Ginsberg, Debra 1962-
Ginsberg, Debra 1962-
Born 1962, in England; children: Blaze (son). Education: Reed College, B.A.
Writer and editor. Worked for more than two decades waiting tables before becoming a published writer; freelance writer and editor.
Waiting: The True Confessions of a Waitress, Perennial (New York, NY), 2001.
Raising Blaze: Bringing Up an Extraordinary Son in an Ordinary World, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2002.
About My Sisters, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2004.
Blind Submission (novel), Shaye Areheart Books (New York, NY), 2006.
Writer Debra Ginsberg earned a degree in English at Reed College, planning to become a writer, and got a job waiting tables to support herself while she wrote on the side. Although she intended the waiting job to be a stopgap until she found a more lucrative career, she stayed in it, and continued writing.
Her first book, Waiting: The True Confessions of a Waitress, draws on her more than two decades of experience as a waitress in a variety of restaurants from diners to five-star establishments. She notes that many people in the profession do not plan to spend their lives in it, but are in fact "waiting" for something else to come to fruition: an acting career, a writing career, or some other opportunity. She also comments that those who wait tables and want to make a good living must learn to read their customers and apply subtle psychology to the art of serving the meal: "The server is, effectively, the customer's private dancer for the two hours he sits at her table." Ginsberg found this psychological assessment and social interaction to be the most rewarding facet of her job. In Restaurant Hospitality, Kara Gebhart wrote that the book reveals "the insular world behind the menu," telling secrets some customers would rather not know about what happens to their food if they are rude to servers, as well as describing the often-conflicted, occasionally romantic relationships among restaurant staff. In Business Week, a reviewer wrote that the book shows that "there's a lot of life in the waiting game."
In Raising Blaze: Bringing Up an Extraordinary Son in an Ordinary World, Ginsberg tells the story of her son, Blaze, who was born with his umbilical cord wrapped around his neck and who suffered oxygen deprivation and an indefinable learning disorder as a result. Although Blaze's behavior was different from that of other children and did not follow the textbook norms, Ginsberg assumed that he was unique, a special individual, and that someday he would be "a star in his class." When he entered school, however, Blaze was put into a special-education class because he did not act like the other children, and Ginsberg set out on a quest to determine exactly why he needed to be there. A variety of doctors came up with a bewildering assortment of diagnoses, ranging from autism, above-average intelligence, attention-deficit disorder, and others. Ginsberg, a single parent with a supportive family, spent much of her time working with Blaze, taking him to tests, and dealing with his teachers; she home-schooled him for a while, and even took a dose of the medication he was prescribed to see how it felt. In the book, Ginsberg describes the joy of parenting her son, mingled with her frustration with the medical and educational systems. In Publishers Weekly, a reviewer called the book "unusual and fascinating."
In her third memoir, About My Sisters, Ginsberg focuses on her family, an eccentric group that includes her three younger sisters: Deja, Lavander, and Maya. Also in the mix are the author's parents, brother, and a number of the four sisters' boyfriends. Focusing on one year, the author writes of the family's joys, crises, and sorrows as they congregate at family functions and other events. "As parents, children and siblings group and regroup in the complex dance of family relationships, each individual's soul emerges," wrote a Publishers Weekly contributor.
Overall, critics praised the author's reflections on her family, especially her truthfulness about the difficulties in sibling relationships. Danise Hoover, writing in Booklist, called About My Sisters "candid … and instructive." Hoover later wrote in the same review: "Warm, funny, and true, this tribute to sisterhood is well worth reading." Referring to the book as "clear-eyed but always loving," a Kirkus Reviews contributor also wrote that About My Sisters is "candid, as the best family stories are."
