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Becoming My Mother’s Daughter

A Story of Survival and Renewal

Erika Gottlieb

Publication Year: 2008

Becoming My Mother’s Daughter: A Story of Survival and Renewal tells the story of three generations of a Jewish Hungarian family whose fate has been inextricably bound up with the turbulent history of Europe, from the First World War through the Holocaust and the communist takeover after World War II, to the family’s dramatic escape and emmigration to Canada. The emotional centre and narrative voice of the story belong to Eva, an artist, dreamer, and writer trying to work through her complex and deep relationship with her mother, whose portrait she cannot paint until she completes her journey through memory.

The core of the book is Eva’s riveting recollection of the last months of World War II in Budapest, seen through a child’s eyes, and is reminiscent in its power of scenes in Joy Kogawa’s Obasan. Exploring the bond between generations of mothers and daughters, the book illustrates the struggle between the need for independence and the search for continuity, the significant impact of childhood on adult life, the reshaping of personality in immigration, the importance of dreams in making us face reality, and the redemptive power of memory. Illustrations by the author throughout the book, some in colour, enhance the story.

Published by: Wilfrid Laurier University Press

Series: Life Writing


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p. v

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pp. vii-x

Erika Gottlieb has probed the depths of a troubled inheritance and a balancing grace in Becoming My Mother’s Daughter. Between the ravages of the Holocaust in Budapest, Hungary, where she and her family were born, and the treasures she discovers in her mother’s old handbag in Montreal, Canada, Gottlieb’s journey traverses lands, languages, and seas in order...

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The Bridge

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pp. 1-11

This afternoon Eliza barely has time to greet her daughter, she is so eager to talk. Yet the words come with an effort. “Do you know, my dear, there is something I’ve never admitted to anyone to this day, probably not even to myself. I think I really didn’t love my mother when I was a child.” There is a...

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The Maze

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pp. 12-32

“The convent. Has your mother ever told you about the convent?” Eva turns to her niece, Dina, continuing their conversation. They are sitting on Eva’s beige and brown living room sofa, with the other members of the family scattered around the living and dining rooms in various stages of civilized boredom. It is one of those family reunions where, after the elaborate pleasures of the dinner...

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The Tunnel, 1913-1944 [INCLUDES IMAGE PLATES]

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pp. 33-51

The first photograph Eva puts in her new album is of a young girl of eighteen. She could be a South American beauty with her round, dark eyes, fine cheekbones, large, sensuous mouth, and shiny dark hair, which she arranges in a loose chignon. Her waist is slim in the white blouse; her rounded hips taper off under the dark, floor-length bell-shaped skirt. The photo must have...

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The Tunnel, 1944-1945

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pp. 52-127

The convent. The early-morning expeditions to the bathroom. In November it is still pitch dark at six in the morning, and the old-fashioned bathroom with its huge yellow tub and unheated geyser is at the end of an unlit corridor. It is dark and cold when Mother wakes me. Sleepy and apprehensive, I am also somewhat excited by the adventure: to think that...

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The Tunnel, 1952-1982

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pp. 128-155

Budapest is the city where Eva grew up, where she went to school, the city of her first serious friendship with Edie, the city of her first love for Janos. But she knows there is another, parallel city there, the city where she lived during the years of 1944 and 1945. And below those two cities, there is yet another: the city of her mother’s youth, her childhood. Eva realizes: “I lived...

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The Handbag

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pp. 156-168

It’s Sandy on the phone. “Hi, Eva. I’ve just finished cleaning Father’s place.Will you be at home? I’m going downtown—I may drop in on the way for half an hour.” “Sure, come right along. How’s the cleaning going?” “It’s quite amazing, really. You have no idea the amount of useless old things they’ve accumulated...

E-ISBN-13: 9781554580941
Print-ISBN-13: 9781554580309
Print-ISBN-10: 1554580307

Page Count: 188
Publication Year: 2008

Series Title: Life Writing
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OCLC Number: 227356127
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Becoming My Mother’s Daughter

Research Areas


Subject Headings

  • Holocaust survivors -- Canada -- Biography.
  • Mothers and daughters -- Biography.
  • Budapest (Hungary) -- Biography.
  • Gottlieb family.
  • Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945) -- Hungary -- Budapest -- Personal narratives.
  • Gottlieb, Erika -- Family.
  • Gottlieb, Erika.
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