr. Quinn ("A regulah Einstein.") When Christmas time rolled around, Mother naturally was placed in charge of collecting for Mr. Quinn's gift and managed to add a little Yiddishkayt to the holiday festivities.

After several years of this, I was surprised to come home at dinnertime one Thursday to find Mother busy at the stove. "What are you doing home, Mom?" I asked. "Isn't it time for your class?"

"I'm not going to class anymore," she said. It turned out that Mother had been feeling increasingly guilty about the fact that on Thursday nights Father and I had to heat our meal ourselves, bring it to the dinner table, and eat without her presence. She was failing in her duty to her family. She could not continue to indulge herself in night school attendance at her family's expense.

Nothing we could say could change Mother's mind. She never attended night school again. I don't know who bought Mr. Quinn's present at Christmas time after that, but I do know who was with us every Thursday evening at dinner--my mother.

©1996 by Sonia Pressman Fuentes