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Writing Group

D. Dina Friedman

DinaI first met Dina when her husband Shel Horowitz and I were on the local NWU steering committee, but I only really got to know her after we both joined Bruce's writing group. Dina's kids are a bit younger than mine. In fact, Rafael, her youngest, now a teenager, was born several years after we'd started the group. I still remember him fussing during our meetings. I admire Dina for having the persistence and discipline to keep writing while caring for an infant and holding down a day job.

Her first book to be published is Escaping into the Night, a young-adult novel about Polish Jews hiding and fighting as a guerilla force against the Nazis during World War II. The second, excerpted below, is about Gus, a boy dealing with the death of his actor-father.

"My Life as I'd Like to Compose It"

coverFrom Playing Dad's Song: D. Dina Friedman, Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2006.

There was no way to win an argument against Liza.

If Liza had a snack after school and left crumbs on the kitchen table, she'd make it seem like it was my mess, even if I hadn't been in the kitchen in three days. She'd remember some cookie I ate and a particular cookie crumb that had rolled out of my mouth, and she'd claim that my crumb reproduced and caused her mess. She'd do it so well that even I'd end up believing her.

But Liza couldn't convince Mom to let her try out for LaGuardia. She'd tried wailing and sobbing, insisting that Mom was spoiling her one chance to be a star, but Mom had just said, "You'll always be a star. Other schools have drama clubs. I want you to get a good education so you can get a better job than I've been able to get." Mom had dropped out of college when she'd met Dad. She kept planning to go back, but it never worked out.

"I'll still go to college," Liza said. "I'll go to Harvard if they let me in."

"You're not going to get in if you don't go to an academic high school," Mom said. "You're too young to throw away your life on acting. Not when you're so smart."

In my life the way I'd like to compose it, I'd be smart too, but not so smart that I'd have all of Liza's problems. May I wouldn't even have a sister. I'd be a champion soccer and basketball player, and I'd have a dog, a golden retriever named Rusty. I'd have a best friend named Sam, and he'd have a dog too, but my dog would be better. Even Sam would think so, because his dog would be one of those slobbery types. My dog would follow me everywhere and do everything I told him to do. He'd sit, roll over, play dead, and come when I called him. We'd live on a farm, far away from tall buildings.

We learned in school that Brooklyn used to be farmland, but it was hard to believe, because there was barely any grass in the entire borough, except in Prospect Park. I just couldn't imagine Brooklyn covered with rolling hills and barns, even though I knew we didn't always have so many sidewalks and buildings. And I knew that things could change quickly—the way one minute the World Trade Center was here, and the next minute it was gone.

We never talked about that at home. Mom let us keep Dad's picture in the living room, and sometimes Liza and I talked about him when Mom wasn't around to hear us. Mom didn't seem to like Dad any better now that he was dead. I thought she might feel sorry for him or something, but I didn't think she did.

In my life the way I'd like to compose it, I wouldn't be the only person I knew who had lost a parent on September 11, 2001. Not only that, if I could compose my own life, September 11 would have never happened. We'd skip that day and go right to September 12. Dad would still be alive, and he and Mom would still be married. They would both be singers, just the way they'd intended to be—Mom in the opera and Dad on Broadway. Dad had been in a lot of Off-Off-Broadway productions, but he'd never made it big. He didn't get much money from singing, so he worked as a waiter in fancy restaurants. He was working at Windows on the World, at the top of the Trade Center, and even though he usually worked at night, he had gone in that morning to work on inventory, so he was there when the plane hit. That was two years ago, but I still thought about it every single day.


Excerpt © D.Dina Friedman | Photo of Dina: ©2005 by Andrew Morris-Friedman
Fish photo credit: Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
© 1999-2007 by Lisa Kleinholz.