Segal, Lore 1928–
Segal, Lore 1928–
(Lore Groszmann Segal)
Born March 8, 1928, in Vienna, Austria; immigrated to the United States, 1951; daughter of Ignatz (an accountant) and Franzi Groszmann; married David Isaac Segal (an editor), November 3, 1961 (died, 1970); children: Beatrice, Jacob. Education: Bedford College, London, B.A. (with honors), 1948. Religion: Jewish.
Writer. Teacher in Dominican Republic, 1948-51; Columbia University, New York, NY, professor of creative writing, 1969-78; University of Illinois at Chicago Circle, Chicago, professor of English, beginning 1978; Ohio State University, Columbus, professor of English until 1996, professor emeritus, 2004—. Visiting professor at Bennington College, 1973, Princeton University, 1974, and Sarah Lawrence College, 1975-76. Appeared in films My Knees Were Jumping: Remembering the Kindertransports, 1998, and Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport, Warner Bros., 2000.
American Academy of Arts and Science.
Guggenheim fellowship in creative writing, 1965-66; National Council of the Arts and Humanities grant, 1967-68; Creative Artists Public Service Program grant, 1972-73; Children's Spring Book Festival first prize, Book World, and American Library Association Notable Book designation, both 1970, both for Tell Me a Mitzie; All the Way Home and The Juniper Tree, and Other Tales from Grimm included in Children's Book Showcase, 1974; Notable Book designation, New York Times, 1985, for The Story of Mrs. Lovewright and Purrless, Her Cat, and 1987, for The Book of Adam to Moses; American Academy of Arts and Letters Award, 1985, for Her First American; Pulitzer Prize nomination, 2008, for Shakespeare's Kitchen: Stories; Dorothy & Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars fellow, 2008-09.
Other People's Houses (autobiographical novel), Harcourt (New York, NY), 1964.
Lucinella (novel), Farrar, Strauss (New York, NY), 1976.
Her First American: A Novel, Knopf (New York, NY), 1985.
Shakespeare's Kitchen: Stories, New Press/W.W. Norton (New York, NY), 2007.
Tell Me a Mitzi, illustrated by Harriet Pincus, Farrar, Strauss (New York, NY), 1970.
All the Way Home, illustrated by James Marshall, Farrar, Strauss (New York, NY), 1973.
(Translator, with Randall Jarrell) Willem Grimm and Jacob Grimm, The Juniper Tree, and Other Tales from Grimm, illustrated by Maurice Sendak, Farrar, Strauss and Giroux (New York, NY), 1974, revised edition, 2003.
The Church Mice Adrift, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1976.
Tell Me a Trudy, illustrated by Rosemary Wells, Farrar, Strauss and Giroux (New York, NY), 1977.
(Translator) Willem Grimm and Jacob Grimm, The Bear and the Kingbird, Farrar, Strauss and Giroux (New York, NY), 1979.
The Story of Old Mrs. Brubeck and How She Looked for Trouble and Where She Found Him, illustrated by Marcia Sewall, Pantheon (New York, NY), 1981.
The Story of Mrs. Lovewright and Purrless, Her Cat, illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky, Knopf (New York, NY), 1985, reprinted, Atheneum Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 2005.
The Book of Adam to Moses, illustrated by Leonard Baskin, Knopf (New York, NY), 1987.
The Story of King Saul and King David, illustrations from the Pamplona Bible, Schocken Books (New York, NY), 1991.
Morris the Artist, illustrated by Boris Kulikov, Farrar, Strauss (New York, NY), 2003.
Why Mole Shouted, and Other Stories, illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier, Farrar, Strauss (New York, NY), 2004.
More Mole Stories and Little Gopher, Too, illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier, Farrar, Strauss (New York, NY), 2005.
Short stories anthologized in books, including Best American Short Stories, 1989; and O. Henry Prize Stories, 1990 and 2008. Contributor of stories to periodicals, including New Yorker, Saturday Evening Post, New Republic, Epoch, Commentary, New American Review, and Story. Contributor of reviews to New York Times Book Review and New Republic. Contributor of translations of poetry to Mademoiselle, Atlantic Monthly, Hudson Review, Poetry, and Tri-Quarterly.
