The Only Woman in the Room: A Memoir

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9784770021458: The Only Woman in the Room: A Memoir

The Only Woman in the Room is a vivid and very personal account of one woman's life in Europe, prewar Japan, and the United States. As the daughter of renowned Russian pianist Leo Sirota, Beate Gordon grew up in the cosmopolitan world of the concert tour, then settled in Japan in the 1930s.During World War II, while her parents remained in Japan under secret service surveillance Gordon lived alone in the United States, monitoring Tokyo Radio in five languages for the government and later writing radio propaganda.She recounts her dramatic reunion with her parents in Tokyo, where she worked in General MacArthur's headquarters, and evokes the postwar suffering in defeated Japan. Her intimate description of helping draft the women's rights section of Japan's new constitution is an astonishing record of history in the making.On returning to the States in 1947, Mrs. Gordon became a cultural impresario, bringing artists, dancers, writers, and musicians from all over to the United States. Her adventures in search of performing artists in such remote and exotic places as Mongolia, Tibet, India, and Indonesia make for hilarious and sometimes hair-raising anecdotes.The Only Woman in the Room can be appreciated on many levels -- armchair travelers, feminists, history buffs, and readers who appreciate a well-written memoir will all find Beate Gordon's extraordinary life a riveting read.

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About the Author:

Beate Sirota Gordon was born in Vienna in 1923, the daughter of Leo Sirota, the piano virtuoso, and Augustine Horenstein. She now lives in New York City and Amagansett.

In recognition of her cross-cultural achievements, she received the 1997 Avon Grand Award to Women.

From Kirkus Reviews:

Gordons memoir fails to convey the passion and excitement of her extraordinary life. As the only daughter of world-famous Russian pianist Leo Sirota, from a young age Gordon was launched on a brilliant cosmopolitan trajectory. Her earliest experiences of Europe's reigning cities and a flashing cultural elite promised the girl a heady future. According to her, however, the most important aspect of Gordon's youth was her extensive expatriate stint in Japan, where her family fled shortly before WW II, alarmed by mounting European anti-Semitism. Although she left for the US during the war, Gordon returned to Japan once WW II had ended, working as a civilian in General MacArthur's Tokyo office and assisting with the writing of the Japanese constitution, which laid the framework for postwar life in that nation. She was mandated to research and draw up the part of the constitution which altered the status of women in a society where, until then, none had ever enjoyed a bona fide legal status. The constitution also ensured education for all people in a country that in some respects remained fundamentally feudal. Gordon ably conveys the historic significance of her undertaking, while giving short shrift to personal insights. Her style hides the writer from us, muffling the excitements of her intercontinental, multi-lingual rovings. The book is also hampered by Gordon's disconcerting decision to tilt forward and backward in time, creating an uncomfortable distance between the then and the now of her story. When she took up residence in New York in 1947, Gordon by no means abandoned her unusual cultural expertise and training. Instead, she assumed a leading role in bringing the arts of Asia to an American audience and traveled, consorting with emperors, gurus, and koto players. Too bad her tale largely fails to take leave of the page. (36 b&w photos, not seen) -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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