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Our Golda Summary

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

David A. Adler’s Our Golda: The Story of Golda Meir is a biography of Israel’s famous prime minister. Adler did not know Meir or her times personally, but he obviously admires her. His admiration adds a warmth to the text that is often missing from biographies of important but distant personages. The reader is drawn in closer yet by the soft black-and-white pencil illustrations by Donna Ruff. The twelve drawings of Meir and her family and compatriots help put a human face on the legend.

Meir’s story is told chronologically, with little dialogue or description. The emphasis is always on describing events and giving information, not on putting the reader at the scene. Each of the book’s five chapters is named for a different part of the world where Meir lived out an important stage in her development. The first chapter, “Kiev,” shows the strength of Meir’s parents and grandparents, who lived in poverty and oppression because they were Jews. This chapter provides an excellent overview of the hardships faced by Russian Jews in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; Adler understands the power of the truth simply told, without dramatics. Golda Mabovitch is only the second of her mother’s first six children to survive. Her father leaves Russia for the Golden Land—the United States—to establish a better life for his family.

In the second chapter, the remaining family members are forced to move to Pinsk, within the Pale of Settlement for Jews. Life is even harder here, and the threat of pogroms is always present. As Golda grows up, she overhears and is fascinated by the planning of groups of Zionists. The third chapter, “Milwaukee,” covers the harrowing journey to the United States to join her father and follows Golda’s formal and informal education as a schoolgirl and as a Zionist. She struggles under her parents’ old-fashioned demands and their inability to understand her desire for education. They believe that education is wasted on a woman and that at fourteen Golda ought to be thinking of marriage. At fifteen, she runs away to Denver, where her older sister Sheyna lives, and becomes involved in Zionist activism. She meets Morris Meyerson, whom she will later marry.

The fourth chapter, “Palestine,” shows Golda and Morris settling on a kibbutz in Palestine, their name Hebraized to “Meir.” Golda becomes more and more involved politically, especially with labor issues, and less involved with her husband and children. She travels throughout Europe and North America seeking support for a Jewish state and refuge for Jews fleeing Nazi persecution. In 1947, the United Nations votes to partition Palestine into an Arab and a Jewish state. The fifth chapter is titled “Israel,” and it begins with war against the Arab nations. Golda Meir again travels to North America, returning with millions of dollars for weapons, which help Israel prevail. She signs the Israeli Declaration of Independence, becomes minister of labor and then foreign minister, and retires in 1965. In 1969, Meir is elected prime minister, and she serves in that position through the Six-Day War, until her second retirement in 1974.

In Our Golda, Adler brings together several skills and interests demonstrated throughout his career, which has produced more than one hundred books for children and young adults: The book is nonfiction, features a strong female central character, and presents an important part of Jewish history and culture. These elements come up repeatedly in Adler’s work and help account for the continuing popularity of this biography.

For Adler, the line between fiction and nonfiction is a clear one. He stands at a respectful distance from his subject, presenting only information that he can somehow verify. He was not able (or did not seek) to interview family members or to examine private family documents. He is not himself a contemporary, able to recount his own sensations of the terror of the pogroms or the Holocaust. Most...

(The entire section is 1,452 words.)