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A Portrait of American Mothers and Daughters

A PORTRAIT OF AMERICAN MOTHERS AND DAUGHTERS by Raisa Fastman, NewSage Press, $22.95 (softcover)

Raisa Fastman’s new book of photographs, A Portrait of American Mothers and Daughters is a classic. Here are two excerpts:

When I was six or seven, in the Vienna of my childhood, my parents often left in the early evening for a night at the opera, the concert, or the theater. My mother would come into the children’s room to kiss us Goodnight. As she leaned over me, I would he enveloped by her perfume, her strand of pearls would brush my face, and I would look up at her in admiration, and wonder: Would I ever grow up to be a beautiful, elegant woman like my mother.

Some years ago, my mother, now in her 90s, visited me for a while. I was invited to a party one evening, and before leaving I went to the guest room to wish her Goodnight. As I bent over her bed to kiss her, she looked up at me and said, “You look so beautiful, and you smell so good,” and I saw my strand of pearls brush her cheek.

In this second excerpt, Mora Rothenberg, 22 (pictured here, left, with her mother and sister), muses on having a beautiful mother:

A woman came up and said, ‘Excuse me, I couldn’t help but notice that you are mother and daughter.’ Oh, dangerous joy! People used to often tell us that we looked like each other. My mother would say that she felt complimented by it; but for me, it was both a pride and a burden, for I thought she was beautiful. When we were asked to pose for a photograph, it seemed like an affirmation and an extension of the bond between us. It was a tangible way of expressing it to others; of seeing it captured for ourselves.. Not a day passes when I don’t wish I could talk to her about my life since she died, to ask her things I still don’t know the answers to. Yet some things I know she felt without her ever having told me. I’ll bet that if I asked her now, she’d remember the smile that passed between us when a complete stranger recognized the way that we were related.