Title: Girl for Sale
Author: Faigie Heiman
Publisher: Navon Press
An autobiography written with fond memories, Girl for Sale is for readers who appreciate Haredi worldviews as well as peeks into history.
The author indicates on page 33 that “[i]n 1931 young Orthodox women [in America] did not cover their hair after marriage, and if they did, not with a wig.” The comment refers to the awkward adjustment of author’s mother as she prepares to marry Brooklyn-based Reuven Mendlowitz. A younger brother to Reb Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz, z”l, Mendlowitz insisted that his Hungarian-born bride, Miriam Adzidovic, wear a wig. One of his sisters pulled strands of natural hair out from under the wig, to make the young woman feel somewhat pleasant-looking. Married life commences.
Author Faigie (née Mendlowitz) Heiman summarizes her parents’ marriage until and beyond her own birth. She explains the title of her book this way – nine months after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Heiman’s father, a grocer in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg section, hung a sign with the words “Girl for Sale” in his store window.
Interestingly, Heiman regards the unusual announcement of her birth fondly.
The story of Heiman’s life shifts from Brooklyn to Israel upon her marriage. Heiman recounts her married life, medical trials, career moves, and emotional triumphs through wars, births, and daily minutiae. Her presentation of those memories is somewhat choppy. Events are presented out of chronological order, in a rambling in medias res style that requires judicious editing. Jarring juxtapositions between events illustrate a need for better transitions between passages, let alone chapters. The reader needs to flip several pages back and forth to figure out the context and actual timing of various events. Grammatical gaffes cause additional confusion.
Dramatic descriptions of Israeli life, the kidney transplant for Heiman’s husband, and other events in the author’s life-cycle fill the 322-page paperback. People who have lived through similar challenges, or certainly those who know the Heimans, might identify with the autobiography. They might find solace in the strength of the author’s mother, as Miriam Mendlowitz’s inner wisdom and strength are portrayed throughout the book. They are interspersed with descriptions of the author’s own gut instincts and survival skills.
Unfortunately, even after a second reading, the story is somewhat lost due to the shortcomings noted above. Navon Press would do well to re-edit the book for smoother reading and more vivid presentation.
Yocheved Golani is the author of highly acclaimed “It’s MY Crisis! And I’ll Cry If I Need To: EMPOWER Yourself to Cope with a Medical Challenge.”