Acclaimed 60 Minutes commentator and true-crime author Shana Alexander turns her journalist’s eye to her own unconventional family—and herself—in this fascinating, moving memoir
Shana Alexander spent most of her life trying to figure out her enigmatic parents. Milton Ager was a famous songwriter whose creations included “Ain’t She Sweet” and “Happy Days Are Here Again.” Cecelia Ager was a film critic and Variety columnist. They were a glamorous Jazz Age couple that moved in charmed circles with George and Ira Gershwin, Dorothy Parker, and Jerome Kern. They remained together for fifty-seven years, and yet they lived separate lives.
This wise, witty, unflinchingly candid memoir is also a revealing account of Alexander’s own life, from her successful career as a writer and national-news commentator to her troubled marriages and emotionally wrenching love affairs. She shares insights about growing up with a cold, hypercritical mother, her relationship with her younger sister, the suicide of her adopted daughter, and her reconciliation with her parents after a twenty-year estrangement. “I had to do a lot of detective work to uncover the truth about my parents’ lives,” Alexander said. “I knew almost nothing about them as people. But by the end they really did become my best friends.”
Alexander's memoir tells of her experiences as a columnist for Life magazine, editor of McCall's, and commentator on 60 Minutes. The book's primary focus, though, is on her parents. Milton Ager composed such Tin Pan Alley classics as "Ain't She Sweet" and "Happy Days Are Here Again," while Cecelia Ager was a well-regarded writer for Variety and several New York newspapers. Close friends of the family included George and Ira Gershwin, Bennet Cerf, Dorothy Parker, and John Huston; their appearances in the book give it glitter. But ultimately what will stay with readers the most is Alexander's moving account of her parents, her relationships with them, and their relationship with each other. Recommended for public libraries.--John Smothers, Monmouth Cty. Lib., Manalapan, N.J.