It's 1947 and Sally Freedman is full of wild ideas. She's got her eye on handsome Peter Hornstein, the Latin lover of her dreams – on Mr. Zavodsky, who looks suspiciously like Hitler in disguise – and on her father, who Sally misses terribly. Whatever happens, 5th grade in Miami Beach will definitely be different. It might even be a real life adventure.
I was just seven years old when World War II ended, but the war had so colored my early life it was hard to think of anything else. No one I knew had actually experienced the war first hand. No bombs dropped on America; my family and friends weren't starving - we had cozy homes and enough to eat. And yet, as I listened to my parents whispering in the darkness, I couldn't help worrying that it could happen again. War. And this time the bombs could drop on our houses. Nevermind that Adolf Hitler was supposedly dead. I knew that he'd wanted to kill all the Jews in the world. And I was a Jew.
Starring Sally J. Freedman As Herself is my most autobiographical novel. When I was nine and ten I was a lot like Sally - curious, imaginative, a worrier. I was always making up stories inside my head. In my stories, which I never wrote down or shared, I was brave and strong. I led a life of drama, adventure and fame. I think the character of Sally explains how and even why I became a writer.
Some of the Yiddish expressions used by Sally's grandmother in this book are words I learned from my own grandmother. And Sally's family is based on my own. The setting, Miami Beach, Florida, in 1947- 48, is real too. I spent two school years living in Miami Beach after the war. Sally's world is the world as I perceived it, at age ten. A world of secrets kept from children, a world of questions without answers.
Although Sally's story takes place a long time ago, the story of her family and friends could happen anytime. Some things never change. Sally is one of my favorite characters. I hope she'll become one of yours, too.
My editor, Dick Jackson, phoned me in New Mexico, where we'd just moved, to tell me he needed a title by the next morning. I didn't have any ideas. When I woke up the next morning this is what I came up with. A real mouthful!
Frances Goldstein was my favorite aunt. She was a fourth grade teacher for many years, then an elementary school principal. She and my uncle lived in our house with my father during the two school years I spent in Miami Beach. In the book I call her Aunt Bette. No one was more proud of my success as a writer. She became ill while I was writing this book. She lived to see it published which wasn't nearly long enough. A few years after her death, the library at her school was named in her memory.