I’m leaving my world of motherhood and children. My busy, safe, laughter-filled, tear-stained, milk-spilling world, to have dinner at Rutgers University and meet my favorite author. Dr. Chaim Potok. My copy of his book My Name is Asher Lev is well worn. I hope I will think of something important to ask him and the group of professors and scholars seated at my round table for 10 at Hillel. I hope I will not automatically cut up his food into bite-size pieces.

My first book, Ike and Mama and the Once-a-Year Suit, has been accepted for publication. After five years of rejection letters, I am entering a new world, a literary one. I’m like a stranger in Egypt. I’m a mother moving on in my life, leaving my children behind, if only for a day. Dinner discussions at my house involve lines like this:

“She’s looking at me! Make her stop.” Or, “She’ll take the biggest piece.” Whereupon I become Solomon of the Cake Servers.

Tonight’s dinner conversation involves real war and peace, and scholarly interpretations of the Bible. It’s a foreign language to me. I don’t understand. I don’t contribute. And here is my favorite author, seated next to me.

But then, perhaps because I am the only female at the table, the platter of chicken is placed before me to be served. My tongue becomes untied. I am on familiar ground. I speak for the first time to the awesome author and scholar.

“Dr. Potok?” I say, turning to him. “I have a very important question for you.” I hesitate a moment.


Everyone is listening. Then I ask, pointing to the platter of chicken with a serving fork. “Do you want dark meat or light?” He smiles and laughs and says, “Either.”

The ice is broken. We are all on common ground and talk as humans to each other. I am no longer a stranger in Egypt.

Carol Snyder lives in New York City and has written 14 books for young readers, including the Ike and Mama books, and God Must Like Cookies, Too (Jewish Publication Society). She is also an illustrator and artist.