Brenda Serotte has penned a moving memoir of her childhood in the Bronx. The title refers to her paternal grandmother, Nona Behore, renowned for her skill in reading fortunes in Turkish coffee grounds.
Serotte’s childhood was dominated by her bout with polio. Despite participating in a clinical trial of the vaccine, Serotte contracted polio in the late summer of 1954, the last U.S. epidemic of this terrible disease. Prior to contracting polio, young Brenda had a difficult relationship with her mother; being a “polio” did not help. And much of the focus of this book is Brenda’s relationships with her family. She adored her handsome father. She had close relationships with many relatives which were formative for her.
Brenda recalls fondly her early years growing up near the Grand Concourse. Although her Sephardic Jewish family had little to do with their Ashkenazic neighbors, Brenda had friends of all religions and ethnicities. Until she contracted polio, Brenda was a happy, outgoing little girl.
Months in the hospital and in rehab separated Brenda from her friends, and she poignantly describes the shunning she receives from her former friends upon her return to the family home.
My only quibble with this book is that it could use a better editor. Some of the writing seems awkward. Numerous times I had to flip back a few pages to see who or what Serotte was writing about.
Published in hardcover-University of Nebraska Press-2006
Softcover edition-University of Nebraska Press-2012