Anita Diamant uses legacy writing as her vehicle for telling the story of The Boston Girl. As she tells her granddaughter about her life from 1915 to 1985, Addie Baum, a young Jewish girl growing up in the North End of Boston, could be any first generation girl from immigrant parents. As Addie slowly recounts the milestones in her life, the story takes a while to pick up steam, but her determination to overcome the low expectations for women in the early twentieth century, and her subsequent experiences, offer an insider history lesson worth reviewing.
Like most bright women of that era, Addie has to fight for opportunities to learn and work in traditionally male-dominated venues. But the value of her telling her life story to her granddaughter has more to do with revealing who she is and preserving a legacy for future generations. Addie’s friends and mentors would be invisible otherwise, and her story lost when she dies. When Addie’s granddaughter expresses surprise that her mother was the valedictorian at her college graduation, the incident clearly demonstrates how little children and grandchildren know us – unless we tell them.
Just like the Biblical heroines in her book The Red Tent, Diamant uses women as the storytellers who are preserving history. The Boston Girl is an easy, comfortable book and it offers a familiar perspective on women’s history, but perhaps the underlying directive to tell your unique story before it is lost is the greater message to readers.
Have you participated in legacy writing as the listener/recorder or the story teller?
Related Article: Legacy Writing
My book club read this last month. Our final consensus was “Meh!” The historical info was interesting, although not really new. Our complInt was that it was like reading a timeline – no tension, no thoughtful reflection on the events or people. It WAS an easy read and an enjoyable narrative voice, but that was the best we could say about it.
Felt that way too until i thought about it from the legacy angle. That’s sort of Diamant’s “thing,” I think.