Nostalgia is an impoverishing emotion; it robs our memory of all its complexity, writes Louis Rubin Jr. There were no Good Old Days: my father's generation knew that very well. Yet we are our memory, and we exist in Time. RubinÃ”s memories are the basis of his new book, My Father's People (LSU, $22.50, 139 pages ISBN 0807128082).
A noted editor, novelist, teacher and publisher who founded Algonquin Books, Rubin tells his father's story with admirable honesty. Louis Rubin Sr. was the son of parents who ultimately settled in the South, not a region usually associated with Jewish immigrants. His father, Hyman, suffered a heart attack at a young age, rendering him unable to adequately provide for his family. Louis Sr. and two of his brothers were sent to an orphanage for several years, while four other siblings remained at home. Despite their collective rocky childhoods, the Rubin clan developed into talented individuals, and each of the aunts and uncles receives his or her own chapter in the book.
Rubin writes fearlessly of his father, depicting him as something of an egotist, caught up in his own interests, which included weather predictions so precise he was sought as a consultant. My Father's People offers no dewy-eyed reminiscences, but reports the good and bad in each person, leaving us with a family portrait that may very well remind us of our own.