Ron Singer’s A Voice for My Grandmother
Bard Press, Staten Island, 2006

Bill Dorn

My grandmother’s toast was like no other, made in the enameled wood stove that stood in the middle of her kitchen. Whenever my grandfather came to visit we would jump to remove his ever present hat knowing that without fail out would fall three bags of M & Ms.—Ron Singer’s vignettes summon memories from my own youth.

Ron Singer’s brief memoir of his grandmother is full of snapshots so rooted in a particular time and place and culture that it creates a universal understanding of a generation for whom the world changed more rapidly than most. He creates a picture as multifaceted as a Picasso portrait.

Singer’s grandmother on the surface is quiet and simple and you even wonder if she is not quite all there. But as you shuffle through the snapshots a richer, more complex woman appears unblurred by sentimentality.

This was a woman from a world of immigrants. It was a world long before feminism. It was a world primarily run by men. It was a world in which such women were generally silent and for whom rights wasn’t even a concept. Yet it was grandma who held the household together when grandpa died. It was grandma who fed the rabbis and managed the interior and emotional life of this household.

As a man it is risky business to try to understand the world inhabited by women and the silent world of Singer’s grandmother is fraught with pitfalls. Men are present here, but it is the women upon whom he focuses his lens. While most of us who read Singer’s beautifully written little meditation would not want to emulate these men, he presents them in their world as they are with an understanding that they too are part of his heritage.

But it is his in meditating upon his grandmother that he reveals the origins of his own emotional heritage. Turning these pages is like leafing through an old family album. While reading about Singer’s family I was stirred to memories of my own.

At times richly humorous and at others deeply sad, his picture of Grandma is never sentimental or pitying and, indeed, those sentiments would not have been appropriate for this silent woman. He does not feel sorry for her, but he does indeed discover her voice while balancing his family’s account.