Lies About My Family
With humor, insight, and honesty, a Jewish lesbian explores her family history
This well-crafted family memoir is about the stories that are told and the ones that are not told, and about the ways the meanings of the stories change down the generations. It is about memory and the spaces between memories, and about alienation and reconciliation.
All of Amy Hoffman’s grandparents came to the United States during the early twentieth century from areas in Poland and Russia that are now Belarus and Ukraine. Like millions of immigrants, they left their homes because of hopeless poverty, looking for better lives or at the least a chance of survival. Because of the luck, hard work, and resourcefulness of the earlier generations, Hoffman and her five siblings grew up in a middle-class home, healthy, well fed, and well educated. An American success story? Not quite—or at least not quite the standard version. Hoffman’s research in the Ellis Island archives along with interviews with family members reveal that the real lives of these relatives were far more complicated and interesting than their documents might suggest.
Hoffman and her siblings grew up as observant Jews in a heavily Catholic New Jersey suburb, as political progressives in a town full of Republicans, as readers in a school full of football players and their fans.
As a young lesbian, she distanced herself from her parents, who didn’t understand her choice, and from the Jewish community, with its organization around family and unquestioning Zionism. However, both she and her parents changed and evolved, and by the end of this engaging narrative, they have come to new understandings, of themselves and one another.
"An all-American coming-of-age story about a nice Jewish lesbian and her large family. Amy Hoffman’s wise memoir embraces three generations and the ‘lies’ (mostly true) they tell about themselves and each other."—Anita Diamant, author of The Red Tent
"Lies About My Family is a marvelous, wonderful memoir. Hoffman has a way of depicting people and their foibles, strengths and courage and also what she perceives as their failures, but it is without rancor. There are no axes to grind here. The memoir is neither harsh nor pretentious. It simply is."—Bettina Aptheker, author of Intimate Politics: How I Grew Up Red, Fought for Free Speech, and Became a Feminist Rebel
"Lies About My Family, by turns sorrowful and hilarious, is a hugely satisfying read, full of detail and dialogue, a solid memoir of a flesh and blood American family, the Hoffman family."—Kate Clinton, author of Don't Get Me Started
"As double minorities, Jewish members of the LGBT community often have to deal with alienation and reconciliation. . . . In many families, Zionism plays a big role and sexuality is rarely, if ever, discussed. It is only natural for a queer child to move away from the center of the family and feel unaccepted even if this is not the case. Hoffman's parents did change the way that they felt and now the family is whole once again. . . . I found the descriptions of the family members to be glorious--Hoffman does not hold back and shared the good and the bad, the success and the failures. We laugh, we cry but above all else, we enjoy."—Reviews by Amos Lassen