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The Pat Boone Fan Club: My Life as a White Anglo-Saxon Jew (American Lives) [Paperback]

Sue William Silverman

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Book Description

25 April 2014 American Lives
Gentile reader, and you, Jews, come too. Follow Sue William Silverman, a one-woman cultural mash-up, on her exploration of identity among the mishmash of American idols and ideals that confuse most of us - or should. Pat Boone is our first stop. Now a Tea Party darling, Boone once shone as a squeaky-clean pop music icon of normality, an antidote for Silverman's own confusing and dangerous home, where being a Jew in a Christian school wasn't easy, and being the daughter of the Anti-Boone was unspeakable. And yet somehow Silverman found her way, a "gefilte fish swimming upstream," and found her voice, which in this searching, bracing, hilarious and moving book tries to make sense of that most troubling American condition: belonging, but to what?

Picking apricots on a kibbutz, tramping cross-country in a loathed Volkswagen camper, appearing in a made-for-television version of her own life: Silverman is a bobby-soxer, a baby boomer, a hippy, a lefty and a rebel with something to say to those of us - most of us - still wondering what to make of ourselves.

Product details

  • Paperback: 248 pages
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press (25 April 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803264852
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803264854
  • Product Dimensions: 21.8 x 14 x 1.5 cm

More About the Author

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Review

"Silverman's language is, by turns, blunt, wrenching, sophisticated, lyrical, tender, hilarious. She writes with wicked dark humor, splendid intelligence, wry wit, and honest confrontation. There's no other book quite like it." - Lee Martin, author of From Our House and Such a Life "Reading The Pat Boone Fan Club feels like sitting down for coffee with a long-lost friend. Silverman reveals the heights that skillful and innovative memoir can achieve." - Hope Edelman, author of Motherless Daughters "Filled with warmhearted humor and profound compassion, this tour de force exploration of the search for identity is a joy to behold." - Kaylie Jones, author of Lies My Mother Never Told Me "Silverman is the Tennessee Williams of memoir." - Robert Vivian, author of The Least Cricket of Evening "The memoir is really a collection of discrete essays, book-ended by encounters with Pat Boone, who is everything [Silverman's] father was not, including gentile. Her younger self wants him to adopt her, her older self just wants to be part of the imaginary America he personifies." - Jewish Chronicle

About the Author

Sue William Silverman's memoir, Love Sick: One Woman's Journey through Sexual Addiction, is also a Lifetime television movie. Her memoir, Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You, won the Association of Writers and Writing Programs Award for Creative Nonfiction. She is also the author of Fearless Confessions: A Writer's Guide to Memoir, teaches at Vermont College of Fine Arts and is a professional speaker.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  13 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The guts and glory of abuse recovery 13 Mar 2014
By Kathleen Pooler - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
Sue William Silverman took me on her search for identity in her memoir, The Pat Boone Fan Club. With wry humor and brutal honesty, she drew me into her story and kept me suspended in a rapid-fire series of deep reflections into her inner turmoil as a young Jewish girl who struggles to find stability and meaning in her life.

In a soul-baring way, this memoir covers the terror of childhood molestation at the hands of her father, her struggles to find her identity as a young Jewish girl in a WASP school and neighborhood, her two marriages, her journey into sexual addiction in her adult years and her ultimate, hard-earned recovery.

"Swimming like a gefilte fish" is a metaphor for her need to feel normal and fit in with her Christian schoolmates. Her attachment to Pat Boone is a metaphor for the stable, loving father and life she craves. As a squeaky-clean Christian pop star, he is the antithesis of her sexually-abusive father and a symbol of hope for her as she seeks an escape from the pain of her abuse.

Her writing is fluid and engaging. She moves in and out of time frames flawlessly. Her free-flow thoughts through different points of view -as an adolescent, a sexual addict, an adult on the road to self-awareness and recovery-left me feeling deeply connected to her inner chaos and her eventual journey to self. As a reader, I was mesmerized by her ability to bring me deep into her experience and show me the power of resilience in healing from the terrors of abuse. She also helped me to connect with my own memories of a time when Pat Boone was a symbol of stability and strong family values.

