Shapiro, Rochelle Jewel 1947(?)-

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SHAPIRO, Rochelle Jewel 1947(?)-

PERSONAL: Born c. 1947.

ADDRESSES: Home—Great Neck, NY. Agent—Marly Rusoff, Marly Rusoff Literary Agency, P.O. Box 524, Bronxville, NY 10708. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER: Author and phone psychic.


Miriam the Medium, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2004.

SIDELIGHTS: If one of the primary edicts of the fiction writer is to "write what you know," then novelist Rochelle Jewel Shapiro has taken that advice to its next logical step. Shapiro, like Miriam Kaminsky, the main character in her novel Miriam the Medium, is a psychic, giving readings, dispensing advice, and offering glimpses of the future to her clients via telephone consultations and referrals. "She tells people's futures and talks to the dead, and she has been able to do it since she was three years old," remarked Caroline Leavitt—a close friend of Shapiro's—in a Redbook profile.

While the bulk of clients are anonymous callers, Shapiro also is comfortable giving readings in person to clients referred to her. She often receives referrals from friends or therapists, and she cultivates a loyal client list that delights in her services. However, she adheres to strict rules when giving her readings. One such rule is that she does not "read" friends. "A psychic likes to start with a blank slate, so that she can objectively interpret the images she receives," Leavitt reported. With friends, she already knows too much about them; she is too close to the source. The images and impressions received might be interpreted incorrectly, deciphered in terms of what she knows about her friend rather than what the message is supposed to mean. "I might see a broken watch face, and because I'm your friend the image will take on meaning it might not have at all," Leavitt quotes Shapiro as saying to her. "I'll worry all day, when really, that image could mean nothing more than your watch is running slow. It'll end up upsetting us both." Strong emotions, such as love, also obscure or block the images, which means that she cannot do readings for family members.

Shapiro says she inherited her psychic gifts from her Russian-born grandmother, Sarah Shapiro. Sarah was "a tiny woman with pale blue eyes and long, white hair braided and coiled on her head like a crown, and she always wore a marcasite brooch at the neckline of her dark dresses, and small silver-framed eyeglasses, and she puffed lavender powder on her neck," Shapiro wrote in an autobiographical sketch on the Powells Books Web site. Sarah was a healer and a midwife, able to diagnose disease or confirm pregnancy with little more than a glance. Shapiro is also able to see people's health problems. "When I was four, my grandmother took my face in her hands and said, 'You have my gift. God help you,'" Shapiro related in an interview on the Miriam the Medium Web site. "Over the years, I wondered whether she'd meant—God help you to use it in the best possible manner or God help you, because you're going to need it with a gift like this."

In Miriam the Medium, psychic Miriam Kaminsky operates a phone consultation business that supplements her family's income. Her husband Rory is an adoring sort, but his patience with Miriam's psychic pursuits is limited. Rory's pharmacy is sliding into financial trouble, slowly being bled dry by a crooked employee he will not fire, but he refuses to believe that Miriam's telephone readings could be the solution to their money woes. Daughter Cara is mortified and embarrassed by her mother, and she avoids Miriam whenever possible. Complicating her life even further is the client who develops a crush on her, and a withering humiliation she suffered on a local television show in Great Neck, New York. During her darkest times, Miriam's long-dead Russian grandmother visits to offer support and advice. When rebellious teen Cara runs away with a local bad boy, her life is endangered. Miriam must focus her own powers—maternal fury, spousal determination, and psychic prowess—to save her wayward daughter, well-meaning husband, and teetering family life.

"There isn't much we can't predict here, but Miriam is so winningly philanthropic, without an axe to grind or argument to prove . . . that she proves refreshingly disarming," commented a Kirkus Reviews critic. "Shapiro is a lively writer, and this is a likeable, if not quite captivating, book," remarked Julia Livshin in Washington Post Book World. The novel delivers "touching wisdom about mothers and daughters," observed a Publishers Weekly reviewer, and Booklist review Stephanie Zvirin found that "emotions ring surprisingly serious and true." Sandee Brawarsky, writing in the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, stated that "Shapiro has written a first novel that's humorous, and also takes on themes of forgiveness and self-understanding in a thoughtful way."

Shapiro told CA: "Twenty-five years ago, a famous clairvoyant, Vincent Ragone, told me that I'd publish a love story with Simon & Schuster. I kept a journal of my work as a psychic which eventually led to my first novel. The most surprising thing I learned from being a writer is that a writer doesn't write chapter one, two, and so on. The end of the book can suddenly become the beginning. No matter what the writer's intention, the characters have their own destiny. Miriam the Medium is the first novel about a psychic written by a psychic. It gets into a psychic's mind, shows how visions arise. Demystifies the mystical process."



Booklist, April 15, 2004, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Miriam the Medium, p. 1427.

Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, November 18, 2004, Sandee Brawarsky, "Psychic Channels Her Gift Into Novel."

Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2004, review of Miriam the Medium, p. 248.

Library Journal, May 1, 2004, Nancy Pearl, review of Miriam the Medium, p. 142.

Publishers Weekly, May 3, 2004, review of Miriam theMedium, p. 171.

Redbook, October, 1999, Caroline Leavitt, profile of Rochelle Jewel Shapiro, p. 114.

Washington Post Book World, June 20, 2004, Julia Livshin, review of Miriam the Medium, p. T13.

ONLINE, (November 18, 2004), Harriet Klausner, review of Miriam the Medium., (November 18, 2004), Mary Ann Smith, review of Miriam the Medium.

Miriam the Medium Web site, (November 18, 2004).

Powells Books Web site, (November 18, 2004), Rochelle Jewel Shapiro, The Mystical Surprise of Fiction., (September 18, 2004), Jean Marchand, review of Miriam the Medium., (November 18, 2004), review of Miriam the Medium.