Home Book publication Confessions of a Jewish shiksa: Memories of former Ottawa resident reveal heartbreaking childhood

Confessions of a Jewish shiksa: Memories of former Ottawa resident reveal heartbreaking childhood

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“I wanted to write a book that I wanted to read. I wanted humor, more sassy, ​​so I wrote in those perspectives.”

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Have you heard of the young Jewish girl who walked into a Roman Catholic church and took part in communion as her father, a Holocaust survivor who convinced his daughter their family was Irish, knelt? next to her and complained about the dry cookies?

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Unfortunately, there is no punch line here; it was simply the most tolerable slice of dysfunctional childhood through which Frannie Sheridan, along with her six siblings, was forced to navigate, an upbringing so toxic the kids called their Highland Avenue home in Westboro as “the concentration camp”.

Sheridan sought, and ultimately found, catharsis and reconciliation, in part through The Waltonsteins , a stage production of a woman in which she wrote and acted, in part during a mid-life period (the actual crisis having occurred long before) during which she worked as a stripper, in part through the stand-up comedy she played, in part through another one-woman show, titled Confessions of a Jewish Shiksa and, more recently, through the writing and publication of his memoirs, also with the seemingly contradictory title Confessions of a Jewish Shiksa , which was released this fall.

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Readers do not learn what other parishioners at St. Basil’s Church on Rex Avenue might have thought of the secret converts among them, or even if they did. Frannie was only nine years old and was not fully aware of what was going on. Like many devotees, she simply loved the rituals, the hymns and the feeling of being part of a larger family, a comfort she did not find at home. At home, her father, an eye surgeon, constantly berated their mother, turning their children on her and the rest of the world, repeatedly warning them that “You just can’t trust anyone but me ”and, with the menorah out of the closet, so to speak,“ Another Holocaust is just around the corner. ”

Frannie Sheridan, standing in the front row, with her parents and siblings in Ottawa in the late 1960s.
Frannie Sheridan, standing in the front row, with her parents and siblings in Ottawa in the late 1960s. Photo by Karsh photo /courtesy of Frannie Sheridan

And so, when we review 30 years before Christmas Eve at a gentlemen’s club in New Westminster, BC, and find Sheridan, aka Smartie Pants, removing all of her clothes for the first time in public, it almost seems an inevitable act of defiance. . With Joan Osborne’s One of Us screaming through the speakers and Sheridan wearing only a red wig and the faux English accent she adopted, her performance was, for her, an act of cleansing not quite unlike the confession she loved so much in her youth.

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“What if God was one of us?” Osborne sang as Sheridan found it all. “Just a bastard like one of us.” Just a stranger on the bus, trying to get home? “

The house Sheridan tries to find her way into is one of inner peace, free from the thick restlessness and inherited PTSD that she has accumulated and carried throughout her life.

Now 60 and living in West Palm Beach, Florida, Sheridan weaves the story of her damaged upbringing with that of her brief career as a stripper – she describes herself as the Carol Burnett of strippers – while adding occasionally extracts from his stand- routines.

“I read so many powerful and brilliant autobiographies and biographies that helped me heal beautifully, but I was done feeling moved,” she explains of her motivation to write the book. . “I was done wanting to cry. I wanted to write a book that I wanted to read. I wanted humor, more sassy, ​​so I wrote in those views.

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Plus, she says, her performances of all kinds over the years had largely mended her soul, as well as those of many in the audience, but in recent years the stress of performing Confessions has taken its toll.

“I got to a place where I performed the show so much that I started to get physically ill. It was like continually pulling off a scab.

“I had healed, to a large extent, from my experiences, and I didn’t need to relapse into pain. And part of the performance dance with that particular kind of animal was going into the characters, and a lot of the characters have a certain obscurity in them. It was great, super healing for a while, but then it stopped being fun.

Frannie Sheridan at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in 1997, where she presented her solo show The Waltonsteins.
Frannie Sheridan at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in 1997, where she presented her solo show The Waltonsteins. Photo by photo file /Postmedia

The book, published by Mosaic Press, is being translated into French, Italian, Romanian and German. “That’s four more countries for my family to be embarrassed about for me,” she jokes, though maybe not without some truth. Over the years, family members, identified in the book by a pseudonym, have shown varying levels of support for Sheridan’s revelations, from threats of prosecution to wholehearted encouragement.

“I was read the riot act by various siblings,” she said. “My older brother – Philip in the book – finally enjoyed my work. He told me that I was the best fit of our family and that I had obviously done the most healings.

“I love my family,” she adds, “but I don’t care if they never like that part of me because it has helped me and continues to be. And it’s healing and helping others – they find their courage – and that brings me joy. “

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