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So They Call You Pisher!: A Memoir

The brilliant family memoir of the much-beloved poet and political campaigner
“If you didn’t know whether to risk doing something, what’s the worst that could happen? ‘So they call you pisher!’”

In this humorous and moving memoir, Michael Rosen recalls the first twenty-three years of his life. Born in the North London suburbs, his parents, Harold and Connie, both teachers, first met as teenage Communists in the 1930s Jewish East End. The family home was filled with stories of relatives in London, the United States and France and of those who had disappeared in Europe.

Unlike the children around them, Rosen and his brother Brian grew up dreaming of a socialist revolution; Party meetings were held in the front room, summers were for communist camping holidays, till it all changed after a trip to East Germany, when in 1957 his parents decided to leave “the Party.” Michael followed his own journey of radical self-discovery: running away to the Aldermaston March to ban the bomb, writing and performing in experimental political theatre, getting arrested during the 1968 movements.

Reviews

  • “In his writing, he puts on no airs; his literary background (English degree from Wadham, Oxford) has not held him up—or back. Sometimes his writing is so simple, you wonder at it: how did he resist the temptation to dress it up? He knows—in his work at least—when to stop.”
  • “The lovely thing about Rosen’s writing is that it is rooted in the reality of his own post-war childhood—you can smell the matzo bray his father makes as a treat when his mother is out, hear the wheels squeak on his go-kart, sense the thrill of him and his 10-year-old friend Mart on holiday climbing the Sugar Loaf mountain and crossing from Wales into England with their trousers down.”
  • “Throughout his career, Rosen has inspired children and adults to fall in love with reading.”

Blog

  • Reconceptualizing Family History

    "Frustrated by the fact that most texts on women treated 'the man's world' as the given and then simply asked where and how women fitted in," Stephanie Coontz writes, "I decided to undertake a survey of American gender roles: that was the starting point of the present book" — The Social Origins of Private Life: A History of American Families 1600–1900, published by Verso in 1988.


    Unidentified African American soldier in Union uniform with wife and two daughters, c. 1863-65. via Wikimedia Commons.

    As the focus of her research shifted from "woman's private sphere" to the family as a larger arena in which the public and private intersect, Coontz became more attentive to the diversity of household arrangements across time and space. "Stimulated by the burgeoning research into family history," she writes, "I began to look at the family as a culture's way of coordinating personal reproduction with social reproduction — as the socially sanctioned place where male and female reproductive activities condition and are conditioned by the other activities into which human beings enter as they perpetuate a particular kind of society, or try to construct a new one." 

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  • Reconceptualizing Family History (Part II)

    Continued from part I.


    Detail from Francis William Edmonds' The New Bonnet (1858).

    The Limits of Structural and Demographic Analysis

    Although it is important to compare demographic trends and household structures and seek their economic correlates, such procedures yield only limited information about the history of families. Olga Linares points out: “Qualitative changes in the meaning of interpersonal obligations may be as important in distinguishing among household types as more easily measured changes in size and form.” Indeed, as Barrington Moore Jr has commented, tabulating structural differences “necessarily involves ignoring all differences except the one being measured.” Changes in social relations and patterns are not “reducible to any quantitative differences; they are incommensurable. Yet it is precisely such differences that matter most to human beings.”47

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