Zelda Popkin by Jeremy D. Popkin
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The Life and Times of an American Jewish Woman Writer
Zelda Popkin’s adventurous life could have made her the protagonist of one of her own novels. In his brilliant telling of the story of her life, her historian grandson, Jeremy D. Popkin, has made a singular contribution to the history of American Jewish women in the twentieth century.
From the 1920s when she worked in the highly competitive and male-dominated public relations business to her rise as a million selling author of popular fiction beginning in the 1940s, including some of the earliest fiction on the Holocaust and the state of Israel, Zelda’s life and work documented the rise of American Jewish women. Popkin uses Zelda’s experience to bring to life a larger story of American Jews and American women in the twentieth century, with the vividness that comes from having a lively character at its center. At the same time, this will also be a story about a woman whose powerful personality profoundly influenced several generations of a family. Popkin makes the case that even if she sometimes burnished her stories to create what he calls “legends of Zelda,” she was one of the most articulate female members of the generation of Jews who fought their way into the American middle class during the decades of the 1920s and 1930s.
Zelda’s life is a rich source of evidence about the experience of American Jewish women and offers perspectives that are frequently at odds with analyses based on men’s lives. The story of Zelda, her generation, and its rich and significant legacy will create a compelling portrait and detailed tapestry of an iconic woman and her time.