Cover image for All my mothers and fathers : a memoir
All my mothers and fathers : a memoir
Blumenthal, Michael.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York, N.Y. : HarperCollinsPublishers, [2002]

Physical Description:
xi, 259 pages ; 22 cm
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3552.L849 Z462 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
PS3552.L849 Z462 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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An account of identity and family secrets follows the author, who, forced to endure the same fate as his father, embarks on an odyssey of belonging that affects his entire adult life, and struggles to prevent the problems of the past from affecting his own son's future.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Blumenthal tries to shed light on his shadowy past, which featured many hallmarks of a Grimms' fairy tale: switched identities, an introspective only child, and not one but two evil stepmothers. At 10, he learned that his recently deceased mother wasn't his real mother; she was his aunt. His "aunt" and "uncle" on a New Jersey farm were his biological parents. His faux father, Julius, had suffered from a hostile, grasping stepmother, yet he subjected 11-year-old Michael to the same predicament. He married a "rich widow" who was so cheap she told Julius' relatives to give Michael kitchen appliances for his Bar Mitzvah, and whose jealous resentment of her stepson was such that her only involvement with him consisted of finding him, then underage to be working, illegal jobs as far from home as possible. But time passes, perspectives alter, the world and the old neighborhood change, and Blumenthal's message and his source of comfort seem to be that love endures. --Whitney Scott

Publisher's Weekly Review

Poet and novelist Blumenthal's biological parents, New Jersey chicken farmers, gave him away at birth to his uncle and aunt, Holocaust survivors who raised him as their own son in Manhattan. He learned this when he was 10, the year his adoptive mother died. "The truth is," he writes in this memoir, "I have had two of everything two mothers, two fathers, two siblings, two versions of manhood, two homes. And all I want is to have one." After his adoptive mother's death, his adoptive father remarried an uncaring woman who "may have damaged forever my ability to love as I would choose my ability, even, to love myself the way an intact human being should." Blumenthal (Dusty Angel; When History Enters the House: Essays from Central Europe) is a deft storyteller, relating his desire for belonging, despite the trying environment, but his memoir is distorted by rage and self-pity. His stepmother, for example, is one of the "women who, cumulatively, never showed me a minute of anything that could conceivably pass for a mother's love." His adoptive father flirts with stereotype, a passive old Jewish man who mutters, "God loves you and so do I," endlessly. With the exception of a sharp account of the author's second wife, the book is cast with ciphers, while the author's own needs and grievances emerge almost too vividly, as when he writes, "Neither man nor animal nor saint nor God... can help me shoulder the burden of my parents." Agent, Lane Zachary. (Mar. 10) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Blumenthal, a poet and director of Harvard's creative writing program, has written the touching story of his search for his true identity. After he was born, his biological parents left him to be raised by his aunt and uncle; it was not until later that he discovered that his "parents" were in reality not his birth mother and father. After the woman who raised him died of cancer, his adopted father married again, and this unloving stepmother made his life extremely difficult. Although many of the events in Blumenthal's memoir are traumatic, his narrative is filled with humor. In the final sections, with the deaths of his two fathers and stepmother, the mood changes, and his thoughts on his heritage as well as his legacy to his own son are reflective and deeply moving. Adding to the book's pleasures are selections from Blumenthal's poems that relate to the events and moods of the narrative. Recommended for all public libraries. Morris Hounion, Ursula C. Schwerin Lib., NYC Technical Coll., Brooklyn (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.