Asylum, a Memoir of Family Secrets
DescriptionHow much do we really know about the lives of our parents and the secrets lodged in their past? Judy Bolton-Fasman's fascinating saga, Asylum: A Memoir of Family Secrets, recounts the search for answers to the mysteries embedded in the lives of her Cuban-born mother, Matilde Alboukrek Bolton and her elusive, Yale-educated father, K. Harold Bolton. In the prefatory chapter, "Burn This," Judy receives a thick letter from her father and conjectures that the contents will reveal the long hidden explanations, confessions, and secrets that will unlock her father's cryptic past. Just as she is about to open the portal to her father's "transtiendas," his dark hidden secrets, Harold Bolton phones Judy and instructs her to burn the still unopened letter. With the flick of a match, Judy ignites her father's unread documents, effectively destroying the answers to long held questions that surround her parents' improbable marriage and their even more secretive lives. Judy Bolton, girl detective, embarks on the life-long exploration of her bifurcated ancestry; Judy inherits a Sephardic, Spanish/Ladino-speaking culture from her mother and an Ashkenazi, English-only, old-fashioned American patriotism from her father. Amid the Bolton household's cultural, political, and psychological confusion, Judy is mystified by her father's impenetrable silence; and, similarly confounded by her mother's fabrications, not the least of which involve rumors of a dowry pay-off and multiple wedding ceremonies for the oddly mismatched 40-year-old groom and the 24-year-old bride. Contacting former associates, relatives, and friends; accessing records through the Freedom of Information Act; traveling to Cuba to search for clues, and even reciting the Mourner's Kaddish for a year to gain spiritual insight into her father; these decades-long endeavors do not always yield the answers Judy wanted and sometimes the answers themselves lead her to ask new questions. Among Asylum's most astonishing, unsolved mysteries is Ana Hernandez's appearance at the family home on Asylum Avenue in West Hartford, Connecticut. Ana is an exchange student from Guatemala whom Judy comes to presume to be her paternal half-sister. In seeking information about Ana, Judy's investigations prove to be much like her entire enterprise--both enticing and frustrating. Was Ana just a misconstrued memory, or is she a still living piece of the puzzle that Judy has spent her adult life trying to solve? Readers will relish every step and stage of Judy's investigations and will begin to share in her obsession to obtain answers to the mysteries that have haunted her life. The suspense, the clairvoyant prophecies, the discoveries, the new leads, the dead-ends, the paths not taken--all capture our attention in this absorbing and fascinating memoir.--Judy Bolton-Fasman "Publisher"
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About the Author
Author boldly goes against her dead father's wishes to uncover his true identity!In her new memoir, Judy Bolton-Fasman investigates lifelong questions on the strange union between her assimilated American dad and her much-younger mom, a volatile Cuban refugee
When Judy Bolton-Fasman was in graduate school in the mid-1980s, her father sent her a thick letter. But just as she was about to open the envelope, he called and told her to burn it immediately.
The eldest of three children stemming from the improbable union of a stoic, highly-assimilated Yale University graduate and World War II US Navy officer and an emotionally volatile Jewish refugee from Revolutionary Cuba 17 years his junior, Bolton-Fasman had found confusing peculiarities about her parents' marriage since she had been a child.
Torn between her curiosity to know the secrets her ill father might have revealed, and her loyalty and fear, Bolton-Fasman chose to follow instructions. She dropped the envelope into a metal wastepaper basket and set it alight.Three-and-a-half decades later, Bolton-Fasman, 60, has collected evidence revealing what may have been written in that unread missive. Although she can only speculate as to what her father might have wanted to tell her, she is certain that she has a better grasp on the mysteries of her father's life, and of her parents' unlikely marriage.Bolton-Fasman shares her memories and conjectures in a new memoir, "Asylum: A Memoir of Family Secrets," published in August. The book is her way of coming to terms with the transtiendas (the Spanish word her mother used for secrets, but literally meaning a "backroom") that permeated her childhood home and accompanied her into adulthood. "I call this a 'speculative memoir, '" said the author. "Facts and speculation come together and yield the truth.""I believe the mystery of my parents' marriage was related at least in part to the things my father never told us. He wanted the secrets to die with him, and he took them to his grave," Bolton-Fasman said in an interview with The Times of Israel from her home in Newton, Massachusetts.Bolton-Fasman's memoir takes its title from the street on which she grew up in West Hartford, Connecticut: Asylum Avenue. The "name had connotations of refuge and madness. In those matters, the address did not disappoint," she wrote.