The Story of Mrs. Lovewright and Purrless, Her Cat was adapted for audio cassette by Random House/Miller-Brody Productions, 1986; Tell Me a Mitzi was adapted for audio cassette by Scholastic, 1986; Her First American was adapted for audio cassette by New Letters, 1990.
Lore Segal was born in Austria in 1928, and by the time the Jewish girl reached age ten, World War II was raging across her European homeland. Fearing that harm would come to their daughter, in 1938 her parents, Ignatz and Franzi Groszmann, made the difficult decision to join thousands of other parents in Austria, Germany, and Czechoslovakia and sent their child to England, a safe haven in wartime. Like 10,000 other European children, Segal boarded a train for Great Britain as part of the Kindertransport of the late 1930s, leaving her parents behind to endure the efforts of German Chancellor Adolf Hitler to rid the region of all persons of Jewish descent. After arriving at England's Dovercourt Camp, Segal wrote passionate letters to the London refugee committee, begging that her Jewish parents be rescued, and in response the Groszmanns were eventually brought to England. Ironically, due to his Austrian origins, Segal's father was interned after England entered World War II; he fell ill and died days before the war ended. While she has gone on to a successful career as an academic and has authored several highly praised books for young children, Segal is still haunted by her experiences growing up during war time. These memories shadow her books for adult readers, and her first novel, Other People's Houses, focuses on her memories of childhood and the aftershocks she experienced as an emigrée in England.
Segal's childhood world was a world of extremes. While she spent the first decade of her life as "the center of attention, admiration, and the focus of great expectations" as a much-loved child in a financially comfortable family living in Vienna, she once explained, but everything changed in 1938, when Hitler annexed Austria and sent the German Army to occupy Vienna. As she writes in Other People's Houses: "One day the first German regiment moved in. By noon the square outside our windows was black with tanks, armored cars, radio trucks. Our yard was requisitioned for the paymaster's headquarters. The soldiers borrowed one of our kitchen chairs and the card table…. Two helmeted guards stood on either side of the table while the German soldiers in the gray-green uniforms filed past to collect their money."
In keeping with Hitler's notorious Final Solution—a plan to purify the so-called Aryan race—the Nazi occupation government immediately ordered Jewish children such as Segal to attend a separate school. Ignatz Groszmann lost his job at a Vienna bank when Nazi leaders passed restrictions eliminating Jewish workers from mainstream commerce and industry. With no means of support, the family moved in with Segal's grandparents, who had a home in the country. Unfortunately, things were no better there; as Segal writes in Other People's Houses, formerly friendly neighbors now defaced the front of Segal's grandfather's store with anti-Semitic slogans. "At night they threw stones through the bedroom windows. One evening they brought ladders and stepped right through the living-room windows and carried away whatever they felt like taking."
After Segal, and then her parents, made their escape to England, they found themselves impoverished. Segal was forced to continue living as a refugee, and boarded with five different English families before reaching age eighteen. Attending Bedford College, London, she earned her B.A. in English with honors in 1948, the same year the war ended. At the urging of her mother, she moved to the Dominican Republic, joining her now-widowed mother and her grandparents, who had fled there during wartime. Segal remained there for three years, teaching English at a business school and tutoring members of the diplomatic corps who desired to learn English.
In 1951, Segal and her mother immigrated to the United States and made their new home in New York City. Her first years in the United States were difficult ones; she worked as a filing clerk in a shoe factory, as a receptionist, and for a textile design studio. During this period she also began writing fiction, and was soon selling stories to such vaunted magazines as Commentary and the New Yorker. In 1961, at age thirty-three, she married David Segal, with whom she had two children; sadly, David passed away nine years later.
1964 saw the publication of her first novel, Other People's Houses, which traces Segal's own life as it follows its protagonist from war-torn Austria to the United States. The book was highly praised by critics, Elizabeth Thalman describing it in the Library Journal as "a story of courage, endurance and humor."
