The first great irony of my life was that I was born in a Catholic hospital. My parents, survivors of the Holocaust, had settled in the South Bronx among other new immigrants. My mother was apparently so nervous she barely slept the entire time she was in the hospital, fearing her fair-skinned,... show more
The first great irony of my life was that I was born in a Catholic hospital. My parents, survivors of the Holocaust, had settled in the South Bronx among other new immigrants. My mother was apparently so nervous she barely slept the entire time she was in the hospital, fearing her fair-skinned, blue-eyed newborn would be switched with another baby. When my paternal grandfather, an observant Jew, came to see his newest granddaughter in the hospital, he was so uncertain of how to behave around the kindly nuns that he tipped his yarmulke to them each time one passed. It was in this haze of paranoia and neuroses, as well as black humor, that the makings of a writer were initiated.In the mid-fifties, my family moved to Washington Heights, an enclave for German Jews, known as 'Frankfurt-on-the-Hudson.' The area offered scenic views of the Hudson River and the Palisades, as well as access to Fort Tryon Park and the mysteries of the Cloisters. I graduated from George Washington High School. Among its famous graduates was Henry Kissinger, former US Secretary of State (my grandmother played cards with his mother at the YMWHA on Nagle Avenue). I graduated from high school at sixteen, went on to Bronx Community College, transferred to and graduated from Herbert H. Lehman College with a B.A. in English and a New York State license to teach English. I earned my M.A. in Literature from New York University and later my M.S. as a developmental specialist from Yeshiva University. I have worked as a high school English teacher, a special education teacher, and as a learning disabilties specialist in several college programs.Reading was the first line of defense against anything I did not want to do. 'I'm reading,' was an excuse my parents never challenged. Education was paramount in our home. There were weekly trips to the library, and the greatly anticipated Friday afternoon story hour. Everything about words seemed interesting and important.. I could make sense of the world if I put it on paper. I could even make the world better; people could become smarter and more attractive, and I could make people laugh and cry at will. Writng was powerful. I thought in stories, answered questions in my head and added, 'she said' at the end of a sentence. I still do. My first novel , Strictly Personal, for young adults, was published by Fawcett-Juniper. Willing Spirits was published by William Morrow. My most recent novel, The Sinner's Guide to Confession, will be published by Berkley Putnam on July 1, 2008. In March 2008, Berkley Putnam will issue the first paperback publication of Willing Spirits. Phyllis Schieber lives in Westchester County, New York She works privately with students, teaching writing, and is currently working on a new novel.