Annette Dunlap, who has been a contributor to Oops50 in the past, has written a fascinating new book called The Gambler’s Daughter: A Personal and Social History, which weaves together a history of gambling among Jewish people through the ages with her own childhood experiences as the daughter of a compulsive gambler father. The book offers the religious and cultural origins of Jewish gambling as the backdrop for Annette’s father’s own personal history.
Here’s an excerpt that shows both Annette’s command of the English language and her unique and very insightful perspective on life:
“America is a nation of vast contradictions between what we promote as our values and how we actually put those values into action. We like to point to someone who emulates the rags-to-riches newsboy, Horatio Alger, but our preferred national heroes are those who have rapidly accumulated wealth through speculation and a streak of good luck. The American story gives lip service to hard work leading to financial success, but our tax code rewards those who have figured out how to make their money earn them more money” (p. 153).
This quote seems particularly compelling in this election year!
I could go on about the book, but what I really want to talk about is my friend’s courage in writing it.
I’ve known Annette, or “Netty,” since we were in high school together in suburban Maryland in the late sixties.
Back then, she was sometimes not an easy friend to have. She was loud and outspoken, when I was struggling to figure how much of my Southern upbringing I could hold onto and how much I wanted to discard. She used cuss words. She protested things, loudly and without apology, if she saw injustice lurking—from the Viet Nam War to school policies. I remember vividly how she marched up and down the hall outside of the yearbook office yelling her grievances—as I recall, she was upset about the extreme predominance in the yearbook of pictures of “cool” kids—to a completely unsympathetic audience of students passing nervously by her, their newly-formed personalities visibly shuddering from the encounter. But it didn’t faze Netty. She just kept marching.
I wasn’t sure what to make of her—except that I knew I was impressed at how she could do stuff that I would never have the nerve to do.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that she was dealing with things at home that I couldn’t even begin to imagine—her father’s compulsive gambling that had led to overwhelming debt, her mother’s extreme unhappiness and frustration at being forced to carry the lion’s share of the family’s financial burden, and Netty’s own burden of being compelled by her father to be a partner in deceit, when he would make her take his phone calls from creditors and lie to them about his whereabouts.
Granted, it took Netty a while to write this book, but it’s understandable that she had to wait until after her father and her mother were both dead. The important thing is that, once she decided to open herself up to the topic, she dove in. And I just want to salute her incredible courage in deciding to take this very personal journey. So, here’s to you, Netty, a brave and adventurous woman over fifty—and an excellent researcher and writer! Gambler’s Daughter is available on Amazon! Check it out!