Monday, June 28, 2010

One expat eyes another, 100 years in the past

Immersing myself in the late 19th and early 20th century life of a bourgeois Jewish woman in San Francisco might seem like a strange thing to do while living in Istanbul, but I jumped on the chance to investigate little-known writer Harriet Lane Levy for California magazine.

Though at first I found it hard to relate to the cloistered childhood she depicts in her autobiography, I became fascinated by how someone who grew up in such a small, closed-off world could make the leap to a larger one – and eventually saw some similarities to my having caught the travel bug so badly when no one else in my family even has a passport. My expatriate life is pretty different than what we know of Levy's – more cheap beers with fellow journalists in dive bars and fewer swanky soirees in famous artists' ateliers, and, of course, no family wealth to live off – but the journey into the past provided worthwhile insights.

My article on Levy, “An Independent Existence,” appears in the Summer 2010 issue of California, part of the theme of "Shelf Life."

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