What’s In A Middle Name?


If you ask world renown composer, bassist and vocalist Esperanza Spalding, she’ll tell you “a lot.”

In an NPR interview with Michel Martin, Spalding explained that the idea behind her new album, “Emily’s D+ Evolution,” came to her in a dream.  Emily is Spalding’s middle name and a “long-hidden part of herself.”

The album conceptually addresses the always exciting, sometimes messy process of reconciling the aspects of our selves that are in conflict.












This got me thinking about my middle name; rather, the middle name that I officially changed years ago.

When I was younger, I didn’t understand that my middle name, Ida, was not the name of my step-grandmother but of the paternal grandmother who died before I was born.  All I knew was that the name was old fashion, just plain ugly and the impetus for much teasing.  (To this day, one of my dear friends still calls me Ida.  He loves to get a rise of me and, for many years, succeeded.)

My step-grandmother, Ida, could be abrasive, cold.  Her severe eczema ran up her elbows and the backs of her arms. My mother and she didn’t get along.  And Ida rarely laughed—at least, not in my presence.  So, every time I was in trouble and my mother hollered “Jane Ida,” I cringed.

My siblings and I called Ida by the Yiddish name for grandmother, Bubbe. But everyone else used her given name.  So, whenever our extended family got together on Sunday afternoons, for the Jewish holidays and all other celebrations, I heard my middle name bandied about more times than I could tolerate.

I hated the name Ida.

I don’t remember when I decided to use my family name Mersky as my middle name, officially erasing Ida forever.  It was probably in the mid-1980s when I published my first book.  I’d remarried, changed my last name for a second time and deemed it the perfect time to rid my life of Ida.

It didn’t dawn on me then how kicking Ida out of my life would wound my father.  I had substituted our family name Mersky and assumed he’d be delighted.  Wrong.  He never talked about Ida #1, how she died and why he’d left home shortly after to live with his Uncle Johnny in Minneapolis.  But from the few comments he made after I eliminated Ida from my life, it was clear that I’d hurt his feelings.  It was if I’d said:  “I don’t love your mother.”

Hell, I never knew the woman.  I’d seen just one black and white photo of a young woman, a babushka wrapped around her head, the bodice of a plain dress.  She, too, had immigrated from Russia.  I don’t recall whether she and my Zede knew other from the shettel outside of Kiev or whether they met in the States.

It was if that Ida had never existed.  Wiped clean.  What was she like?  Lively?  Innately intelligent though uneducated?  Did she learn English?  Hold a job?  Love my father and his younger brother?

I’ll never know.  All the members of her generation are long gone.

When Ida #2 died in Dallas, Texas, I didn’t attend her funeral.  I was busy.  Besides, I’d never set foot in Texas and was intent on maintaining my boycott of the Lone Star state. I didn’t like the politics, the bigger-than-life, full-of-themselves Texas persona.  As far as I was concerned, Texas could secede and go it alone.

It might be interesting to follow Esperanza Spalding’s lead and spend a little time with the “real” Ida and to reconcile the part of myself she represented.  Who knows?  Maybe I’ll reclaim her and consider changing my middle name once again.



Well, according to my first literary agent, Berenice Hoffman, there is no such thing as bad PR. Any review, negative or positive, is good.  The review gets your name out there (wherever “there” is), and we all know that name recognition (Today, we call it a brand) is what it’s all about.

I needed to remind myself of Hoffman’s pronouncement (Was she preparing me for the shit to hit the fan?) because I got a one-star review today on Goodreads.  I have to assume that the reviewer HATED the book, but she didn’t have the guts to say so.  She just clicked on one measly little star and sent her non review out into the world of social media.  Couldn’t she have shown a little mercy on this first weekday of the New Year and clicked on one more star?

Okay.  My day didn’t start well.  But I was determined not to let one illiterate nobody ruin my life. So, I went online.  And what do you know?  The first article (rather, study) I found was titled  “Positive Effects of Negative Publicity: When Negative Reviews Increase Sales.”  Bingo!  And if the authors of the study representing The Wharton School and Stanford didn’t know what they were talking about, who would?

