Nobody told you?
Ava, sweetheart, if you ask me to talk about how I got to be the woman I am today, what do you think I’m going to say? I’m flattered you want to interview me. And when did I ever say no to my favorite grandchild?
I know I say that to all of my grandchildren and I mean it every single time. That sounds ridiculous or like I’m losing my marbles, but it’s true. When you’re a grandmother you’ll understand.
And why not? Look at the five of you: a doctor, a social worker, two teachers, and now you.
Of course they’re going to accept you into that program. Don’t be silly. My father is probably rolling over in his grave, but I think it’s wonderful.
Don’t tell the rest of them, but you really are my favorite and not only because you’re the youngest. Did you know you were named after me?
It’s a good story.
Everyone else is named in memory of someone who died, like your sister Jessica, who was named for my nephew Jake. But I was very sick when you were born and when they thought I wasn’t going to make it, they went ahead and just hoped the angel of death wouldn’t make a mistake and take you, Ava, instead of me, Addie. Your parents weren’t that superstitious, but they had to tell everyone you were named after your father’s cousin Arlene, so people wouldn’t give them a hard time.
It’s a lot of names to remember, I know.
Grandpa and I named your aunt Sylvia for your grandfather’s mother, who died in the flu epidemic. Your mother is Clara after my sister Celia.
What do you mean, you didn’t know I had a sister named Celia? That’s impossible! Betty was the oldest, then Celia, and then me. Maybe you forgot.
Nobody told you? You’re sure?
Well, maybe it’s not such a surprise. People don’t talk so much about sad memories. And it was a long time ago.
But you should know this. So go ahead. Turn on the tape recorder.
My father came to Boston from what must be Russia now. He took my sisters, Betty and Celia, with him. It was 1896 or maybe 1897; I’m not sure. My mother came three or four years later and I was born here in 1900. I’ve lived in Boston my whole life, which anyone can tell the minute I open my mouth.
The Boston Girl
Addie Baum is The Boston Girl, born in 1900 to immigrant parents who were unprepared for and suspicious of America and its effect on their three daughters. Growing up in the North End, then a teeming multicultural neighborhood, Addie’s intelligence and curiosity take her to a world her parents can’t imagine—a world of short skirts, movies, celebrity culture, and new opportunities for women. Addie wants to finish high school and dreams of going to college. She wants a career and to find true love.
Eighty-five-year-old Addie tells the story of her life to her twenty-two-year-old granddaughter, who has asked her “How did you get to be the woman you are today.” She begins in 1915, the year she found her voice and made friends who would help shape the course of her life. From the one-room tenement apartment she shared with her parents and two sisters, to the library group for girls she joins at a neighborhood settlement house, to her first, disastrous love affair, Addie recalls her adventures with compassion for the naïve girl she was and a wicked sense of humor.
Written with the same attention to historical detail and emotional resonance that made Anita Diamant’s previous novels bestsellers, The Boston Girl is a moving portrait of one woman’s complicated life in twentieth century America, and a fascinating look at a generation of women finding their places in a changing world.
Anita Diamant on THE BOSTON GIRL
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Reading Group Guide
Addie Baum was born in Boston in 1900 to immigrant Jewish parents who live very modest lives. She is the youngest of three daughters and the only one not born in Eastern Europe. Her father and sister Celia work in factories; Addie’s mother opposes worldly American values; and her eldest sister, Betty, lives independently and works in a downtown department store. Growing up in the North End is challenging for Addie. She longs for a high school education. When a local library club gives her the chance to learn and spend a week at the summer inn Rockport Lodge, Addie encounters a diverse group of girls united by their ambitions to be free young women. The friendships she forges at Rockport Lodge last a lifetime and help her through many difficult periods. As Addie grows into adulthood, she discovers the cruelty of illness and the untoward intentions of young men alongside the excitement of social changes taking place in America and new professional opportunities available to women.
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