Saturday, June 18, 2011

Love, Loss, and What I Wore by Ilene Beckerman

Ilene Beckerman's Love, Loss, and What I Wore is old enough to have already been made into a play written by Nora Ephron and Delia Ephron. But, Beckerman was one of the speakers at the librarians' dinner when I was in New York City, and I found her small book charming.

Beckerman wrote and illustrated this book, the story of her life as told through the clothes she wore. It starts in the 1940s when Ilene was seven years old. Her Brownie uniform is the first dress pictured, and she tells about going to Girl Scout camp with her older sister. The book not only tells the story of Beckerman's life, but also gives glimpses into the culture during those years. In the pages covering the 1940s, she talks about rag curls and listening to her favorite radio shows. There's humor and sadness expressed in short sentences. Ilene was five years younger than her sister. At one point, she mentions they had identical pinafores. "My sister wore a blouse under her pinafore. I didn't have to."

The clothes and hairstyles take Beckerman through her life, one that wasn't always happy. It comes as a shock to read, "The spring after my mother died...." As the book goes on through the 50s, Beckerman grows up. In the '60s, she marries, divorces, remarries, and has her children. The '70s, '80s, and '90s are covered briefly.

Love, Loss, and What I Wore is a fascinating look in to one woman's life, however it's also a reflection of life during those years, and the changes all women face in their lives. According to the reviews, the Ephrons' play was well-received because women could identify with the characters. If you appreciate costume, or the changes in women's lives in the twentieth century, you might want to pick up Ilene Beckerman's account. It's more than just a personal account. It's a poignant look back at a life and a period in contemporary history.

Ilene Beckerman's website is

Love, Loss, and What I Wore by Ilene Beckerman. Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill. ©2005. ISBN 9781565124752 (paperback), 144p.

FTC Full Disclosure - This was part of the gift package at the Librarians' dinner prior to BEA.


Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Interesting way of writing a memoir! I love the idea of it.

Lesa said...

And, it worked, Elizabeth!

Kris said...

I'm with Elizabeth...very interesting way to write a memoir and I admit it sounds wonderful.

Lesa said...

It was an interesting book, Kris. I guess I should have mentioned that Beckerman also did the illustrations for her book.

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