Cover image for Not becoming my mother : and other things she taught me along the way
Not becoming my mother : and other things she taught me along the way
Publication Information:
New York : Penguin Press, 2009.
Physical Description:
112 p. ; 19 cm.
Chronicles the mother-daughter relationship of culinary author Ruth Reichl, now editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine, and her late mother, Miriam. Miriam Brudno, who bowed to societal and familial pressure to become a wife and a mother over pursuing a fulfilling career, cheered her daughter on and pointed out that Ruth had an obligation, both to herself and to her mother, to use her life well.


Material Type
Call Number
Item Available
Book 921 REICHL 1 1
Book 921 REICHL 1 1
Book 921 REICHL 1 1

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Bestselling author Ruth Reichl examines her mother's life, giving voice to the universal unarticulated truth that we are grateful not to be our mothers

In Not Becoming My Mother , bestselling author Ruth Reichl embarks on a clear-eyed, openhearted investigation of her mother's life, piecing together the journey of a woman she comes to realize she never really knew. Looking to her mother's letters and diaries, Reichl confronts the painful transition her mother made from a hopeful young woman to an increasingly unhappy older one and realizes the tremendous sacrifices she made to make sure her daughter's life would not be as disappointing as her own.

Growing up in Cleveland, Miriam Brudno dreamed of becoming a doctor, like her father. But when she announced this, her parents said, "You're no beauty, and it's too bad you're such an intellectual. But if you become a doctor, no man will ever marry you." Instead, at twenty, Miriam opened a bookstore, a profession everyone agreed was suitably ladylike. She corresponded with authors all over the world, including philosophers such as Bertrand Russell, political figures such as Max Eastman, and novelists such as Christopher Marlowe. It was the happiest time of her life.

Nearly thirty when she finally married, she fulfilled expectations, settled down, left her bookstore behind, and started a family. But conformity came at a tremendous cost. With labor-saving devices to aid in household chores, there was simply not enough to do to fill the days. Miriam-and most of her friends-were smart, educated women who were often bored, miserable, and silently rebellious.

On what would have been Miriam's one hundredth birthday Reichl opens up her mother's diaries for the first time and encounters a whole new woman. This is a person she had never known. In this intimate study Reichl comes to understand the lessons of rebellion, independence, and self-acceptance that her mother-though unable to guide herself-succeeded in teaching her daughter.

Author Notes

Ruth Reichl was born in New York City on January 16, 1948. In 1970, she graduated from the University of Michigan with a M.A. in art history. She became a food writer and magazine editor for New West magazine. Later she worked for the Los Angeles Times, first as the restaurant editor and then food editor. She received two James Beard Awards. In 1993, she moved back to New York to become the restaurant critic for The New York Times. She was the editor in chief of Gourmet Magazine for ten years.

She is the author of the memoirs Garlic and Sapphires, Tender at the Bone, and Comfort Me with Apples and the novel Delicious! Her latest book, My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life, was published in 2015.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Reichl combs through her dead mother's diaries and correspondence, trying to understand the woman she remembered as bitterly unhappy. She realizes how stifling were the expectations on 1950s housewives and how her mother blamed her depression on her inability to seek meaningful work outside the home. The revelations are fascinating, but Reichl's effort would have been better served by a professional narrator. While her deep, slightly hoarse voice conveys emotion sufficiently, she is an awkward reader, prone to loading her sentences with wooden emphasis and reaching for amateurish dramatic effect. Readers are likely to be struck by her ability to see her mother so clearly and without sentimentality, but they won't lose themselves in the reading. A Penguin Press hardcover (Reviews, Mar. 9). (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Booklist Review

Irreverently immortalized as the klutzy cook who renounced edibility in favor of creativity, Reichl's mother, and her quirky kitchen habits,provided frivolous fodder for Reichl's previous culinary memoirs. But in this keenly felt retrospective, Reichl reveals another side of her mother, whose life seemed a shining example of what not to do. Where once Miriam harbored visions of being a doctor and applied her formidable intellect in the business world, she ultimately subjugated her own ambition and desires in favor of those of her family, thus providing her daughter with a seemingly negative role model. Sadly typical of her time and generation, Miriam surrendered personal dreams to suit society's restrictive ideals of feminine conduct, and paid a steep psychic price. Only upon discovering a hidden trove of diaries and letters after Miriam's death was Reichl able to understand the full extent of her mother's sacrifices. Candid and insightful, Reichl's intensely personal and fiercely loving tribute acknowledges her mother as both the source and inspiration behind her success.--Haggas, Carol Copyright 2009 Booklist

Library Journal Review

Restaurant critic Reichl (, whose three previous memoirs-Tender at the Bone (1998), Comfort Me with Apples (2001), and Garlic and Sapphires (2005)-were all best sellers, here stitches together the account of her mother's unhappy life from letters and notes she discovered after her mother's death. This brief but poignant title underscores the plight of intelligent women forced by societal expectations into leading unfulfilled lives. Although not a trained narrator, Reichl reads with knowing authority. Mothers and daughters interested in learning more about the restrictions placed on women during the mid-20th century as well as appreciators of Reichl's previous books should also enjoy this one. [Audio clip available through; the Penguin Pr. hc, a New York Times best seller, received a starred review, Xpress Reviews, LJ 4/24/09.-Ed.]-Nancy R. Ives, SUNY at Geneseo (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.