Verdict: MANAGING BUBBIE provides an interesting and inspiring tribute to the author’s strong-willed grandmother.
Attorney and author Russel Lazega blends funny stories about his larger-than-life Miami Beach Jewish grandmother with her historical accounts and additional research of her escape from the Nazi regime.
For years his grandmother (Bubbie is the Yiddish term), Lea Lazega, encouraged him to write about her past, promising him a story that would make him famous and earn him a million dollars. Twenty years after her initial request, Lazega relented and wrote his grandmother’s story with humor, respect, and love.
Born and raised in Poland and no stranger to poverty, Lea later moved to Brussels for a job in a textile mill. “The pay was terrible, the job conditions worse, and the prospects for advancement nonexistent. The offer was irresistible.” She married young, started having babies, and then the trouble began. Forced from their Brussels home, she and her family left all their possessions behind to escape the growing danger to Jews in 1940s Europe. This wandering Jew fled from country to country with her young children (and occasionally her husband), seeking shelter, and ultimately passage to America where she joined her sister.
The historical accounts, which reveal Lea’s strength and determination, often parallel the more recent anecdotes that show the evolution of her earlier qualities into single-minded stubbornness and convoluted logic. The author could have portrayed his grandmother by focusing entirely on her extraordinary history or simply through the anecdotes of her more recent exploits, such as quarreling with relatives, feasting on whitefish, watching televised game shows, and nagging her grandson to find a nice Jewish girl to marry…and write her memoirs, of course. Instead, Lazega finds the common links between the past and present and blends them into an entertaining story of one woman’s life that is part of a much larger picture.
By filling chapters with his Bubbie’s poignant biographical stories from Nazi-infested Europe in the 1940s, humorous anecdotes from more recent years, personal opinions about how families operate, and photographs depicting people from the book, MANAGING BUBBIE provides an interesting and inspiring tribute to the author’s strong-willed grandmother.