A retired Bayside school teacher has released her first book of essays following 20 years of having her writing published in high-profile magazines, newspapers and anthologies.
Ruth Lehrer spent five years writing the 36 essays that encompass “My Book of Ruth: Reflections of a Jewish Girl,” a book she self-published through Author House that was released in April and can now be purchased on Amazon or at Barnes & Noble. The book is also available through the Queens Library.
“It’s a contemplation of my life as a secular Jewish-American woman through a series of stories,” Lehrer said. “It’s a real history, but told strictly from my personal involvement in that history, from the Depression up until the present time.”
Lehrer taught at Bayside’s PS 184 for 47 years before retiring in 1984. Five years later, she published her first essay in The New York Times. Her work has since appeared in Newsday, the Chicago Tribune, Gluten-Free Living, Chicken Soup for the Mom’s Soul, Jewish Currents and TimesLedger Newspapers.
In 2005, she began writing essays for her grandchildren, but was then convinced by friends to write additional pieces and release them as a book. But the process of releasing and publicizing “My Book of Ruth” was one Lehrer took completely on herself without the help of a publisher or agent.
“I didn’t start writing a book,” she said. “I started writing essays for my son and my friends asked to read them. After the sixth or seventh essay, I thought I had the basis for a book.”
Her son, Warren Lehrer, is a professor of graphic arts at Purchase College, but is also a writer. One of his books, “Crossing the Boulevard,” chronicles the lives of immigrants who moved to Queens. Her other son, Brian Lehrer, is the host of WNYC radio’s “The Brian Lehrer Show.”
She moved to Whitestone in 1953 and then, in 1963, to Bayside with her husband, Arthur Lehrer.
Lehrer said responses from people who read the book have been surprising.
“I cannot believe the reaction,” she said. “I was thinking my readers would primarily be elderly Jewish women. But so many people had similar experiences to me — people of all stripes.”
Lehrer said she has received e-mails from readers in South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New Jersey and several other states.
The book’s essays cover a variety of subjects, such as politics, vacations to the Catskill Mountains, Lehrer’s childhood in the Bronx, a Caribbean cruise, religion and retirement.
The author said she did not plan to release a second book, but intended to continue writing essays for publications and anthologies.
“I will always write,” she said. “It’s a part of me and it’s therapeutic. There is always something going on in my head. My subjects choose me.”
Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.