Sonia Pressman Fuentes

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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,, and (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,, and  The book can be ordered from in the UK and in Canada. EAT FIRST is also available for Kindle which includes free wireless delivery via Amazon Whispernet.

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Eat First

Eat FirstBook Review

by Norman Simms, Chadashot

August, 2001

Sonia Pressman Fuentes was one of the founders of the National Organization for Women (NOW) in 1966, and was an important figure who helped to shape the course of American liberal democracy in the second half of the twentieth century.

Born in Germany, the daughter of Polish-Jewish immigrants who escaped before the Holocaust began, she always felt a strong urge to help bring justice and dignity into the world, the Jewish sense of tikkun ha-olam.  This book therefore charts her struggle to achieve these lofty goals, at the same time as she forged a career for herself as a lawyer and civil servant at a time when women were not expected to be assertive public figures, and when her family could not see the point in a woman being educated and delaying marriage, children, and homemaking.

Part of the autobiography is therefore the narrative of her relations to her parents and older brother, and it is meshed into the Yiddishkeit of the 1930s, 40s and 50s when she was growing to womanhood, not in the big cities of America, but in the Catskills, the so-called Jewish Alps, where her father and mother ran bungalows and boarding houses, part of the Borscht Belt, and later retired to Miami, Florida.

Witty and poignant, as well as sentimental and even shmaltzy, this is also the story of a feisty, gutsy highly intelligent woman, not just finding, but making her way into positions of power and influence from middle class beginnings.

When she finally does marry her Puerto Rican husband and begin to raise a daughter, the narrative takes into itself both the battle for proper care and respect by the medical profession, the school system, and other institutional parts of America that at mid-century were not exactly ready to accept the kind of feminist programme that seems so normal today in New Zealand, if not in the United States yet, but which was asserted and enacted by the author in her life choices.

It is also a text surrounded by the not always explicit presence of the Shoah and the shadows it cast over the American Dream, as well as the always pervasive, though not always articulate, anti-Semitism in that same dreamland:  the coded language of "restricted" and "respectable" blocking normality.

The other part of the autobiography deals with her work for government departments in Washington, DC and elsewhere, especially as she pushed to extend the implications of early civil rights legislation from race to gender issues.  Driven by a chutzpah that seems to be an outgrowth of her own family's strange and sometimes comical confrontation with the New World and their own Jewishness, the book nevertheless seems to understate Ms. Fuentes' achievements, as it seems to veer away from serious discussion of the principles and ideals to which she devoted her life.

Yet the real victory is evident in where she stands today, and in the authoritative and generously humorous manner in which she recounts her life story and gives everyone in it a place and a purpose.

This book review first appeared in the August 2001 issue of Chadashot. a magazine for the Jewish community of Hamilton, New Zealand.