A Novel of Old San Francisco
The Desert Dwellers Trilogy, Book One
The Reformer's Apprentice: A Novel of Old San Francisco probes the inner lives of Frieda Levie and her cohorts as the Americanizing West tears them apart and recasts them as Westerners. As I reflected upon the various journeys of the men and women I discovered researching Pioneer Jews, I considered built-up, cosmopolitan nineteenth-century San Francisco as a dramatic jumping-off point for the "urban center to desert oasis" move I had in mind for Frieda. Deliberation ended when I was asked to write an introduction to the memoir of an Arizona Jewish pioneer who brought his San Francisco bride to dishearteningly primitive Tucson in 1870. Augmenting the memoirist's account of grisly pioneer mishaps en route were articles by a Tucson reporter chiding his friend, the bridegroom, for relinquishing freedom for wedlock. Historical fiction at its best edifies the writer, then its readers.
San Francisco, 1875-1880:
Torn between the ideals of her feminist group leader and her traditional Jewish family, Frieda leads a double life: aspiring "Elevated Feminine Spirit" and dutiful boardinghouse cook. When a tryst in the wine shed with an illiterate bartender she was teaching to read results in near rape, shame-ridden, she agrees to marry her father's choice, a compliant boarder. That, or leave her beloved San Francisco for a place that wasn't even on a map, with Bennie Goldson, who'd won her heart, but not her head.
"Harriet Rochlin wrote the colorful social history, Pioneer Jews: A New Life in the Far West. Now she has written this touching novel of Jewish life in 1870's San Francisco." - San Francisco Chronicle
"A charming tale of triple identity and pioneer life, an emphatic declaration of Jewish, Western and Woman. . . . Alternative lifestyles co-exist in the dazzling frontier city of San Francisco. It belongs in all our libraries." - Ellen G. Cole, Association of Jewish Libraries Newsletter
"In her nimble, well-researched narrative, Rochlin combines a romance with a colorful recreation of Jewish life in the American West." — Publisher's Weekly
Roots West Press (1996-2006)
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