When grown-ups were mysterious

A debut novel explores Bostonian Jewish boyhood and the sea changes of 1952

By MARK L. LEVINSON
June 1, 2018 12:00
4 minute read.
WASHINGTON STREET in downtown Boston in the 1950s

WASHINGTON STREET in downtown Boston in the 1950s. (photo credit: CITY OF BOSTON ARCHIVES)

As a Jewish kid growing up in the Boston area, I heard from my pals that you could ask anyone you met “How’s your Aunt Rose?” and the answer would be “Fine, but where do you know my Aunt Rose from?” Everybody had an Aunt Rose. I had two.

In My Mother’s Son, David Hirshberg scatters pages from his Aunt Rose’s diary among a portrayal of boyhood in Boston’s Jewish community in the 1950s. He’s a skillful writer, not tempted by clichés, and he’s believable when he presents the point of view of a preteen trying to separate the truth in what grown-ups say from the smoke screen they mask it with for children.

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