Useful Gifts
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Useful Gifts


Title Details

Pages: 224

Trim size: 5.500in x 8.500in



Pub Date: 10/01/2010

ISBN: 9-780-8203-3707-4

List Price: $27.95


Pub Date: 10/01/2010

ISBN: 9-780-8203-3761-6

List Price: $27.95


Pub Date: 10/01/2010

ISBN: 9-780-8203-6972-3

List Price: $26.95

Useful Gifts


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  • Description
  • Reviews

Charged with the mystery of childhood, with curiosity and daring, confusion and fear, the eleven interrelated stories in Useful Gifts explore what Ruthie knows. The youngest child of profoundly deaf parents living in Manhattan in the 1940s and 1950s, Ruthie Zimmer speaks and signs. Interpreting for her parents, she tries to make sense of worlds as close as her family's fourth-floor apartment, as expansive as her rooftop playground and as diverse as the neighborhood below.

The ways of language, its ways, its habits, its humor—as well as the demons that rise within us when we fail to communicate—form an undercurrent in many of Carole Glickfeld's stories. In "What My Mother Knows" Hannah Zimmer gleans the neighborhood gossip from her apartment window, telling Ruthie in a gesture that Mrs. Frangione is pregnant again, and announcing in clipped, terse signs that the O'Briens have divorced. "Know drunk?…Unhappy, fight, wife, divorce." There is, in "My Father's Darling" the hoarse, choked screaming of Albert Zimmer, "Honorfatherhonorfatherhonorfather" striking his daughter Melva has she sinks to the floor muttering "Misermisermisermiser" in the distant, disembodied voice of a ventriloquist. And, in "Talking Mama-Losh'n" there is Sidney, Ruthie's older brother, "getting down to business," sprinkling his speech with Yiddish, French and German—words that project a wisdom and cosmopolitanism he clearly craves.

Three floors below the Zimmer apartment, Ruthie enters the altogether different realm of Dot, a thrice-married hatcheck girl, and her daughter and son, Glory and Roy Rogers. These are characters who, as their names seem to promise, bring adventure and excitement—from acted-out fantasies of Hollywood to gunfights amid the rooftop battlements of "Fort Arden," from impulsive, stylish haircuts to Chinese food with pork. And, across the stoop, Ruthie visits with the Opals family—Iris, Ivy, and Ione—three daughters whose endless lessons in charm, elocution and posture prime them for future "fame and glory."

In Useful Gifts, Carole Glickfeld creates, through the optimistic voice of a young girl, intimacy with the complexity and heartbreak of a world we hope she can survive. In the closing story of the collection, Ruth Zimmer, twenty years older, retraces her neighborhood—not only to preserve her memories but to understand, finally, their effect on her now, a grown woman living three thousand miles away.

A wonderfully evocative debut collection . . . An understated, pitch-perfect prose style and a view of childhood . . . as dark and comic as it is moving.

Voice Literary Supplement

The world of Ruthie Zimmer, youngest child of Jewish deaf parents, is captured wth aching authenticity. . . . The stories are redolent of a New York neighborhood that once was.

Publishers Weekly

When Ruthie Zimmer translates . . . the world of the deaf is not at all silent; it's bursting with life and conversation.

New York Times Book Review

Glickfield displays a gift for characterization, particularly when describing the abusive, miserly father whom Ruthie can neither love nor abandon. Stylish nostalgia is tempered with humor and hard-boiled realism.

Library Journal

Deft and darkly funny.

7 Days

Wonderful sad, funny stories about New York street life and growing up in a handicapped family.

Bloomsbury Review

Ruthie is the kind of direct yet reflective girl who might have emerged from the pages of J.D. Salinger.

Boston Woman

About the Author/Editor

CAROLE L. GLICKFELD grew up in New York City, the setting of Useful Gifts, her award-winning collection of stories about a family with deaf parents and hearing children, and Swimming Toward the Ocean, a novel that won the Washington State Book Award. She was the recipient of a Literary Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Governor's Arts Award (Washington State) and was a fellow of both the MacDowell Colony and the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference. Her stories and essays have appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies. Now living in Seattle where she has taught creative writing, she works on a consulting basis with aspiring writers on their manuscripts when she is not indulging her passion for travel.