cover image MUSICALLY SPEAKING: A Life Through Song


Ruth K. Westheimer, Dr Ruth K. Westheimer, . . Univ. of Pennsylvania, $19.95 (152pp) ISBN 978-0-8122-3746-7

Despite her tone deafness, says Westheimer, an expert in the field of human sexuality, music has played a significant role in her life. In this touching and frequently witty account, Westheimer describes how particular melodies have been meaningful to her during both sad and happy times. As a 10-year-old Jewish girl in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1938, she was accepted as a refugee in a Swiss orphanage. Although she was spared certain death in Nazi Germany, Westheimer and the other refugees were regarded as second-class citizens by the Swiss and forced to do housework instead of getting an education. One of her outlets during this harsh childhood was to sing familiar Hebrew and German songs with the other children. Play-songs like "Backe, backe Kuchen" (Bake, bake a cake) that she sang while still attending school in Germany link her to the parents she lost in the Holocaust. In the Palestine kibbutz where the author lived after the war, Jewish Agency songs, written in Hebrew, are remembered as the soundtrack to her life. Westheimer loves American musical comedy and also greatly enjoys dancing: she recalls the night she startled the audience by getting up and dancing at an Elton John concert. Even though she admits she's not knowledgeable about composers or music theory, attending classical concerts is powerful and cleansing for her—and she expresses that experience nicely in this heartfelt memoir. (Oct.)