Israel, Betsy 1958-
ISRAEL, Betsy 1958-
Born 1958; married; two children.
Agent—c/o Author Mail, William Morrow/HarperCollins, 10 E. 53rd Street, 7th Floor, New York, NY 10022.
Journalist; Mademoiselle, editor.
Grown-up Fast: A True Story of Teenage Life in Suburban America, Poseidon Press (New York, NY), 1988.
Bachelor Girl: The Secret History of the Single Woman in the Twentieth Century, William Morrow (New York, NY), 2002.
Contributor to periodicals, including New York Times, Rolling Stone, and Harper's Bazaar.
A former editor for Mademoiselle and a contributor to numerous publications, Betsy Israel is a successful journalist and author. It's a sharp contrast to her difficult and often reckless adolescence, which she recounts in Grown-up Fast: A True Story of Teenage Life in Suburban America. Far from the idyllic haven her parents had sought in moving out of the city, Betsy lived in a suburbia of easy drugs, easier sex, and the overwhelming need to fit in with peers who don't know what they want. "It is an eloquent but profoundly disturbing memoir of what it was like to come of age in the '70s—too late to feel a part of the exuberant '60s, too early for the complacent conservatism of the '80s. In Israel's view, she and her peers were a truly lost generation, unable to find a center that would hold," explained Newsweek contributor Barbara Kantrowitz. Before she graduates, Betsy is pregnant and in a sometimes ludicrous form of denial, telling friends that she's just gaining a little weight and telling herself that maybe something will just happen to make it all go away. It's finally her parents who force her to confront the truth and to give up the baby for adoption so she could go to college. Not all reviewers were won over. New York Times reviewer Kate Lynch felt, "it is her consistent snobbery that finally dashes all sympathy for Ms. Israel." But according to a Publishers Weekly reviewer, "Israel writes affectingly of the trauma through which she emerged."
In her next book, Bachelor Girl: The Secret History of the Single Woman in the Twentieth Century, Betsy Israel turned from the special troubles of a '70s adolescent to the commonalities of single women struggling to find a place throughout the upheavals of the last century. Focusing generally on New York City, her "engaging, convincing, even stirring" book, in the words of a Kirkus Reviews contributor, actually begins in the mid-1800s, when the Industrial Revolution brought two new single women to the city's attention: the working immigrant trying to survive on her own and the well-educated, "singly blessed," who simply chose not to take on the burdens of being a wife subject to her husband's dictates. Bachelor Girl continues the saga of single women through Jazz Age flappers, depression-era "job stealers," Rosie the Riveter, and on to the present era of "Ally McBeal" and "Sex and the City." Through numerous anecdotes and quotations, Israel brings to life a wide variety of women who chose to defy the pressures and the stereotypes "B-girls" have always faced. "What makes this history so fascinating is learning what a dynamic and threatening figure the single woman really is. By examining the way the culture has embraced or rejected her—when, how and to what extent—the single woman becomes a gauge by which to measure women's progress more generally," wrote Nation contributor Ashley Nelson.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, October 15, 2002, Kristine Huntley, review of Bachelor Girl: The Secret History of the Single Woman in the Twentieth Century, p. 368.
Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2002, review of Bachelor Girl, p. 1097.
Library Journal, September 15, 2002, Cynthia Harrison, review of Bachelor Girl, p. 82.
Nation, December 23, 2002, Ashley Nelson, "Diary of the Bridget Joneses," p. 36.
New Statesman, October 13, 2003, Rachel Cooke, review of Bachelor Girl, p. 49.
Newsweek, September 5, 1988, Barbara Kantrowitz, "A Bummer in the Burbs," p. 64.
New York Times, September 18, 1988, Kate Lynch, review of Grown-up Fast: A True Story of Teenage Life in Suburban America, p. 33.
Publishers Weekly, June 17, 1988, review of Grown-up Fast, p. 54; July 15, 2002, review of Bachelor Girl, p. 62.*