Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Smartest Woman I Know: Review and Giveaway

Growing up in NYC, I had wonderful friends, many of whom were Jewish. During my years in junior high school, I often accompanied my Jewish friends to their grandparents' apartments after school, where I was treated to delicious snacks such as ice cold grapefruit soda and pretzel rods. Although I was a Gentile, I was always made to feel welcome, especially by their grandmothers, who offered me encouragement as I grew into a young woman, and I began to wish I had my own Jewish grandmother. (My own grandmothers were Armenian; one was loving and the other was hypercritical.) The Smartest Woman I Know is an ode to Jewish grandmothers everywhere, and to one in particular.

"THIS STORY IS MOSTLY about Ettie, all 4'10" of her. She was one of the smartest women I ever knew, even though she never made it past the third grade."
~The Smartest Woman I Know, Ilene Beckerman

While growing up in the late 1940s, author Ilene Beckerman lived with her grandmother, Lillie, nicknamed Ettie, and her grandfather, "Mr. Goldberg", for six years, while her older sister, Tootsie, lived with them for a year (until she got married). During this time, Ettie continued to work seven days a week at Goldberg's candy and stationery store, and Ilene, called Gingy, experienced firsthand the guidance and practical wisdom of her grandmother (''what you put in your stomach will make you feel better than what a man with a beard and an accent tells you about your mother"), which is lovingly shared in this funny, charming book. The Smartest Woman I Know features clever illustrations and photos, and is a lighthearted tribute to the author's grandmother. It brought back good memories from my own school days in NY--I love the city and always will. In my neighborhood in NY, we had a popular candy store called Stein's (not far from the pizza shop), that I visited all the time for red licorice rolls, LifeSavers, chocolate wafers, and other goodies (memory's selective--I mostly remember the candy, but they also carried other items, maybe even stationery like the store in the book). This book felt familiar and warm, and I spent part of a leisurely afternoon savoring it, and thinking quietly about my own past.

Terrific news! The publisher, Algonquin, is very generously offering a giveaway of this book to three lucky readers (U.S./Canada only).

  • To enter this giveaway, simply leave a comment.
  • For another chance at winning, become a follower of this blog, or let me know that you're already a follower, or that you subscribe in Google Reader.
  • For an additional chance, post about this contest on your blog, Facebook, or Twitter.
  • For one more chance at winning, tell us about a smart woman you admire in your own life.

Enter by 5PM PST on Monday, November 7. Three winners will be randomly selected and announced on Tuesday, November 8. Good luck!

Special thanks to Lisa from TLC for sending me this book. For more reviews, please visit TLC's book tour for The Smartest Woman I Know.


  1. Thank you for offering the contest.


  2. Having worked in a home for elderly Jewish people I think I'd love this book as well, many thanks for the recommendation and good luck to all who enter your giveaway.

  3. What a wonderful review of a wonderful book! I thought Ettie was a delight! No need to enter me.

  4. I would love to read this one and get the chance to experience these wonderful little nuggets of wisdom from a Jewish grandma! I loved your review on this one, it was warm, wonderful, and reverent. Please do enter me in your giveaway, and thanks for hosting it!


  5. Your comments brought back some wonderful memories of my own grandmother.

    reading_frenzy at yahoo dot com

  6. awwww....this sounds so sweet. Grandma's are the best. Like the authors, neither of mine made it past a few years of grade school, but the wisodm they passed onto me has never left me after all these years.

  7. This is something I'd definitely love to read.


  8. This sounds like a great book! I love wisdom passed on by grandmothers.


  9. What a treat that this book brought you back to those wonderful memories of your childhood! I'm so glad you decided to read this one. :)

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.

  10. A 4'10" grandma sounds like a lil huggable bundle of joy. Books that remind us of our childhood/past are always special.. have a great weekend.

  11. Hey Suko!

    I just ran across your blog and decided to contact you about my new philanthropic organization called Gone Reading International.

    We market a line of gifts for readers and donate 100% of company profits to fund new libraries in the developing world. You can read more about us at

    Any chance you can mention us in your blog???

    We’re finding that readers love what we’re doing, but spreading the word on a philanthropic budget is a challenge! Let me know what you think, and thanks in advance for your time.



    P.S. If doing a simple link swap works better for you, that’s certainly fine by me. Just let me know!

  12. Brad, I'll add a link to your site to my blog's sidebar.

    Thanks for all the comments. More are welcomed!

  13. This sounds like very moving book-I really enjoyed hearing an account of your younger days in NYC.

  14. I Like the way you spoke of your experience with jewish grand-mothers and what you wrote about this book : I hope every body had such grand-mothers ! Mine was very different : one kind but a little distant, the other one made crazy all the family during 95 years !

  15. You rock, Suko! Thanks for all of your help in promoting our cause!!

  16. I love books about grandmothers and this sounds like a very good book. I had a lot of smart women in my life, but my Great-Grandma Kile had the most words of wisdom and also the most loving heart.



  17. This sounds like a charming book! No need to enter me; just wanted to read your thoughts.

  18. Thank you for the giveaway. This book sounds wonderful!

    ceeenndee at gmail dot com


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