Rosen, Norma

views updated


ROSEN, NORMA (1925– ), U.S. novelist. Born in Manhattan, Norma Rosen grew up in Brooklyn, n.y. She received a B.A. from Mount Holyoke College in 1946, and an M.A. from Columbia in 1953. In her book Accidents of Influence (1992), an essay uniquely describes her family's situation in relation to Judaism. Neither devout nor assimilated, her family "… stood in a proud and terrible place outside the 'two cultures.'" In 1959, she began writing seriously. Her first novel, Joy to Levine!, was published in 1962. The book, dealing with parental authority, is slightly sardonic, since it is in part a satire on the American pastime of "getting ahead." Her next book, Green (1967), a novella and eight short stories, deals with maturity in relation to the "sellout" of an artist to commercial art in advertising. The novella, according to Stanley Kaufman, demonstrates Rosen's ability to realize men and plunge into sentiment, "confident that genuineness and distillation will keep her from sentimentality."

In the 1960s, Norma Rosen began to confront the psychological damage of the Holocaust. As she later explained in a 1987 essay, the novel deals "with the response of those not involved directly with the Holocaust except through imagination, and examines its impact on them." Rosen's American women of the novel, Touching Evil (1969), are obsessed with the testimony of eye witnesses to the Holocaust. As S. Lillian Kremer states in a 2002 article on Norma Rosen, Touching Evil "… is distinctive in its deliberation on American Holocaust reaction and a feminine perspective."

Rosen's next long novel, At the Center (1982), touches on the theme of abortion and assistance to pregnant women. Robert Miner's review states that although Norma Rosen never supports the "Right to Life" movement, hard questions about abortion still exist. And this is the book's moral strength.

Norma Rosen's novel, John and Anzia: An American Romance (1989), re-imagines a brief love affair between a Jewish immigrant, Anzia Yezierska, and the American John Dewey. Helen A. Weinberger reviewed the novel and felt that Norma Rosen wrote a magical novel, "… mixing fact and fiction in a kind of transcendental philosophical poem about the cross between a real early 20th-century America and an always wished-for land."

The author also published Accidents of Influence: Writing as a Jew and a Woman in America (1992), a volume of essays, and Biblical Women Unbound (1996), a re-staging of Old Testament stories.

[Mark Padnos (2nd ed.)]