Now, in all fairness, the study does give sway to situations when negative PR is . . . well, negative. But as I scanned the piece, I found this:

. . . negative publicity may increase sales when product awareness or accessibility is low.  If few people know about a book released by a new author, any publicity, regardless of valence, should increase awareness.

Well, I’m not exactly a new author but I’m surely not a household name.  (Hell, even friends have trouble spelling it.)  But, in the scheme of things, despite my dogged efforts to the contrary, those friends and a few strangers know about the book.  (Okay, so it made it to #1 on Amazon in its category for about a day or two.  Let me crow just a bit because, right now, I want to disappear into the proverbial sludge pile and never return.)


The study’s big wigs went on and analyzed book sales of books featured in the New York Times Book Review, and also did experiments in which people read reviews of both real and fictitious books and were then asked how likely they’d be to buy them. The results?

  • Positive publicity does have a positive impact. Overall, a positive review in the New York Times Book Review boosted sales of that book by 32 to 52 percent. (Oh, how I wish that someday . . .)
  • If you’re relatively unknown, there is no such thing as bad publicity. For unknown authors, a bad review actually increased book sales by 45 percent.  (Yippee!)
  • If you’re more established, bad publicity is actually bad. For authors that were better-known, a bad review resulted in a 15 percent hit to sales.  (No worries.)


You’ll excuse me now, won’t you?  I have some 5-star reviews to reread.


Nope.  This isn’t a racy story about me and my sexual escapades.

Instead, it’s about the fascination we have about sex and, as a result, why sex sells.

I have a perfect example:  Yesterday, I posted a blog titled “Grandmother Lover” here and on Medium.  I didn’t dare go off script and disrupt my focus on siblings and publicize my ramblings on the more visible sites like Twitter and Facebook.  Never know where Big Brother is lurking or when publishers, distributors, literary agents decide to read my stuff.

Still, I just HAD to blog somewhere.  The night before, I’d happened upon “Grandmother Lover,” a documentary about younger men (I’m talking in their 30s) and older women . . . grandmothers, great grandmothers in their 80s, even 90s.


Okay, I’m not a prude.  And I like to consider myself an accepting woman who honors all kinds of wacko stuff.  And, as I wrote yesterday, I went along with this phenomenon because, at first, it gave me hope—hope that, if in the highly unlikely circumstance I were ever in the market for a new man, the wrinkles, crepe skin, sagging everything wouldn’t matter.  I could find a man, a young man, who would think I’m the best thing since the great grandmother he’d wooed before me.


I titled my post “Grandmother Lovers.”  Guess what?  I had more views on this blog than I’d had in weeks, maybe months.  And I can’t lie: it felt great to have had so many people interested in what I had to say.

But then?  Not so much.  As a sassy senior, would I now have to sprinkle my posts with some kind of sex material or references?  Is that the best way to entice viewers to my blog and to my web site?

Doesn’t anyone out there care about my thoughts on family relationships?  Writing?  Boomers+?

Why is there a need for bloggers, advertisers, and anyone else, for that matter, to use sex in order to have their voice heard or their brand seen?

Even though there have been studies which conclude that sex doesn’t sell, the common belief is that it does.


Think the barrage of ads for erectile dysfunction and all those loving couples who apparently can’t wait to jump in the sack.  Or think the sexy woman wearing a sports jersey who, in a soft, come-hither voice, suggests that, yes, men like sports but after the game, they want to get it on.

I could just puke.

I’m not an author of romance and will never be.  It just isn’t me.  Besides, we have the thirty-two   books that Jackie Collins left behind for all the sex anyone could want.

I think I’m left with continuing to write/post/tweet about lifestyle, family relationships, and boomers+.  The number of folks who follow me will most surely take a swan dive off a cliff.  I’ll try to steel myself  for the defections but, if it’s anything like dropping from #1 on Amazon to #40, then I’m in for a big sulk and thoughts of taking up organic farming.