Lore Segal (born March 9, 1928), née Lore Groszmann, is an Austria born is an American novelist, translator, teacher, short story writer and author of children's books, currently living in New York City. Her book Shakespeare's Kitchen was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2008.
An only child, Segal was born in Vienna, Austria, into a middle-class Jewish family, her father a chief bank accountant and her mother a housewife. When Hitler annexed Austria in 1938, Segal's father found himself jobless and threatened. He listed the family on the American immigration quota, and in December that year Segal joined other Jewish children on the first wave of the Kindertransport rescue mission, seeking safety in England. Her number was 152. Before they parted, Segal's father told her, "When you get to England and meet an English person, say, 'Please get my parents and my grandparents and my Uncle Paul out.' " Segal undertook this task with a youthful gravity."It seemed to me that it was something I should be doing constantly, constantly. That I should be doing without doing anything else...When I caught myself laughing, I would feel a shock to the heart that I was laughing instead of asking somebody to save my parents," Segal said in an interview.
Though Segal knew little English when she arrived, she picked up the language in six weeks. She campaigned tirelessly, writing letter after letter to the Jewish Refugee Committee and various British authorities. The day she turned eleven years old, her parents arrived in England on a domestic servants visa.
Her English foster parents never seemed to understand the situation in Austria, and one day, tired of their irrelevant questions, Segal found a purple notebook and started writing, filling up all thirty-six pages in German. It was the beginning of a novel she would eventually write in English, Other People's Houses.
"One thing to do when you leave your parents is to howl with horror," Segal said in an interview. "The other thing is to not howl and think, 'Wow, I'm going to England, this will be an adventure.' Which is the one I did."
Despite his refugee status, Segal's father was labeled a German-speaking alien and interned on the Isle of Man where he suffered a series of strokes. He died a few days before the war ended. Segal then moved to London with her mother. She attended Bedford College for Women, part of the University of London, on a scholarship and graduated in 1948 with an honors degree in English literature. In 1951, after spending three years in the Dominican Republic, their American quota number came through. Segal and her mother moved to Washington Heights, New York City, where they shared a two-room apartment with her grandmother and uncle.
When they arrived in the United States, Segal and her mother started speaking to each other exclusively in English.
Segal worked as a file clerk and later as a receptionist. By this time she was writing constantly, to a degree that interfered with her work. "When I would come in to take dictation, I would ask, 'Can I just finish this sentence?' And then I got fired," Segal recalled. Her next job, working as a textile designer, at least brought her close to the New York Public Library.
She started submitting stories about her refugee experience to The New Yorker and receiving rejection letters in return. A section of memoir appears in "The New Yorker" in the July 22, 1961 issue. In 1965, Commentary published her first story. When she next submitted a story to The New Yorker, she included a note, saying, "Who's there at The New Yorker – I know there's a pencil that keeps writing sorry at the bottom of my rejection slip." This time an acceptance letter arrived, along with a proposal that Segal write a series of refugee stories. She would later turn this serialization into her first novel, Other People's Houses.
In 1961, Segal married David Segal, an editor at Knopf. Together they had two children, Beatrice and Paul. Her husband died nine years after they married. Segal started writing stories for her children which she later published, including Tell Me a Mitzi. She collaborated with illustrator and personal friend Maurice Sendak, producing a re-telling of the Grimm fairy tales, The Juniper Tree and Other Tales from Grimm.
Between 1968 and 1996, Segal taught writing at Columbia University's School of the Arts, Princeton, Bennington College, Sarah Lawrence, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Ohio State University from which she retired in 1996. She currently teaches at 92 Y.
Segal published her first novel, Other People's Houses, in 1964 to widespread acclaim. Collecting her refugee stories from The New Yorker and writing a few more, Segal fictionalized her experience growing up in five different English households, from the wealthy Orthodox Jewish Levines to the working-class https://thenewpress.com/books/other-peoples-houses
"A lightly fictionalised autobiography of a 10-year-old Jewish girl’s arrival in Britain in 1938, it is told with the wide-eyed acceptance of a child living through horrible times," the Guardian said after Other People's Houses was reprinted in 2018. "When the Nazis took power in Vienna, Lore Segal’s parents put their little girl on a train to England, convinced it was the only way to save her life. I cannot conceive of the pain they felt when watching her file into the station, the number “152” around her neck, never knowing if they would see her again, and the book doesn't tell us. It is a child's-eye view of the world. At the time, Segal was more worried about a smelly sausage in her bag than about the imminent collapse of civilisation.
In 1985, Segal published Her First American, which The New York Times praised, saying, "Lore Segal may have come closer than anyone to writing The Great American Novel." It tells the story of Ilka Weissnix, a Jewish refugee from Nazi Europe, and her relationship with Carter Bayoux, a middle-aged black intellectual, "her first American". Segal based the character of Carter Bayoux on her friend Horace R. Cayton, Jr. She received an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award for the novel.
Shakespeare's Kitchen, published in 2007, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Thirteen stories make up the novel, each following members of the Concordance Institute, a Connecticut think tank. There Ilka Weissnix (now Ilka Weisz) is a new professor and the central figure of the novel.
“Shakespeare’s Kitchen,” her fourth work of fiction for adults, comes 43 years after the publication of her roman à clef, “Other People’s Houses,” and 22 after the well-received novel “Her First American,” says the New York Times. "In that book, Segal tells the story of Ilka Weissnix, a young woman displaced by the Holocaust as a child, who, traveling across the United States by train, meets a man who ends up schooling her in displacement and integration. The man, Carter Bayoux — her first American — is black and an intellectual. He knows something about cultural dissonance." As for Elka's name change: "Ilka’s surname is now Weisz instead of Weissnix, so that she has gone from “know-nothing” to “wise” or, as Carter would have it, from “not white” to “white.” Ilka is now so assimilated that, as a protagonist, she stands on her own."
Her latest novel Half the Kingdom was published by Melville House in October 2013.