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The Boston Girl


The Boston Girl

Anita Diamant has become the voice of Jewish women through two emotionally charged, exciting historical novels about strong females surviving in a hostile world. Her bestselling first novel, THE RED TENT, takes place in Old Testament times and is now appearing on Lifetime as a miniseries. DAY AFTER NIGHT is the captivating story of a group of young Jewish women who escaped Nazi Germany to find a new life in a land that would become Israel. 

THE BOSTON GIRL follows suit by introducing us to Addie Baum, the daughter of Russian immigrant parents at the turn of the 20th century in Boston. The story unfolds as Addie, now 85 years old, is asked by her granddaughter to tell her how she became the woman she is today. 

Addie starts life in the tawdry North End of Boston, where she lives with her parents and two older sisters. Her mother has never assimilated to life in America, stubbornly sticking to her Old World ways and speaks only Yiddish. Quarrelsome and demanding, she drives Addie’s older sister, Betty, from their home when Addie is 10 years old, calling her a whore for her American way of dressing and working as a clerk in a department store.

"THE BOSTON GIRL is not preachy, but lovingly exemplifies a smart, courageous woman, not unlike many of our grandmothers and mothers who overcame numerous barriers to become the women we know and appreciate."

Against her mother's wishes, Addie turns to books and learning in grade school, where her teachers urge her to continue with a high school education. Her choice is to go to work in a sweatshop shirt factory, or marry and give her mother grandchildren. A new world opens to her when she defiantly leaves the cocoon of her neighborhood to join a Saturday book club, where she meets girls her own age who are Irish and Italian, all striving to learn and achieve higher education. She is invited to Rockport Lodge, a summer camp near Boston, which changes her life.

Addie reminisces with her granddaughter about the ravages of the Spanish flu, the boys who go off to World War I, the Depression years and another world war. During these years, she applies her secretarial skills to advancing from a typist to a writer at a Boston newspaper, finally earning a column of her own. She marries, late in life for a woman of that era, and raises a family while teaching. She is proud of this granddaughter who will soon become a rabbi, a huge accomplishment in a world where such a thing would have been unthinkable a few decades earlier.

THE BOSTON GIRL is a sweet, tender read about a rather ordinary individual who rose with the times to become a woman of letters at Boston University. The drama and action of Diamant’s earlier novels are not to be found in this moving oral diary of a young girl growing up in America during a century that exemplifies the monumental changes in western society. We tend to take for granted the benefits we enjoy borne on the shoulders of our recent ancestors.

I related to some of those early 20th-century characters through an aunt who was denied an education beyond the eighth grade, while her brothers, including my father, were sent to college, and a mother-in-law who fell prey to the same prejudices, even though she was a decade younger. My own mother was a great role model. Born at the same time as Addie and the daughter of Irish immigrants, her life followed many parallels to Addie’s. She would become a suffragette and a college graduate, and overcame the same stigma against women so prevalent in that era.  

THE BOSTON GIRL is not preachy, but lovingly exemplifies a smart, courageous woman, not unlike many of our grandmothers and mothers who overcame numerous barriers to become the women we know and appreciate.

Reviewed by Roz Shea on December 12, 2014

The Boston Girl
by Anita Diamant

  • Publication Date: August 4, 2015
  • Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • ISBN-10: 1439199361
  • ISBN-13: 9781439199367