Arts in New York City: Baruch College, Fall 2008, Professor Roslyn Bernstein
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Samuel G. Freedman

Samuel G. Freedman

On November 25th, our IDC class had the honor of meeting a famous writer and journalist, Samuel G. Freedman. From the start, he approached the class in a comfortable and caring way. He had a newspaper deadline and was running late, but “decided to risk it” just to visit our class.

Possibly the most interesting thing about Freedman’s most recent book, Who She Was is that he did not omit any details, however personal or uncomfortable they might be. He wanted to recover her past and her life as a young woman.  “I knew who she became, but I didn’t know how she became.” Writing this book became an act of penance, making up for not being a better son while she was alive.

Freedman told us his major belief about life. He believes there is a periodic table of human nature and that everything in the material world can be broken down in a finite number of elements. No matter what happens in the human world, everything in human existence breaks down into love, hate, disappointments, and ambitions. Those things don’t go out of style. It is a part of the human experience.

His advice is to try to find out everything you can about the person you want to write about, and use all the sources you can. Primary documents, secondary documents, everything. True to his advice, Freedman, before interviews said there’s nothing that will shock him, nothing he can’t handle. And this is how he found his mother’s candid portrait. Even her sexuality, and the important role it played until the end of her life, when even on her death bed she refused to get a vasectomy because it was part of her life force. “To omit that would be rendering her truthfully.” That is something very personal, to his mother and only her family, but he felt that if he didn’t mention such an important detail of her life, he wouldn’t be painting an accurate picture.  In other words, he approached this book and the research it asked for, as a true journalist, making it objective. This is not something many writers can do.

“The arrogance of being a writer is to feel like its important enough to put it out to the world”-is the reason he decided to publish such a personal book. She would’ve felt proud that her life was worthy of a book. She would’ve felt satisfaction that her son would want to spend 3,4 years of his life devoted to her.

Samuel G. Freedman is an interesting fellow, while doing his job as a writer and publishing books, he attempts to, in a way, bring her back to life. Matching up to his persona, his books are as interesting as he is.