Sue William Silverman delivers on her promise to share her life in vivid, gripping detail. Her memoir portrays the guts and glory of abuse recovery.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Journey To The Center of the Self 9 April 2014
By dragon711 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Sue William Silverman grew up in a peculiar paradox: not only was she a Jewish girl in a predominantly Christian, wealthy suburb, she was a victim and survivor of childhood sexual abuse. Her life's journey took her from the West Indies, to the States, to Israel and back again, through moves and marriages. It's fair to say she grew up as a child of wealth and privilege: and continued as a privileged woman. But the wealth and prominence led to a preoccupation with maintaining a perfect public identity for the family and concealing toxic secrets.

Sue searched for a clean-cut Christian father figure: everything her father was not, and yearned to belong to the dominant culture. This yearning for fathering, this yearning to be subsumed into the American mainstream, took root in her paradoxical love for Pat Boone and her love for three Gentile husbands. I enjoyed her story, although her feelings toward Judaism bothered me. Like many Jews of her age and socioeconomic status. Ms. Silverman seems relatively ignorant of Judaism and content to remain so: throughout the book she describes snubbing her Russian-Jewish grandmother, and how her younger self viewed Jewish ritual objects with either horror, fear, or puzzlement at their unfamiliarity, going to a synagogue only a few times in her life. But to be fair to her, her Jewish father was a child molester who abused her and was, needless to say, far from pious in his own behavior.

The most intriguing part of the book, for me, was essentially about Ms. Sue Silverman's quest for discovery. Essentially, she did not know who she was, and this not-knowing led her to look for herself in two different countries, three husbands, and any number of U.S. states. On the way to finding herself, she forms a warm relationship with Pat Boone and discovers his own unexpected connection to Judaism and Israel. Learning to define the self independently, without reference to husbands/children/family/wealth, is difficult for anyone, particularly women in our culture, who are encouraged to denigrate themselves and think only of others' needs. It was especially difficult for Sue, the "gefilte fish swimming upstream". At the end I found myself rooting for her and wanting to be her friend.

My only complaint is her sense of pacing: the chapters are widely disparate in topic and obviously began life as vignettes. And her jumping around in time doesn't help, either. But overall, she is a fine writer, with a great style, and I'd recommend the read. Just brace yourself for the ambiguity. The end is bittersweet: some storms are indeed too fierce to be borne, and she herself notes that she has no children, no more husbands and no close relatives left. Yet she stands tall and strong on her own two feet: Sue Silverman, like her ancestors, is a survivor.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What am I, gefilte fish? 6 Mar 2014
By Alice Graves - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Sue William Silverman has outdone herself with The Pat Boone Fan Club: My Life as a White Anglo-Saxon Jew. This, her latest memoir, is a step outside her narrative comfort zone, written in multiple points of view and formats. There’s the straight narrative, sections directly addressing the Gent[i]le Reader, and even a radio script starring Clark Kent, Lois Lane, and Girl Reporter Sue. As an adolescent, Sue worshipped Pat Boone for his purity, cleanliness (which was next to his godliness) and All-American Christian morality—everything Sue’s child-molesting father was not. In Sue’s mind, Pat Boone could/would rescue her from her life of terror. Sue’s earlier memoirs, Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You and Lovesick: One Woman’s Journey Through Sexual Addiction (later made into a Lifetime Movie), are grittier with a traditional first person narrative throughout. Of course, Pat Boone, who Sue eventually met—twice—is a metaphor for the moral, uncomplicated life she wishes she’d had. And she uses the gefilte fish—certainly not a fish any way you look at it—as a metaphor for Sue’s alienation as a Jewish girl wishing to be a gentile—so normal, refined, with no crazy Russian grandmother in the attic. The memoir describes her adolescence as the only Jew in a WASPy New Jersey suburb, her two marriages, her sexual addiction, and her experience of being present at the shooting of the film of her second memoir, where Sally Preston had a body double for nude scenes, reminding Sue of the danger in which she placed herself and of her vulnerability.

Did I mention that I totally loved this book?
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars She Took Me For a Whirl One Night--It Messed Me Up Inside 5 Aug 2014
By Michael Goodell - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
In the song, "The Road to Bayamon," about a traveling carnival in Puerto Rico, Tom Russell introduces us to Gypsy, who "used to run a little shot-and-a-beer joint/ now she's a jockey on the Astro Ride/ she took me for a whirl one night/. it messed me up inside." That's pretty much the way you'll feel once you've finished Sue William Silverman's disturbed and disturbing memoir. Her work is a manic Astro Ride through shape- and time-shifting voices, visions and competing versions of herself and her grasp of reality. At times a glimpse into the mind and heart of a schizophrenic, at others a searing depiction of a soul, not lost, but never actually found, one ill-served by her parents, who brought her into the world and, apparently, emotionally abandoned her.

