Zachter, Mort 1958–
Zachter, Mort 1958–
Born 1958; married; children: two. Education: Studied at Brooklyn College.
Home—Princeton, NJ. E-mail—[email protected].
Pushcart Prize nominee; AWP Prize for creative nonfiction, Association of Writers & Writing Programs, 2006, for Dough.
Dough (memoir), University of Georgia Press (Athens, GA), 2007.
Contributor to various periodicals, including Fourth Genre, Moment, Weatherwise, Poetica, Princeton Packet, New Jersey Lawyer Magazine, Queens Ledger, US1, and Kelsey Review.
Mort Zachter is a writer and attorney. Born in 1958, he grew up in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Jewish immigrants who had first settled in Manhattan's Lower East Side. He lived in poverty, with his mother working for bread instead of money in his two uncles' bakery. He studied at Brooklyn College to become an accountant and later a lawyer, but finances were always tight. After taking charge of the finances of his uncle, who was living with Alzheimer's disease, Zachter eventually learned that his uncle, despite living poorly his whole life, was a millionaire from smart investments and money hoarding, and he realized that he did not know his family as well as he thought he had.
After taking some time for reflection, Zachter published his memoir, Dough, in 2007. The account looks into his family life and the relationship between his parents and his uncles. In an interview published on his home page, Zachter described how the money has not changed the type of person he is, stating: "I believe my values remain very much the same as they were before my financial windfall. I judge people by their character, not their financial status. Had I grown up in an affluent household, I doubt I would appreciate my good fortune as much." Zachter added, "I feel a sense of responsibility to utilize the opportunity I've been given to do well for my family, as well as my community, through my work and my faith."
Critics commented on the lack of bitterness, even fond affection, conveyed in Dough. Penny Schwarz, writing in JBooks.com, recalled that "there are dozens of memorable scenes and vignettes recreated in this memoir, including Zachter's family sitting around the Passover table sorting through piles of the previous year's food stamps collected at the bakery." Schwarz added that "his vivid descriptions of the overcrowded bakery, referred to only as ‘the store,’ with breads and ‘stuff’ strewn about on wooden shelves, call up old- world aromas of almond horns, apple strudel, and cheese Danish, none of which was baked on the premises." Anne Mendelson, writing in the New York Times Book Review, related that after Zachter finds out about his new wealth, "it takes him six years, but he finally gives himself the leisure to sit down and recreate both his childhood world and his adult truth-seeking. The result is a memoir that is as miraculously loving and nonjudgmental as it is cleareyed." "It never occurs to us that he has written anything other than a tribute to his family and the bakery that made them rich," observed Dinah Lenney in the Los Angeles Times. "If Harry and Joe were spitting on Helen and Phil and little Mort, it hardly matters; the uncles were always on the short list, and thanks to all that dysfunction, now it's raining riches. At long last, Zachter can put down his briefcase and become the writer he always wanted to be."
Writing in the Ft. Lauderdale, Florida Sun-Sentinel, Morton I. Teicher said that "the idiosyncratic story is told cheerfully by Zachter who, having inherited millions, now lives in Princeton, New Jersey with his wife and two adopted children. He devotes himself full-time to writing, having broken away completely from the cramped lifestyle of his workaholic family. This book is the first result of his literary pursuits." A contributor to Publishers Weekly observed that "this rich story pays off with honest but lighthearted discoveries about loyalty and wealth," and a critic writing in Kirkus Reviews remarked that Zachter "winningly details the prickly love of his close-knit family and the endless hours they put into running the beloved store." Dale Farris, writing in Library Journal, concluded that Dough "gives a distinct take on the classic saga of working-class immigrant families struggling to succeed."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Zachter, Mort, Dough, University of Georgia Press (Athens, GA), 2007.
Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2007, review of Dough.
Library Journal, October 1, 2007, Dale Farris, review of Dough, p. 82.
Los Angeles Times, November 3, 2007, Dinah Lenney, review of Dough.
New York Times Book Review, November 25, 2007, Anne Mendelson, review of Dough.
Publishers Weekly, July 23, 2007, review of Dough, p. 57.
Reference & Research Book News, February 1, 2008, review of Dough.
Sun-Sentinel (Ft. Lauderdale, FL), September 11, 2007, Morton I. Teicher, review of Dough.
92Y Blog,http://blog.92y.org/ (September 25, 2007), author profile.
JBooks.com,http://www.jbooks.com/ (June 18, 2008), Penny Schwartz, review of Dough.
Mort Zachter Home Page,http://www.mortzachter.com (June 18, 2008).