Mothers and daughters go through so much–yet when was the last time a mother and daughter sat down collectively to write a book together about it all? Perri Klass and her mother, Sheila Solomon Klass, both gifted professional writers, prove to be ideal collaborators as they examine their decades of motherhood, daughterhood, and the wonderful, if sometimes fraught, ways their lives have overlapped.
Perri notes with amazement how closely her own life has mirrored her mother’s: Both have full-time careers (Perri is a pediatrician; Sheila is recently retired from a long career as a college English professor but goes on teaching); both have published books, articles, and stories; each has three children; they both love to read, and to pass books back and forth. They also love to travel–in fact, they often take trips together (and live to tell the tale). But in truth, the harder they look at their lives, the more Perri and Sheila acknowledge their profound differences in circumstance and temperament.
A child of the Depression, Sheila was raised in Brooklyn by Orthodox Jewish parents who considered education an unnecessary luxury for girls. Starting with her college education, she has fought for everything she’s ever accomplished. Perri, on the other hand, grew up privileged and rebellious in the New Jersey suburbs of the 1960s and 1970s. For Sheila, fanatically frugal, wasting time or money is a crime, and luxury is unthinkable while Perri enjoys the occasional small luxury, but has not been successful at enticing her mother into even the tiniest self-indulgence.
Each writing in her own unmistakable voice, Perri and Sheila take turns exploring the joys and pains, the love and resentment, the petty irritations and abiding respect, that have always bound them together. Sheila recounts the adventure of giving birth to Perri in a tiny town in Trinidad where her husband was doing anthropological fieldwork. Perri confesses that she can’t tame her domestic chaos even though she knows it drives her mother crazy. Sheila rhapsodizes about the bliss of becoming a grandmother. Perri marvels at her mother’s fearless navigation of the New York City subways. Together they compare thoughts on bringing up children and working, confess long-hidden sorrows, relish precious memories–and even offer family recipes and knitting patterns.
Looking deep into the lives they have lived separately and together, Perri and Sheila tell their mother-daughter story with honesty, humor, zest, and mutual admiration. A memoir in two voices, Every Mother Is a Daughter is a duet that resonates with the experiences that all mothers and daughters will recognize.