This is the first of posts about the people to whom my books have been dedicated.
My dedication in The Kids’ Fun Book of Jewish Time reads, “Dedicated with love to my mom, my first and best editor.” This wasn’t a slight to my Scholastic and Jewish Lights editors, who were great, but my mom brought constructive criticism to another level. Accepting the criticism wasn’t easy, but it was what I needed to hear. “The pictures are great, but the text?” Growing up, my sister and I knew that showing homework to our mom — only double-spaced on a yellow legal pad — meant we’d have to rewrite it, at least once.
After we went to sleep, my mom worked late into the night copyediting hefty manuscripts, aided by cigarettes and coffee. As a freelancer, she worked on books by Joyce Carol Oates, Robertson Davies, Dick Gregory, and others. I knew she’d worked with Saul Bellow on The Adventures of Augie March on-staff at the Viking Press, but it wasn’t until a friend asked, “Have you edited any authors we might know?” that I heard her say, “Steinbeck.” Working with Steinbeck on East of Eden, she managed to sneak his dedication past Pascal Covici (Steinbeck’s editor and my mom’s boss), to whom the book is dedicated.
My mom’s library was arranged alphabetically, so my literary education began with Anderson and moved on to Austen, Bellow, Brontë, Davies, Dos Passos, Eliot, and on. Until her death at the age of 96, she was still reading books, The New Yorker, and The New York Times, and giving editorial advice to anyone who dared ask.