Sonia Pressman Fuentes

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Excerpts from Eat First -- You Don't Know What They'll Give You

  • Jewish Geography -- this story was first published in October 1998 in Der Bay, the newsletter of the International Association of Yiddish Clubs.  Here, both the English version and a version in transliterated Yiddish are available in pdf format.
  • Return to Germany -- the story of Sonia’s return to Germany in 1978 to speak about the women’s rights revolution in the US for the then-US Information Agency (USIA), published on the website of The Jewish Writing Project on Jan. 19, 2009. That story is also contained in the anthology, Marking Humanity, Stories Poems, & Essays by Holocaust Survivors, edited by Shlomit Kriger (Aug. 23, 2010, pp. 226-234).
  • If You Speak His Language --This piece was published in Tzum Punkt (Nov.-Dec. 1999, Vol. 1, No. 2)  p. 5, the newsletter of Yiddish of Greater Washington.
  • Thai Silk -- This piece was first published in the Common Law Lawyer and then on the websites of,, and (September 2001).
  • Florida and Beyond -- This excerpt appeared on May 25, 2001, in the Story Lady e-newsletter and on its website, the Jewish Frontier, the Jewish Internet magazine, the Jewish Magazine online, the e-zine, Home-Based Working Moms, and the Writer Online. Terry Boothman, the editor of the Writer Online, had this to say about it in the January 14, 2003, issue that carried the story:

    Everyone's life is interesting, right? Sure. So, everyone should write a memoir, right? Yeah, why not.. And everyone should publish a memoir, right? Good Lord, no. Because not everyone knows how to write a publishable memoir, which means a memoir that lots of other people will enjoy reading. Sonia Pressman Fuentes, one of the founders of the National Organization for Women, published just such a memoir--"Eat First--You Don't Know What They'll Give You, The Adventures of an Immigrant Family and Their Feminist Daughter." Now, in How I Got My Mink Stole, excerpted from that memoir, you can get a glimpse of exactly how good memoirs are written.

  • Weinberg's Glasses - the story of what happened when Sonia's father found a pair of eyeglasses.
  • Sex Maniac -- the story of the Second Wave of the women's movement and Fuentes' role in it.  
  • Harry Golden and "the Coat" -- Sonia Fuentes sues Harry Golden, published in Jewish Currents, June 16, 1997. 
  • How I Got My Mink Stole -- a lengthy struggle with an unexpected denouement.
  • Eating Out -- published in the April 11, 2001, issue of Writer's Bloc Online, the e-newsletter of the National Writers Union.
  • Graduating With My Class -- Fuentes' desire to graduate with her high school class has a significant consequence.  Published originally in the Catskill/Hudson Jewish Star 6.2 (June 1996) 17.1 and then on Harry Leichter's website.
  • Mother and the Night School -- published in the December 2001, issue of Kolot, A World of Jewish Voices. 
  • Catskills Stories -- Some of Fuentes' stories about her experiences in the Catskill Mountains of New York State may be found at the Museum of Family History.

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cover Eat First -- You Don't Know What They'll Give You,  The Adventures of an Immigrant Family and Their Feminist Daughter by Sonia Pressman Fuentes

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In the United States, EAT FIRST can be ordered in paperback and hardback from,, and  The book can be ordered from in the UK and in Canada. EAT FIRST is also available for Kindle which includes free wireless delivery via Amazon Whispernet.

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Eat First

Eat FirstBook Review

Founding Mother of Modern Feminism: Sonia Pressman Fuentes


May, 2001

"She made a comment that changed my life," says Sonia Pressman Fuentes of a chance conversation with a stranger. Sonia, now 70, is a founding mother of modern feminism, who helped establish America's National Organisation for Women. Like Glenn Close, Jane Fonda and Hillary Clinton, Sonia has been honoured by the pressure group Wider Opportunities for Women.


Now retired, lawyer and businesswoman Sonia turned her attention to a book about her part in the women's movement. Ever-busy, she looked around for an author to go through her files and write the book for her. Then she had coffee with Sara Fisher, who both writes and teaches writing. And the life-changing comment? "Sara told me that the book I had in mind was not the one that cried out to be written - that book should be about the sort of stories I'd just been telling her about my own family, and a vanished way of life." "You want to write it yourself - I'll help with the editing," Sara said. The result is Eat First - You Don't Know What They'll Give You which is what Sonia's mother Hinda used to advise whenever her daughter was going to eat out.

Family life

The Pressmans came to New York from Germany with Sonia in the 1930s while there was still time for Jewish families who could afford it to escape the coming persecution and murder. Sonia's father Zysia, Sonia recounts, must be one of the few Jews shot at trying to get into Germany. It happened when he was 14, long before the war, when he ran across the German border from Poland in search of his fortune. "The border guards managed to put a bullet through Zysia's cap," Sonia remembers. "Someone later returned the cap to his mother, saying the border guards had killed him." Zysia couldn't write, and there matters stood until four years later when, now a tailor's apprentice, Zysia could afford a journey home and turned up on his mother's doorstep. " Spirit, return to your grave!" she shrieked. "Whenever anyone dies, a world dies with them," Sonia muses. "A world died when my parents died, and I did not want that world to disappear without a trace."

Her book is subtitled "The Adventures of an Immigrant Family and Their Feminist Daughter", and there are plenty of stories about her own world, too: the rise of the feminist movement, a tumultuous marriage, at age 42, to a handsome Puerto Rican, ups-and-downs with her own daughter, Zia. There is also Sonia's first visit to Israel, where for the first time she saw that there are Jewish taxi-drivers, electricians and plumbers as well
as doctors, lawyers and professors. When Sonia berated a hotel plumber for taking two hours to respond her complaint of a flooded bathroom, he replied "You know how to swim, don't you?"


The progress made by feminism since the 1960s is "mind-blowing and way beyond our wildest expectations", Sonia believes, adding that what she would like feminists to do now is to work with like-minded people and organisations around the world to secure equality without regard to sex for people worldwide. Over 50s of either sex, she says, can accomplish so much. "People over 50, if they have retired, are reasonably comfortable financially and have good health - big 'ifs', I know - should have more freedom to do what they want than younger people." Having accomplished much of what they want to do at work, and with marriage or family responsibilities behind them, they are freer to "pursue their dreams", Sonia claims. "The over-50s should be open to new experiences and adventures. Very little in life is irrevocable, and this is the time to take some chances and venture into the unknown."

She herself is venturing into a stage adaptation of Eat First with actress Christina L. Hamlett, and says her book may now be published in Russia, and even Germany. "Life's taught me that one person can make a difference, either alone or working in groups," says Sonia Pressman Fuentes, looking back on her activist days. "I think the most exciting thing one can do in life is to be involved in a cause that is larger than one's own life."

This review first appeared on the website, May, 2001.