Biography Wendy W. Fairey One of the Family

ISBN 13: 9780393030938

One of the Family

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9780393030938: One of the Family

This memoir begins with the emergence of a secret. At the age of 46 and five weeks after the death of her mother, the well-known Hollywood columnist and writer Sheilah Graham, Wendy Fairey learned that her true father was the philosopher A. J. Ayer. She had known Freddie Ayer since she was eleven, admiring him far more than her putative father, Trevor Westbrook, the man Sheilah Graham had married to legitimate her baby. This book set forth Fairey's quest to reclaim her father - still alive when she learned his identity - and to come terms with her mother's lie. In a portrait of her own family history and her childhood in Hollywood, Fairey weaves in her mother's history and that of her several "fathers": Sheilah Graham's lover, F. Scott Fitzgerald, her two husbands, Westbrook and a man known as Bow Wow, and Freddie Ayer.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

Fairey's primary (and mild) claim to fame is that her mother was Sheilah Graham, Hollywood gossip columnist and lover of F. Scott Fitzgerald. The interest of this rich memoir, however, is not in its celebrity cast, but in its reflections on the heritage of parents, biological and otherwise. Growing up in Beverly Hills, young Fairey knew that her ostensible father was a virtual stranger who lived overseas and sent monogrammed handkerchiefs every Christmas. Her first brush with a father substitute came when her mother married a football coach nicknamed ``Bow Wow''; Fairey, then ten, hated him. Then her mother began a book detailing her relationship with Fitzgerald, and the flurry of nostalgic obsession caused Fairey to identify the dead author as an intellectual progenitor. But it was not until the aftermath of her mother's death, when Fairey was 46, that she learned that her biological father was in fact famous British philosopher A.J. (``Freddie'') Ayer. Accepting this meant acknowledging that her mother had lied to her all her life. On receiving a letter from Ayer confirming his paternity, Fairey says, ``I felt rescued from my old life...transfigured by Freddie's acknowledgement into someone new and better.'' A London visit with Ayer preceding his death produced for Fairey glimmers of belonging and pangs of loss for not having shared her father's life. Fairey deftly and exhaustively probes her lifelong struggle with a charming but selfish mother, and the effects her parade of fathers had on her sense of self. A graceful and moving personal examination. (Photographs.) -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Library Journal:

This is an extraordinary remembrance of Sheilah Graham (Hollywood columnist for over 30 years and lover of F. Scott Fitzgerald) by her daughter. Fairey weaves an engrossing tale of growing up in a bizarre household where Graham, long separated from her husband, served as mother and father to her two children, whom she adored. Graham spent a lifetime disguising her early years as a Jewish orphan in London. The real revelation for Fairey came after Graham's 1988 death when she learned that her father was not businessman Trevor Westbrook, but English philosopher A.J. "Freddie" Ayer. Fairey exhibits patience and understanding, and her writing reflects neither bitterness nor vindictiveness. Through her process of reconciliation, she helps readers to accept their own family quirks. This well-written and thoughtful memoir is highly recommended.
- Linda Beck, Indian Valley P.L., Telford, Pa.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Fairey, Wendy W.
Published by W W Norton & Co Inc (1992)
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