A new novel is out this month from Amazon.com as an ebook written by that wonderful writer, Peter Lefcourt (Togo 1962-64)
Peter is best known for his best-selling comic novels: The Deal, The Dreyfus Affair, Di & I, Abbreviating Ernie, The Woody, Eleven Karens and The Manhattan Project.
This, however, is a much more serious book.
An American Family is told through the shifting points of view of the five Perl siblings born in the 1940’s, and between the two iconic dates of the last fifty years: the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the catastrophe of 9/11. Within this time frame one family is swept up in the sweeping cultural changes of those years: the Vietnam War, the sexual revolution, rock music, drugs, women’s liberation, the turbulence in American culture.
Writing this book took Peter away from what he has done to make a living since his Peace Corps years, i.e., working in television. Among his credits are Cagney and Lacey, for which he won an Emmy Award; Monte Carlo, in which he managed to keep Joan Collins in the same wardrobe for 35 pages; the relentlessly sentimental “Danielle Steel’s Fine Things,” and the underrated and hurried “The Women of Windsor,” the most sordid, and thankfully last, miniseries about the British Royal Family. He plays golf to a thirty handicap, drinks too much good wine, and has never been awarded the Nobel Prize for anything, he says.
This is also what he had to say about An American Family that you can buy today on line at Amazon.com as an ebook. It sells for $3.99.
I am a first generation American Jew. My father was born in Poland; my mother was the twelfth child of a Russian immigrant couple and the only one born in America. My father grew up in a shtetl village in eastern Poland, where he spoke Yiddish and studied to be a religious scholar. He came to New York, in 1922, learned English, put himself through law school, bought a house in the suburbs and started a family.
I grew up in Queens, playing stickball, watching “Ed Sullivan,” going to summer camp, joining a high school fraternity - all activities foreign to my father. I attended a sub-Ivy league college, studied English literature, joined the Peace Corps, moved to Los Angeles, married a non-Jew and eventually became a writer. My father never read anything I published.
My son grew up in Beverly Hills and France, where we owned an apartment. He went to Yale and then Sciences-Po in Paris. He speaks fluent French and Russian, as well as his native English. He doesn’t understand a word of Yiddish, except the usual terms coopted into our daily language. He is presently a humanitarian worker, traveling to difficult and dangerous places, married to a Kyrgyz woman, who works for the United Nation. He has recently made me a grandfather.
This flow of the generations, this voyage of immigrant families, this phenomenon of change and adaptation over the generations is what I wanted to write about. American immigrant families change over time as the new culture accretes to their roots, producing an interesting hybrid. My son and his son retain some of the characteristics of their Polish-Jewish grandfather and great grandfather. There is a through-line that survives, in spite of the assimilation the family has undergone.
And I wanted to take this story and set it against the dramatic events of the second-half of the Twentieth Century - specifically, from the day Kennedy was assassinated to 9/11. The five siblings whose story I tell were all born in the 1940’s and came of age during these years.
Though this is not an autobiographical novel, it is, in a larger sense, a “cultural autobiography” - specifically that of Jewish-Americans born in the 1940’s. But I believe that our experiences are similar to that of all immigrants - Italian, Irish, Vietnamese, Iranian, etc. - as we all navigate the tide of our new culture - and that the story told here is one that many will relate to. As the French are fond of saying, “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.”