In 1970, with Tell Me a Mitzi, Segal began to address a younger readership, inspired by her more upbeat experiences as the mother of young children. The book collects several tales about a little girl named Mitzi who gets into trouble with her baby brother Jacob. Each story is written as if it is being told by a parent to a child, and the children beg their parent to "tell me a Mitzi" when they want to hear another tale. The same technique is used in Tell Me a Trudy, and Segal has noted that both the tales and the phrase requesting them are based on the bedtime traditions she enjoyed with her own children.
In addition to writing her own books for children, Segal has adapted and translated two collections of fairy and folk tales collected by the Brothers Grimm. With its illustrations by noted artist Maurice Sendak, one of these books, The Juniper Tree, and Other Tales from Grimm, has become a childhood classic and has remained in print ever since its 1973 publication. Other books for children, such as The Story of Old Mrs. Brubeck and How She Looked for Trouble and Where She Found Him, are written using classic fairy-tale techniques.
In contrast to her own experiences, in her fiction for young children Segal creates what Horn Book contributor Deirdre F. Baker described in a review of More Mole Stories and Little Gopher, Too as "an idiosyncratic, comfortable world where affection rules." In the four tales contained in this book, as well those as its prequel, Why Mole Shouted, and Other Stories, Segal focuses on the close bond between a preschool-aged child and a grandmother, although in this case the "child" is in fact a mole. Navigating the childhood temptation of a cookie meant to be eaten after chores are done, the difficulty in sharing favorite toys, and the desire for attention, Segal's text was praised by Baker as "perceptive" and "amusing," while a Kirkus reviewer referred to the author's "classically droll style." In Why Mole Shouted, and Other Stories Segal impressed a Publishers Weekly reviewer, who remarked that the author "again proves she's in tune with a child's mindset," and in the School Library Journal Linda M. Kenton wrote that "Segal captures the caprice and occasionally challenging nature of young children" in a book featuring Italian-born artist Sergio Ruzzier's "dreamy, almost surreal" illustrations.
Other books for children include Morris the Artist, which Booklist contributor Gillian Engberg described as an "unusual, visually stimulating story" that illustrates the complex dynamics at play in children's relationships and "letting creativity loose." In the story a boy named Morris grudgingly takes time away from his favorite activity—painting—to attend friend Benjamin's birthday party. Finding the perfect gift is easy: paints, of course. However, when it comes time to relinquish the gift, he clings to the nice new paint box. Ultimately Morris finds a way to keep the gift and give at the same time when he turns the party into a painting frenzy, sparking his friends' creativity and entertaining them with his talent and enthusiasm for art. Praising Segal's text for its "empathy and imagination," a Publishers Weekly reviewer also noted Boris Kulikov's "extraordinary paintings," with their "off kilter, funhouse feeling." Within what Engberg described as Kulikov's "odd, fantastical world," Segal's story highlights a childhood situation that the critic dubbed "universal."
Returning to adult fiction following Other People's Houses, Segal published her second novel, Lucinella, in 1976. That book was followed almost nine years later by Her First American: A Novel, Segal's third novel and one of her most successful publications. Indeed, Her First American won the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in 1985. The plot features protagonist Ilka Weissnix, a new immigrant from Vienna who speaks very little English; the story takes place just after the end of World War II. Ilka Meets Carter Bayoux, a black journalist who is also an overweight alcoholic. The odd couple falls in love, and the bulk of the novel portrays their budding relationship, as well as their comedic attempts to grapple with the language barrier between them. For instance, a Time, critic noted that "the voluble, repetitious Bayoux cannot match [Ilka's] lunatic poignancy, but he can be an apt foil." In a glowing New York Times Book Review article, Carolyn Kizer stated: "Segal may have come closer than anyone to writing The Great American Novel." Kizer added that, "essentially, this novel is about how we behave to one another, and the consequences of that behavior. It's about how we lose by winning, how we are educated by loving, how we change and are changed by everyone we know." Ultimately, Kizer concluded: "Mrs. Segal, in her mix of history, memory and invention, and the ruthless honesty which has always characterized her work, shows us ourselves."
