A PictureBook on the Wall: Memoir


Author: Elaine Margolis

ISBN: 9781934938102

Publisher: Bascom Hill Publishing

I can hear the music of Uncle George’s violin fill the air as he played on the back porch of the author’s small apartment in Chicago. You can hear the sound of her Aunt Bernice’s piano playing in the living room while everyone sat and listened. You could feel the sadness in a little girl’s heart because she felt unnoticed and afraid. You can picture her hiding behind the grand piano in the living room and hide from everyone entering her own imaginary world and hearing the sounds of her family and hoping not to be found or noticed. This brings me to my review of A PICTUREBOOK ON THE WALL: A MEMOIR by Elaine Margolis.

The novel opens with Elaine’s parents discussing the stock market crash of 1929 and the effect the downed economy would have on their family and her life. Family members lost not only their jobs but also their homes and all too often had to move into crowded spaces in order to have a roof over their heads. Moving in with family was not uncommon during this time and Elaine loved having her Uncles and Aunts live with her and her family even though it meant sacrificing many things along the way. The caring and nurturing she received from her uncle’s and aunt’s is what sustained her as a young child.

An over protective mother who wanted to choose what she wore, who she played with and control her every activity and more, caused Elaine to have outbursts that were often uncontrollable at a young age. Going to the country and learning to fish with her Uncle Jack allowed her to enjoy some type of freedom away from her mother who thought she knew what was best for her and everyone else in her family. It was what she thought that was right that mattered. She left no room for discussion.

An invisible plastic wrapped around her making her feel unnoticed and different from everyone else is how she describes the way she viewed herself. Enclosed in this plastic with nothing able to penetrate it.  She immersed herself in reading and living in her own imaginary world filled with paper dolls and books that allowed her to feel empowered and free of the constraints put upon her by her mother.

A barrier between her, and her brother and a mother who was dominant, chose her friends and programmed her life and her brother’s throughout their childhood years. A father who was steeped in work and was not able to show any opposition to what her mother expected from her children or him.

But, for Elaine things changed in High School and her plan and her goal to become involved in journalism took shape. Meeting new friends and trying to fit in is not always the answer for everyone. Finding yourself and who you are is hard when there are many obstacles in your way and breaking the barriers that tie your hands might seem insurmountable at first, but for Elaine it would be her salvation and a whole new life once she succeeded in implementing her plan and finding a whole new life away from her family.

From the first page of this book I could not stop reading and learning about the life of such a remarkable and interesting woman. Living through the depression, World War II and learning many lessons in life are not that unfamiliar to many of us, but are so poignantly described in this memoir and awakens the reader to the many struggles that people faced and that are not uncommon and faced by young people today.

With her life savings and her strong will Elaine moved to New York hoping to embark on a career in journalism and be away from the control of her mother. Set during a time period where women stayed home and rarely ventured into the working world, Elaine began not only building a more positive life for herself but took control of her choices and dissolved that invisible plastic wrap that she felt enveloped her entire being and became her own person.

Getting a job at a bride’s magazine and then for Winner Comics she learned much about publishing but even more about the prejudices of people living in New York. So much like her father who was afraid to get involved and voice his opinion in opposition to her mother’s ideals and thoughts, Elaine develops her own voice and soon the world knows that she exists as a professional and a person who can stand on her own. Her time at Winner Comics was fruitful and enlightening but short-lived.

As you read this book you feel that you are going along on this journey of the author’s life and you feel a part of it. You can hear her mother’s voice of disapproval; you can feel the sadness of a young child who feels invisible and unsure of herself, and her destiny.

My grandfather sold apples on a street corner to make a living for his five children and his wife when he came here from Poland. The picture of her grandfather with his wagon reminded me of how hard it was for people during the depression to make a living and how proud her grandfather must have been to sell his wares from his Smoke and Chew wagon as my grandfather was to sell apples on a street corner.

When you walk through a storm you might get pushed and tossed and blown away and never see the light of the sun. Elaine Margolis’s life reminds me of a tumultuous storm with many breaks in the clouds that finally let to a beautiful rainbow of life and colors at the end.

There are many lessons in life that can be learned from reading this amazing and heartfelt memoir of a woman whose voice was silent and hidden behind the grand piano of her living room with her drawings, pictures and paper dolls and finally came into the light.  Thank you for sharing your life and your memoir with the world and I am honored to have had the privilege to review this wonderful must read book.