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Memoir by Jean Zipp

These letters from great-grandmother Jean to great-granddaughter Ayla not only illuminate Jean Zipp’s life but also supply a vivid documentation of twentieth-century American life.

Windows: Letters to Ayla demonstrates how revisiting one’s memories can spark and kindle a surge of previously “forgotten” details. Jean smells Grandmother’s bread, recalls cookies locked in the fruit cellar, purrs with the cats in the sun room, and plays with cousins in the cement-and-grass strip driveway. She celebrates life’s complexities, without denying us the true and sometimes dark details of the world.

What were the Roaring Twenties like for a child in an Ohio steel mill town? Aunt Marcy’s flamboyant dresses and record collection; relieving summer heat by splashing in a laundry tub to the rhythm of Mother’s piano music; running after ice flakes as the ice man chipped the block in his truck; an electrifying live Rachmaninoff recital; diphtheria, fatal peritonitis, and large red quarantine signs on neighborhood doors.

What was the Great Depression like for an adolescent girl? Helping Father tally shoe store chits (notes akin to food stamps); Mother taking on extra piano lessons; helping young women with a place to stay and housekeeping work; no longer the glow from the blast furnaces with the mills shut down; and still Shirley Temple, Tarzan, Fred and Ginger at the weekly matinées where the chorus lines sang, “Happy days are here again.”

Cleveland, Youngstown, the East Coast, Palo Alto, Colorado Springs, San Diego, Tucson—Jean’s life has been a cycle of moves, desire to conquer boredom with meaningful work, and unforeseen serendipities. Her sensitivity to art, color, texture, and space mirror her insights into life. Her education in literature (Mother’s library book lists; meeting Robert Frost in her college poet’s circle; adult writing groups; reading blue books for a blind literature professor) enables her to communicate eloquently and entertainingly the stories of her life.

Like the name she coined for the tactile art gallery she helped create, Eyes of the Mind, Jean looks into life’s challenges and enigmas to find blessings and understanding. In reading these letters, we find a feeling of peace in an imperfect world.

JEAN ZIPP’s passion for books and reading inspires her magical yet rooted prose and poetry. Born in Cleveland and raised in Youngstown, Ohio, she studied literature at Miami University and has led a multifaceted life: wife of a serviceman, mother, toy store owner, interior designer, volunteer for the blind. Jean lives in Tucson, Arizona.


Cleveland Home.pdf

The Gift Outright.pdf

Gimme Shelter.pdf


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May 3, 2014 A Word’s Worth Review:
... It's a chronicle about life in a Russian Jewish family that begins in Cleveland, Ohio and takes the reader on Jean Zipp's odyssey from the East Coast to the West Coast, as she lives an ordinary, yet extraordinary, life during some of America's toughest seasons: the Great Depression, WWII, the Holocaust, and a tense period of anti-Semitism.

... Zipp has created a memoir of a survivor who has left a large piece of herself behind for her great-granddaughter and for those of us who enjoy reading accounts of memoirists who preserve history by writing about their extraordinary lives in skilled narratives. She has used her memories, experiences, and her imagination to shape a moving and unforgettable narrative. . . .” Read the Full Review