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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



Thai Silk

In 1977, Michael Bennett asked me to go to Southeast Asia for three weeks. Michael was the representative of USIA (the United States Information Agency) with whom I had dealt in the past. On several occasions before a foreign trip, I had called him and asked whether USIA needed a speaker in the country of our destination. USIA had an American Specialist program that sponsored speeches and meetings by Americans with certain specialties abroad. Under this program, I had given speeches on the women's rights movement in the US and met with leaders of business, the professions, government, labor, academia, and women's groups in Fukuoka and Tokyo, Japan, and Madrid, Spain. On those occasions, I had received an honorarium and travel expenses for the one or two days I devoted to USIA business. This trip, however, was totally for USIA and all my expenses would be underwritten by the agency. My husband, Roberto, would go with me, and we would be going to Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, and the Philippines.

Our first stop was Thailand and our first city there was Bangkok. There were beautiful temples and other sights to see, but it was a crowded, polluted, traffic-choked city. We had been told to look for Thai silk, and there was at least one Thai silk store on just about every block. It seemed as if we went to every one of them, but I could not find anything to my liking. Thus, we were glad when it was time to leave and fly to Chiang-Mai in the northern interior.

Chiang-Mai, a city we'd never previously heard of, turned out to be our personal Shangri-la. It was enchanting, with native markets, lovely temples, working elephants, and hill tribes. On our first afternoon, I addressed the Rotary Club, the first woman ever to do so. That evening, Hugh Ivory, my USIA contact, arranged a small dinner party for us. At the table were Hugh and his Japanese wife, Roberto and I, another USIA representative, and a Thai woman. She appeared to be in her 60's and had the proverbial inscrutable Oriental appearance. She was seated at my immediate right, but I had no idea what to say to her. I finally selected the most innocuous ice-breaker I could think of.

"I'm staying at a lovely hotel," I said. "The Rincome."

"I'm glad you like it," she answered, handing me her card. "I own it." Her name was Khun (comparable to Miss, Ms., Mrs. or Mr. in the U.S.) Chamchit Laohavad. Her card stated that she was the owner and managing director of Chiang-Mai's three-level indoor shopping center, owner and director of a finance company, vice president of the Tourist Association of Northern Thailand, honorary secretary of a leprosy foundation, honorary manager of a school for the deaf, and an associate judge of the juvenile court. She later told us that one of her brothers designed the shopping center that she owned and was responsible for the establishment of a ceramics factory; her sister owned the Old Chiang-Mai Cultural Center, which seated two hundred for dinner and had daily performances of traditional Thai dances; and her mother owned a travel agency. Khun Chamchit told me of the good fortune of Thai women who, she said, had complete equality with men.

The next morning, she was at our hotel, with her car and driver, to take us on a tour of the city. As I was about to step into the car, she cautioned me against sitting in the front. Women in Thailand did not sit in front with the driver, she said. Only men did that. When I questioned her about this in view of her claim of total equality the night before, she said women didn't want to sit in front anyway. At the ceramics factory that had been established through the encouragement of her brother, young women and men did different work for different pay. Only the men, for example, were assigned the more strenuous work at the potter's wheel, for which they received higher pay. When I asked Khun Chamchit about this, she said she didn't want girls doing this kind of heavy work.

I told her of my inability to find Thai silk that appealed to me in Bangkok. "You want Thai silk?" she asked. "Come with me." She took me to a factory owned and managed by a princess, the granddaughter of the last ruling prince of Chiang-Mai and the widow of a prince. The princess had six women working for her at individual looms. She supplied this handwoven Thai silk to the Queen of Thailand and the Queen of England. And that day also to me.

Then Khun Chamchit took me to her dressmaker, who created the traditional Thai costume for me from the fabric I had bought: a beautiful, black long skirt, with pink, aqua, and purple embroidery at the hem and a matching pink long-sleeved form- fitting jacket. It hangs in my closet today and reminds me of Chiang-Mai, Khun Chamchit, and the princess who sold me silk.

Copyright © 1978 by Sonia Pressman Fuentes

Reprinted with permission from the author.


Notes about "Thai Silk"

This piece was previously published in the Common Law Lawyer and on the websites of iagora.com, whispersmagazine.com, and most recently at BankgokAtoZ.com (September 2001). "Thai Silk" is an excerpt from Ms. Fuentes' memoir, Eat First -- You Don't Know What They'll Give You, The Adventures of an Immigrant Family and Their Feminist Daughter, published in the U.S. by Xlibris Corp. (xlibris.com) and in the U.K. by Planetree Publishing, Ltd. (planetree.com).