Author: David HirshbergMay 14, 2018
My Mother’s Son
- What really inspired you to write your book, to force you from taking an idea or experience and conveying it into a book?
Part of the impetus came from realizing that if I wanted to start ‘Act 2’, I had better get going. I had been a CEO and Chairman for many years, and while I have enjoyed my career, I also knew it was time to do something different. And, too, I am emotionally invested in current events, am a student of American history, and have been an avid reader of high-quality literary fiction for many years. So I thought I would merge these non-business interests, and the best way to do that was to write a novel of historical literary fiction that dealt with an American story that might be of interest to today’s readers.
The question from the outset was how to do this, I could not just pluck something out of thin air. I wanted to write about the major issues that are in the headlines—disease, war, politics, immigration and business. However, I knew instinctively that I would have to set it in earlier times so as to provide some distance from the current ‘talking heads’ climate that instantly categorizes and analyzes events from a narrow, partisan perspective.
I had to find the right circumstances and after researching events and years, I came upon the idea of situating the book in Boston in 1952, when the Korean War was raging, there was a major polio epidemic, a young Irish congressman was running for the senate against an entrenched WASP and the sports world was being turned upside down with the move of a baseball franchise out of the city. This had all of the ingredients that I felt would work for me in trying to tell a story that had some relevance to the world in which we now live.
Then I had to come up with the structure and, ultimately hit upon writing My Mother’s Son as the memoir of a radio raconteur who lived through the era and had family members whose history was rich in American stories. I could use literary license to create a set of inconceivable events of his family’s life and the world in which he lived as the foundation on which to build the novel.
Personally, it is my belief that our American culture has been profoundly changed and one can arguably trace the center of this shift to the time immediately preceding and following 1952, allowing the reader to view this year as the prism that refracted our societal attitudes, values and policies towards war, disease, politics, sports, business and immigration.
- What is it about and whom do you believe is your targeted reader?
The opening line of the book, “When you’re a kid, they don’t always tell you the truth,” lays bare one of childhood’s essential mysteries—that often, what parents and other adults say is usually what is most convenient for the adults. The lives of two Jewish brothers in post-World War II Boston are transformed by secrets and discoveries they never could have envisioned, including an unimaginable family secret.
Told in the first-person by Joel, the younger brother, now a retired radio raconteur revisiting his past, every element—from his grandfather’s immigrant beginnings to his aunt’s flight from Germany on the day following Kristallnacht—is infused with history, experience, and perspective. At its core, this is a poignant story told with humor, vivid descriptions, and insights that weaves a rich tapestry of betrayal, persecution, death, loyalty, and unconditional love that resonates with today’s America.
It is my hope that readers of literary fiction, historical fiction and those who want to understand more about the current issues that are in the news every day—immigration, war, communicable disease, politicians and business people behaving in highly suspect behavior—will be drawn to it.
- What do you hope will be the everlasting thoughts for readers who finish your book? What should remain with them long after putting it down?
I want a reader to stop and think not only about what I have written, but also about how it relates to what is going on today. If a reader thinks that he or she has a more profound understanding of the issues that are in the headlines today, that would be very satisfying to me … and hopefully to him or her as well. So much of our current conversations are sound bites, fleeting sentences that are essentially declarations of preconceived thinking. Few people really engage in discourse that enables them to understand other people’s positions and actions. In the long run, I also want readers to think about the language that I have used and how it distinguishers literary fiction from other genres.
- What advice or words of wisdom do you have for fellow writers?
Before you start writing, read the works of those who are considered to be at the apex of the genre in which you wish to play. Then, as you make early progress in your writing, stop and think about how persons x, y, and z at the pinnacle of his or her game would have written the scene, and if your work does not measure up, abandon it and start over again. Writing is easy; writing well is hard, very hard, especially dialogue, which has to mimic how people actually speak, something that sounds simple but is extraordinarily difficult.
- What trends in the book world do you see and where do you think the book publishing industry is heading?
It is becoming harder and harder for debut authors to break through, especially with larger publishing houses that tend to focus on blockbuster titles. And, too, the onus is more and more on authors to promote their own works, with many publishers providing only minimal assistance; they even do that for just short periods of time after the publication date, at which point, for them, it is on to the next book. Having said all this, it is clear to me that quality does rise to the top and an excellent book will get noticed, because the American reading public hungers for high quality books. A good debut book may not garner a huge amount of sales, but it will build a reader and critic audience that is then waiting for the next one.
- What great challenges did you have in writing your book?
I pushed myself through many drafts until I found that the book was consistent on all levels: story-telling; character development; the use of language, as well as what I call the impact statement. By that I mean does the reader know what the book was really about. In other words, if someone were to inquire about it, I want the reader to not just tell about the plot line, but to be able to say how the book spoke to him or her, what was its main messages or messages, which could then provoke a substantive conversation. I wrote it with an eye on making a statement that librarians, reviewers, bloggers and influential readers would understand and be eager to then comment.
- If people can only buy one book this month, why should it be yours?
While it speaks to the issues of today through a look-back at any earlier time, it is, in the words of Mitch Markowitz, screenwriter of Good Morning, Vietnam, a book that “…sculpts a vivid, irresistible portrait of a life and times. Evocative of the 1950’s, with cinematic flashbacks and flash-forwards, it is clever, poignant and funny.” Mitch and others who have read it have been entertained; that is the takeaway that should entice those who want to read a work of literary and historical fiction which is also enjoyable.
David Hirshberg is the pseudonym for an entrepreneur who prefers to keep his business activities separate from his writing endeavors. As an author, he adopted the first name of his father-in-law and the last name of his maternal grandfather, as a tribute to their impact on his life. Using his given name, he is an accomplished ‘C-level suite’ executive, having served as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of four firms, Chairman of the Board of six companies and a member of the board of three other organizations. In addition, he is the founder and CEO of a publishing company.Hirshberg is a New Yorker who holds an undergraduate degree from Dartmouth College and a master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania. Much like the narrator in My Mother’s Son, he is a raconteur in real life as well as through his fiction. His range of interests outside of business is in American history, Jewish literature and practices, the nexus of science and religion, the current cultural wars in our society, and in English, Irish and Gordon setters. Please consult: www.DavidHirshberg.com