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Cover Art
Author Siff, David.

Title Eleanor's rebellion : a mother, her son, and her secret / David Siff.

Published New York : Alfred A. Knopf, [2000]


Location Call No. Status
 UniM Store  362.734092 ELEA/ SIFF GA01    AVAILABLE
Edition 1st ed.
Physical description 251 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
Summary At the age of forty, David Siff, the author, while searching in New York City archives for documents concerning his early life, discovers by accident and to his total surprise that he was adopted, and that the man he was raised to believe was his father was in fact his stepfather. When David confronts his mother, she at first dissembles; forced finally to reveal the truth, she informs her son that his father was the stage and screen actor Van Heflin. As David begins to explore the lives of his mother and himself, she dies.
Thus begins the powerful and surprising story of the author's attempt to reveal his mother's secret life -- and his own. He recreates the circumstances surrounding his birth. His mother Eleanor, daughter of immigrant Russian Jews, is a beautiful and adventurous rebel: in the 1930s she drops out of high school; she becomes a Young Socialist; she worships Eva Le Galliene, sneaking into rehearsals; she finds her way around the Group Theater -- when she meets an accomplished young actor, Van Heflin. Their affair leaves Eleanor pregnant and Van, who is married, on his way to Hollywood.
With the help of family members she creates a subterfuge: feigning tuberculosis she gives birth away from her parents; she places the child in an orphanage, changes her mind later, and has him accepted in her parents' home as a non-related foster child. Then she marries a man she does not love -- but who loves her -- for the child's sake and he is formally adopted. Her adventurous life turns into that of a homemaker. We see her son turn rebellious and carry on a difficult relationship with his stepfather (shades of Toby Wolffs This Boy's Life). Soon he is living a radical life, as ifcarrying on what his mother was forced to leave off. (His behavior is common to many adopted children, as the author discovered.)
Then David becomes an actor -- a powerful coincidence when he learns that his birth father was an actor, too. Upon this discovery, we see David trying desperately somehow to connect with Heflin -- through his films and the written word -- and with Heflin's family. As David unravels the secrets, his bitterness toward his mother for her lies turns to a profound and moving appreciation of the sacrifices she's made out of love for her son (echoing the powerful mother-son relationship in James McBride's The Color of Water).
A totally engrossing book that comes straight from the heart.
Subject Siff, David.
Siff, Eleanor.
Heflin, Van, 1910-1971.
Adoptees -- United States -- Biography.
Mothers -- United States -- Biography.
Adoption -- United States -- Case studies.
Birthfathers -- United States -- Identification -- Case studies.
ISBN 037540175X