Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Author Debra Ginsberg

When I started this blog in 2003 as an outlet for my observations about waiting tables, a friend, Penny Banks Currie mentioned a book found onthe staff-recommended table at Borders bookstore in Austin, and was further approved by the "fun and unconventional" cafe workers there: Waiting: The True Confessions of a Waitress, by Debra Ginsberg.

Ginsberg's nontraditional family moved from New York, where her father had worked as a waiter, to California, where the family established a pizza parlor. Her father determined that the entire family would become vegetarian. Ginsberg herself took a series of jobs waiting tables—in a upscale country club, in an Indian restaurant, in a beachside diner, in a fine dining establishment—and described each with a delicious combination of a technical writer's precision and dispassionate observation.

Debra Ginsberg has written several other memoirs and some juicy fiction—
  • About My Sisters: a recounting of the journeys and triumphs of her unique family and the closeness of the four sisters. One sister is a professional violinist.
  • Raising Blaze: The tribulations and insights about raising an autistic son.
  • Blind Submission: The protagonist works for a book agent, and gives a stark insight into the not-so-straightforward world of book publishing.
  • The Grift: A peek into the world of fortune-telling and its theatre, and, ironically, how real psychic ability ruins the career of a California fortune-teller.
  • The Neighbors are Watching: A pregnant teen-ager shows up on the doorstep of her father, disrupting the shaky order of their neat California neighborhood.
Ginsberg's writing glints with a sardonic edge and an marvelous precision of execution: entertaining and crisp and accurate. Not quite edgy, but not cozy either.

Everyone has had the experience of first hearing someone's voice, forming an mind's-eye image that turned out to be true to life upon meeting that person. Although Ginsberg and I have never met, her Tarty Queen gallery videos reveal her demeanor to be as I imagined in my mind's eye from her author's "voice." She is also an accomplished and creative baker.

Ginsberg's life and mine have some common elements. We spent the early parts of our lives in New York, where we enjoyed time at resorts in the Catskill Mountains; we are writers (although she is a published book author, and I've just published just a few magazine articles and spent most of my working life as a technical writer); and we both worked at National Park concessions (she, at Yellowstone NP, hated it; I, at Grand Canyon and Olympic NP, loved it). And, of course, we had both had waited tables.

Through her website, several years ago, I ventured a short communication to this accomplished writer. Debra Ginsberg responded immediately. Ginsberg was kind and more candid than I expected a published author to be. At that time, with just two (just two!) books published, she was seeking to expand her writing base. And she has!

Any book by Debra Ginsberg: highly recommended.


Chile said...

I haven't read any of her books other than "Waiting" but that one, along with another author's book ("Nickel and Dimed") were largely responsible for me becoming far more understanding of the importance of good tipping. Both books really opened my eyes to the world of people living in situations and with jobs that barely pay the rent (or week's motel charge). Off to check the library's catalog to see if they have any of Debra's other writings. Thanks for the recommendation!

Chile said...

Darn it; nothing at the library. :(

Waitress from Mensa said...

Yes, Chile, Nickel and Dimed: On Not Making it in America, by experiential journalist Barbara Ehrenriech was the OTHER book recommended and read while I was waiting tables.

Waitress from Mensa said...

@Chile, you can make recommendations at the library. I'd send you my copies, but I read the fiction on Kindle.