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The GI Bill Boys: A Memoir by Stella…
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The GI Bill Boys: A Memoir

by Stella Suberman

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Recently added byjennifersoule, TimBazzett

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Let me be honest. I'm a fan of the books of Stella Suberman. Have been ever since I chanced upon her first memoir, THE JEW STORE, about her childhood in the 1920s and 30s as part of the only Jewish family in a small town in Tennessee. And it was, for the most part, a happy childhood, despite the odds against it in those years of rampant anti-Semitism, particularly in the South. Suberman's writing 'voice' is totally unique, a blend of erudite, well-informed and folksy, which, taken all together, is completely charmning. I loved that first book so much that I naturally had to read the next one, another memoir set in the years of WWII which once again charmed - and informed - me with its moving narrative of the early years of her marriage, and how she followed her flier husband from base to base during his training, and then dug in for the long hard wait for him after he'd been deployed overseas. It was called WHEN IT WAS OUR WAR, with the emphasis on "our," because she made it very clear that back then ALL of America made sacrifices and "went to war." Not just the military, as is so sadly the case today. Need I say I loved the second book too?

I've been waiting a few years now, but the third volume of her memoirs is finally here, with the recent publication of THE GI BILL BOYS. And it was well worth the wait. In that same warm and friendly voice, Suberman now tells the rest of her story, first recapping the Depression and War years, and then getting down to business in telling of the postwar years and that wonderful thing called the GI Bill, which gave new starts and professions to millions of young men who before the war had had no jobs and no prospects. Suberman's story is a skillful amalgamation of both personal and national history. There is much here about discrimination against Jews - and black people too - both before, during and after the war. The author admits her own youthful shortcomings in regard to racial bigotry, and how her new husband, from New York City, opened her eyes to such things.

Rationing, breadlines, the McCarthy years and more. THE GI BILL BOYS is in fact a kind of personalized history of the United States from the twenties into the sixties. It's also a book about the importance of family, nuclear and extended. But at the heart of the book is a love story, the story of Jack and Stella, the country girl and the city boy who are still together after more than seventy years; the story of the woman behind the man who slogged through the academic trenches to earn a Ph.D. on the GI Bill, and went on to teach at NC State, and later became a respected dean at Florida Atlantic University. The personal parts brought to mind similar stories from my own days as young husband and father in grad school - all those BYOB and potluck casserole parties. I am confident that Jack Suberman himself would be the first to tell you he couldn't have done it alone. (Me too, Jack.) This is simply a terrific story - educational, interesting, warm and funny. It's History, history that will keep you up late wanting to know what happened next. I loved it! Thanks, Stella. ( )
  TimBazzett | Aug 15, 2012 |
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In her warm and witty new memoir, Stella Suberman charms readers with her personal perspective as she recalls the original 1940s GI Bill. As she writes of the bill and the epic events that spawned it, she manages, in her crisp way, to personalize and humanizes them in order to entertain and to educate. Although her story is in essence that of two Jewish families, it echoes the story of thousands of Americans of that period. Her narrative begins with her Southern family and her future husband’s Northern one – she designates herself and her husband as “Depression kids” – as they struggle through the Great Depression. In her characteristically lively style, she recounts the major happenings of the era: the Bonus March of World War I veterans; the attack on Pearl Harbor; the Roosevelt/New Deal years; the rise of Hitler’s Nazi party and the Holocaust; the second World War; and the post-war period when veterans returned home to a collapsed and jobless economy. She then takes the reader to the moment when the GI Bill appeared, the glorious moment, as she writes, when returning veterans realized they had been given a future. As her husband begins work on his Ph.D., she focuses on the GI men and their wives as college life consumed them. It is the time also of Senator Joseph McCarthy and the “Red Scare,” of the creation of an Israeli state, of the Korean War, and of other important issues, and she discusses them forthrightly. Throughout this section she writes of how the GI’s doggedly studied, engaged in critical thinking (perhaps for the first time), discovered their voices. As she suggests, it was not the 1930’s anymore, and the GI Bill boys were poised to give America an authentic and robust middle class. Stella Suberman is the author of two popular and well-reviewed titles: The Jew Store and When It Was Our War. In its starred review, Booklist called The Jew Store “an absolute pleasure,” and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote that it was “valuable history as well as a moving story.” When It Was Our War received a starred review from Publishers Weekly, and in another starred review, Kirkus Reviews described it as “Engaging . . . A remarkable story that resonates with intelligence and insight.” Mrs. Suberman lives with her husband, Jack, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.… (more)

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