Eleanors Rebellion: A Mother, Her Son, and Her Secret

ISBN 10: 037540175X / ISBN 13: 9780375401756
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Synopsis: Eleanor's Rebellion is the extraordinary story of a man who discovered in middle age that almost nothing he had grown up believing about his parents was true.

When at the age of forty David Siff learned--in the first of a series of shocks--that he was adopted, he began a roller-coaster journey into his family's past. He discovered that his biological father was not the man who had raised him, but someone he had never met: the actor Van Heflin. He discovered that he had been born out of wedlock, placed in an orphanage at birth, and subsequently adopted by his own mother. He learned that his mother had not been the contented homebody he had believed her to be. He discovered the ambitions and frustrations of the woman who had given  birth to him--the  adventurous, rebellious young Eleanor, in determined pursuit of a new and better world and an acting career, who suddenly detoured into marriage for the sake of her child. He discovered the roots of his puzzling behaviors, casting his own acting career in a new light.

In his account of the fascinating and rocky process by which he finally came to know his mother--moving from shock to bitterness to an increasingly profound appreciation of her life--David Siff has given us a heartfelt and enriching book.

Review: In 1975, when David Siff was 40 years old, his world turned upside down. Not only was he adopted, he learned, he was adopted by his own birth mother. Eleanor Segal had been forced to place her son in an orphanage for 14 months after his birth, but moved heaven and earth to get him back; when her son was 3, she even married a man she didn't love, just because Benjamin Siff promised to be a good provider and a good father. David's natural father, she told him, was the actor Van Heflin, dead for several years by this time. This bombshell revelation helps explain to the middle-aged Siff the tensions that simmered in his childhood home, and his own difficult behavior as a kid. But it also triggers major disruptions: he resumes the acting career he had abandoned in his 20s, begins drinking heavily, and shoplifts compulsively. His honest, meditative memoir traces a journey toward understanding his mother, a teenage rebel who squeezed herself unhappily into the mold of traditional wife and mother. His own wife and children bear with David during this trying period, and the story ends on an affirmative note, as documents from the Home for Hebrew Infants prove to him that his mother "lost friends, alienated her family, gave up her plans to be an actress ... to make sure she held on to her child. Her devotion to me was absolute." --Wendy Smith

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Title: Eleanors Rebellion: A Mother, Her Son, and ...
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