Though the subtitle refers to her status as a White Anglo-Saxon Jew, Silverman's story, and her crisis of identity is both broader and narrower than merely feeling different from those around her. Her parents gave her little sense of why she was different, and why that should be valued and embraced. Instead, they seemed content to ignore their faith and their ethnicity. Silverman seems to h ave had trouble doing the same, perhaps because she had no means of attachment to the life her parents led. This was no doubt due to her father's role as a sexual abuser, and her mother's, apparently, as an enabler. While it must be horrible to be sexually abused, it must be worse when your father manifests no outward signs of being a monster. How can you muster the courage to level a charge against him when it is unlikely anyone will believe it. Perhaps you, yourself, begin to question your own veracity. Perhaps it never happened. Perhaps your grasp of reality is just that frail?

That Silverman's grasp on reality was in fact that frail is evident by the maelstrom of voices, tenses and narrative personae she throws at the reader. From first person present to second person past, third person, then back to first, when she breaches the narrative wall to directly address the "Dear Gent[i]le Reader," Silverman invites the reader to strap in on her carnival ride of a memoir.

To be honest, her first person present tense was too painfully present. "It's the past," I wanted to shout at her. "leave it there." The present tense seemed awfully gimmicky, a little too, too, an awful lot of writer's workshop for my taste. But I persevered. I pushed past the gimmickry, I even survived "Prepositioning John Travolta," the chapter in which she illustrated her prepositional confusion. Frankly, that was almost unreadable. But as with some much of the book, this seemingly stream-of-conscious exposition was committed with a purpose. We are given a glimpse inside the mind of someone who has no idea of what her identity is or means. It's a fascinating portrait, as well as being a snapshot of an era.

Her depiction of her long-distance love affair with Pat Boone, not as a predator, but as one who longs for his purity and decency, who envies his children their father, is surprisingly tender. She resists every temptation to mock this squeaky clean parody of the rock and roll legend. She humanizes his decency and avoids the mockery of the self-diagnosed sophisticate. When she meets the star backstage following a concert, Silverman gives us not just a portrait of the star, but for the first time, her own being begins to take shape. We learn there is in fact a there there, and we understand she is beginning to discover that for herself. She is real. She does have an identity.

The Pat Boone Fan Club is a difficult, at times painful, but ultimately reaffirming read. You might wonder why I only gave it four stars (it would have been 3 1/2 if that had been possible). The answer is that five is a rare bird indeed. It's kind of like the first time they gave a "Perfect 10!!!" in Women's Gymnastics. It cheapened it. Now, if a girl doesn't get a 10, she has failed. I wouldn't want to see that happen with my judgment. The only books I would consider awarding five stars are "Growth of the Soil," by Knut Hamsun, and "Birds Without Wings," by Louis de Bernieres, and possibly "A Moveable Feast," by Ernest Hemingway, though only as a work of fiction.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Humor and Honesty Combine to make PAT BOONE FAN CLUB a Revealing and Rewarding Experience 28 Jun 2014
By Book Junkie - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
Let me say that I admire Sue William Silverman for writing this memoir, The Pat Boone Fan Club, so fearlessly. These essays relate to the author's ambivalence (not sure that's the right word: discomfort?) about being Jewish in an Anglo-Saxon world at a time when the lines that separate people ran wider and deeper.

That Pat Boone became her "idol" isn't surprising. He has always appeared a little whiter and brighter than the rest of us, but SWS has more reasons to idolize Pat Boone. Although she doesn't discuss her relationship with her father in this particular memoir,(read Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You) she alludes to his behavior as part of why she fantasized about other fathers, better fathers, especially one who might wear white bucks.

Yet this telling of Pat Boone fandom, fathers, and daughters-in-need-of-escape, is not gloomy. Not at all. There are serious subjects and moments discussed, but all flavored with the author's voice, full of humor and insight. And the essays are often unique in the telling as SWS has a definite love for wordplay.

If you want to read an honest portrayal of one woman's life--or part of her life, there are two more memoirs--then this is a good beginning right here.
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