Who Is the Author of My Memoir?

Forget the thirty-nine titles for the memoir I’m currently submitting to independent publishers, I can’t even settle on the author’s name.

Ahhhhrr. That’s me, dressed up as the MGM lion, saying I’m confused.

My father told the officiating rabbi thirty minutes before my chuppa that I was “christened” Judy Stonehill.

For twenty-six years Stonehill tailed my Judy. One of the reasons I came to Israel fifty-one years ago was to find a nice Jewish name.

Labensohn works in English, but Israeli clerks invariably turn me into a Levinsin or a Lavinson by inserting yuds in various syllables and deleting the dot from the bet.

After I divorced twenty years ago, I was free to change my name, but didn’t. There were enough changes to deal with and bureaucratic issues to settle.  I was not about to add another challenge. “It’s bad enough you abandoned us,” said my daughter. “At least keep the same name.”

Eventually,  she got married and changed her name.  Years later my first-born cut and Hebraicized his name to Lavi. National brit as rite of passage.

My first option for a pseudonym is Judy Steinberg. My father’s name was Steinberg until 1927, when he Americanized it to Stonehill.  But Steinberg was a name his own father had picked up  from some nice Jew in Hamburg who helped Joseph Gyshinsky board a trans-Atlantic boat.

Judy Gyshinsky, my second option. I’ve been rolling that around my tongue for several years, but it still feels too Ukranian for me.

When I’m in a heavily mother-loving mode I think about adapting my beautiful late-mother’s maiden name. Judy Grossman, option three. I could live with that Hungarian name, though I have too much antipathy towards Hungary lately.

Since I’ve been living in Israel for half a century, maybe it’s time to Hebraicize my name. (No, Word Check, not Herbicide).  Throw out Stonehill and Labensohn and become Har Evan. This is a Hebrew translation of Stonehill and Steinberg.  But then I am confronted with the contradiction in having an American first name and a Hebrew last name. “Judy?” Israelis say, looking at me as if I’ve made a mistake. “You mean Yehudit,” they declare, everyone a know-it-all.

It’s probably time to own that contradiction of identities and rename it. Plurality of identities. Wealth of identities. Acceptance of multiple and porous identities. Judy Har Evan. Or Judy Lev. I rather like that last option. It would look good in 16 pt. white Calibri print, boldly covering the bottom third of my memoir’s front cover.

Who’s she? Never heard of her, publicists will say. Not one item on Google. No Facebook. No platform.  Nada. Must be a new Israeli upstart.

No worries. I’m used to being an unknown entity. When I had my winning essay anthologized in In Fact: The Best of Creative Nonfiction (Norton, 2005) and two other college writing texts, I published under the pseudonym Judyth Har-Even (sic).  The publishing world has never heard from her since.

In small print on the back cover of In Fact: The Best of Creative Nonfiction, the publisher describes the book as “A cross section of the famous and those bound to become so . . .”

If you haven’t heard of me yet, wait and wonder if, when Yudit Buckeye’s memoir hits the bookstores, it’s not the same old confused Judy from writeinisrael.com, bound for glory and fame, wearing a new dress.

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About Judy Labensohn

I'm a writer and teacher of writing.
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17 Responses to Who Is the Author of My Memoir?

  1. Nancy says:

    Without a doubt….Judy Stonehill! We are who we are – I am certainly not Annunziata!!!
    Evviva Ludlow Road and Shaker Square (Judy Ludlow or Judy Square??) Baci

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  2. Esther Hecht says:

    Indeed, there are no easy answers. Even trying to figure out whether you are *really* Israeli after more than 50 years in the country is not easy. Who does your gut tell you that you are?

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  3. Steve Hinds says:

    “What’s in a Name?” In my case, “Hinds” was derived from “Hinderstein” according to Cuyahoga County records, in 1926. It turns out Hinds is Irish in origin, which allowed me to join the “Detroit irish-American Club” in the 70’s. In your case, I say whatever you choose, your writings speak for themselves.

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  4. Donadio, Emmie says:

    Dear Judy,

    Been thinking about you all week and glad to read you now!

    I wish I had a suggestion! What about Judy “GIFT OF GOD” [Nathaniel?] in Hebrew??

    Then we could at least claim kinship [through Donadio]!

    The good news is you can remember all the iterations and have maintained your good humor and resilience!

    XOXOX Em [who?]

    ________________________________

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    • I love your reply, Em, as well as your suggestion. I will ponder Judy NatanEl, though as much as I’d love to share a name with you again, NatanEl is a stretch for me. I do seem to have humor and resilience. The humor must be Dad’s gene from the horse thief in his family. The resilience I don’t know where it comes from but I hope it lasts. Let’s talk! xox J

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  5. Jane Arsham says:

    I love this Judy. My chorus that travels to different countries every year is currently in a different country at least it feels very foreign…South Carolina and the Louisiana Bayou where many like you us who don’t know their “real” name.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I loved your writing Judy. I was happy and maybe even a bit surprised to discover that you too have an American-Israeli-Jewish-Women’s name story. Even my simple American first name of Donna became a life-long issue here in Israel. And my husband’s side has a whopper of a story of last names. In my history of knowing you first of all through your writings in The Jerusalem Post it was as Judy Labensohn so that seems very solid for me. However I really feel for your quest for just the right name to put on the cover of your new memoir. I go with the thought that the story will be so good that your name will follow which ever one you choose.

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  7. George Becker says:

    Good, good stuff, Judy! I could read your writing for hours and hours. Judith Wolverine? Shabbat Shalom! Hey, we went to a concert last night, celebrating Israel¹s Big 7-0, and heard David Broza, Maya Isac and Tamar Eisenman. They brought the house down. Know any of them? Love, George

    George A. Becker & Co.

    23802 Duffield Road Cleveland, OH 44122-3111 216.533.3622 (m)

    @GBecker1018 george@gabecker.com LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/georgeabeckerco

    From: WRITE IN ISRAEL Reply-To: WRITE IN ISRAEL Date: Thursday, April 19, 2018 at 8:45 AM To: George Becker Subject: [New post] Who Is the Author of My Memoir?

    WordPress.com Judy Labensohn posted: “Forget the thirty-nine titles for the memoir I¹m currently submitting to independent publishers, I can¹t even settle on the author¹s name. Ahhhhrr. That¹s me, dressed up as the MGM lion, saying I¹m confused. My father told the officiating rabbi thir”

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    • Oh, George. Hours and hours?? Judith Wolverine is a definite stretch, but I appreciate the acknowledgment of UofM. David Broza is as good as it gets. I’ve never heard of the others, but that doesn’t mean anything. Shabbat Shalom and love, J

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  8. Judy Dvorak Gray says:

    “I’m not my name. My name is something I wear, like a shirt. It gets worn. I outgrow it, I change it.”
    ― Jerry Spinelli
    Hmmm. I guess you could kook in the mirror and see what fits best!
    Great post!
    Judy

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  9. Judy Dvorak Gray says:

    Oops–that was supposed to be “look in the mirror”

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  10. Thanks, Judy. Interesting concept – to outgrow your name.

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