In her first novel, Blind Submission, Ginsberg writes of Angel Robinson, an assistant to a cruel literary agent named Lucy Fiamma. When Lucy's literary agency receives an anonymous manuscript of a mystery titled Blind Submission, Angel becomes alarmed to see that the heroine's life in the novel strangely parallels her own. Comparing the book to the popular The Devil Wears Prada in a review in Booklist, Donna Seaman, however, noted that Blind Submission is "more artful." Seaman went on to write that the author's "blithe blend of mystery, romance, and satire is smart, classy, and fun." Other reviewers also noted that Ginsberg was successful in her fiction debut. A Publishers Weekly contributor commented that the author "gracefully transitions into fiction with a fresh twist on the aggrieved publishing assistant." Writing in the New York Times Book Review, Andrew Ervin called the book "a hilarious insider's look at both the frantic goings-on at a high-profile literary agency and the hoops would-be authors will jump through to land a deal."
Ginsberg told CA: "I have wanted to write as long as I can remember and began very early by jotting down observations about the people around me. Then and now, those people were mostly my family members. This urge to document and comment has continued throughout my life, making memoir a natural and comfortable genre for me, even though, until I published my first book, I thought of myself as a fiction writer. Of all my books, Raising Blaze is the closest to my heart. I intended that book as a message in a bottle to other parents who were traveling a similar path with their children and who were, like me, looking for connection. I feel the book is more relevant now than when it was first published, as there has been a huge increase in the number of children diagnosed on the autism spectrum since then. Despite increased awareness, there is still so much isolation associated with such a diagnosis. Connection, what I strive for with all of my books, is needed now more than ever."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Ginsberg, Debra, Waiting: The True Confessions of a Waitress, Perennial (New York, NY), 2001.
Ginsberg, Debra, Raising Blaze: Bringing Up an Extraordinary Son in an Ordinary World, Harper-Collins (New York, NY), 2002.
Ginsberg, Debra, About My Sisters, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2004.
Booklist, June 1, 2000, Michelle Kaske, review of Waiting, p. 1824; May 1, 2002, Danise Hoover, review of Raising Blaze, p. 1494; February 1, 2004, Danise Hoover, review of About My Sisters, p. 943; August 14, 2006, Donna Seaman, review of Blind Submission, p. 175.
Business Week, September 11, 2000, review of Waiting, p. 22.
Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2002, review of Raising Blaze, p. 635; December 1, 2003, review of About My Sisters, p. 1390; September 1, 2006, review of Blind Submission, p. 864.
Library Journal, June 1, 2000, Paula R. Dempsey, review of Waiting, p. 172; May 1, 2002, Rachel Collins, review of Raising Blaze, p. 120; February 15, 2004, Lucille M. Boone, review of About My Sisters, p. 134; September 15, 2006, Karen Kleckner, review of Blind Submission, p. 47.
New York Times Book Review, September 10, 2000, Margaret Van Dagens, review of Waiting, p. 27; February 18, 2007, Andrew Ervin, review of Blind Submission, p. 22.
Publishers Weekly, June 5, 2000, review of Waiting, p. 78; April 15, 2002, review of Raising Blaze, p. 48; December 1, 2003, review of About My Sisters, p. 47; August 14, 2006, review of Blind Submission, p. 175.
Restaurant Hospitality, October, 2000, Kara Gebhart, review of Raising Blaze, p. 50.
Washington Post, November 16, 2006, Carolyn See, review of Blind Submission, p. C14.
Associated Content,http://www.associatedcontent.com/ (April 4, 2007), Jason Cangialosi, review of Blind Submission.
BookReporter.com,http://www.bookreporter.com/ (April 4, 2007), Karen Campbell, review of About My Sisters.
California Literary Review,http://www.calitreview.com/ (April 4, 2007), Kelly Hartog, review of About My Sisters.
Debra Ginsberg Web site,http://www.debraginsberg.com (July 19, 2002).
MADreads, blog,http://www.madisonpubliclibrary.org/madreads/ (September 11, 2006), review of Blind Submission.
USA Today Web site,http://www.usatoday.com/ (November 20, 2006), Carol Memmott, review of Blind Submission.