Twenty-two years after the publication of Her First American, Segal released her next adult work of fiction Shakespeare's Kitchen: Stories. The book was even more successful than its predecessor and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 2008. The linked stories, which were often discussed as a novel, feature Ilka Weisz, the same protagonist from Her First American, albeit with a slightly different last name. Ilka is now fully assimilated into American culture, and even her accent has faded somewhat. She begins working at a think tank in Connecticut, and although she is afraid that she won't fit in with her intellectual coworkers, she finds that she does. Critics applauded the book, and Booklist critic Keir Graff found it is "a perfect" look at "the roles we play and the truths and lies we tell ourselves about ourselves." A similar impression was noted by an Internet Bookwatch critic, who called the book "an emotional saga of interpersonal relationships as a barometer of the human condition." Commenting on "the intrigue and angst stirred up in [Segal's] self-absorbed characters' internal monologues," a Publishers Weekly reviewer concluded that "when stacked together, these vignettes are hilarious and telling."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Lanes, Selma, Down the Rabbit Hole, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1971.
Segal, Lore, Other People's Houses, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1964.
Something about the Author Autobiography Series, Volume 11, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1991.
Atlantic Monthly, September 1, 2007, review of Shakespeare's Kitchen: Stories, p. 130.
Booklist, August, 2003, Gillian Engberg, review of Morris the Artist, p. 1990; May 1, 2004, Hazel Rochman, review of Why Mole Shouted, and Other Stories, p. 1564; April 1, 2007, Keir Graff, review of Shakespeare's Kitchen, p. 29.
Commentary, March, 1965, Cynthia Ozick, review of Other People's Houses.
Contemporary Fiction, fall, 1993, Philip G. Cavanaugh, "The Present Is a Foreign Country: Lore Segal's Fiction," p. 475.
Country Living Gardener, December 22, 2003, "Once upon a Time," p. 16.
Entertainment Weekly, April 20, 2007, "Jejune Bugs," p. 66; December 28, 2007, Jennifer Reese, "Fiction of the Year," p. 134.
Horn Book, March-April, 2005, Deirdre F. Baker, review of More Mole Stories and Little Gopher, Too, p. 194.
Internet Bookwatch, October 1, 2007, review of Shakespeare's Kitchen.
Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2003, review of Morris the Artist, p. 683; April 1, 2004, review of Why Mole Shouted, and Other Stories, p. 337.
Library Journal, November 15, 1964, Elizabeth Thalman, review of Other People's Houses; March 15, 2007, Amy Ford, review of Shakespeare's Kitchen, p. 66.
New Republic, December 12, 1964, Richard Gilman, review of Other People's Houses; August 15, 1985, Laura Obolensky, review of Her First American: A Novel, p. 41.
New Statesman, March 19, 1965, review of Other People's Houses.
Newsweek, July 8, 1985, review of Her First American.
New York Times Book Review, May 17, 1970, review of Tell Me a Mitzi, p. 26; October 24, 1976, review of Lucinella, p. 20; May 19, 1985, Carolyn Kizer, review of Her First American, p. 7; May 6, 2007, Sue Halpern, "Losing Her Accent," p. 29.
People Weekly, July 8, 1985, Campbell Geeslin, review of Her First American, p. 12; April 9, 2007, Sue Corbett, Francine Prose, Beth Perry, Michelle Green, Joanna Powell, and Vick Boughton, "Books," p. 47.
Publishers Weekly, April 7, 2003, review of Morris the Artist, p. 66; March 22, 2004, review of Why Mole Shouted, and Other Stories, p. 85; December 31, 2007, review of Shakespeare's Kitchen, p. 23.
Saturday Review, July 25, 1970, review of Tell Me a Mitzi; October 16, 1976, review of Lucinella.
School Library Journal, April, 2004, Linda M. Kenton, review of Why Mole Shouted, and Other Stories, p. 124.
Time, July 1, 1985, review of Her First American, p. 60.
Lore Segal Home Page,http://loresegal.net (June 11, 2008).