Fortune Teller & Child


Can you find Charlie??

Mommy, Daddy, Charlie, and Me

My Nona, the Fortune Teller

Discussion & Comments

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Dear Brenda, I saw the picture of you and Ellen on Facebook. I have some early pictures of you from school. I think kindergarten and the brownies. I think ellen has those pictures and maybe she shared. I am going to buy the book and read it. You should be very proud. Arlene Schachter Rosenberg

Your graphic poetry evokes Jealously not sure I understand it.

In Worms I feel anger.

Wishing you more hope . You have survived a lot and have the inner strength.

Cora from the Bronx

REMINDER TO PUT IN THE YEAR of your current workshops

I am doing a paper on your poem, My mother's face.I am trying to do some research on you and your background and am having a difficult time. Can you tell me a little bit about you and how you were raised? Thank you, Stacy Smith

I downloaded the book on my iPad and so do not have access to the discussion questions. Is there any way to access them? Loved the book!

Another book coming from you? YOUR READERS USA

Hi Brenda,
I am doing a paper on your poem, My mother's face. However, I am trying to do some research on you and your background and am having a difficult time. Can you tell me a little bit about you and how you were raised? I love this poem by the way. Thank you, Nancy

Pink made me think of what I want to keep and what I hope to pass on so that my children have more knowledge who their mother was. But in the end its what I shared with them while I'm here that I hope will last.

Enjoy the excerpt "Honor" on my memoir page!

Your readers are hungry for any news on your blog. Anything new to share?

Hi Brenda,
I just finished your book (it really touched me). We are just months apart in age and although I lived in Brooklyn and you in the Bronx we were in Rockaway at the same time separated by about a mile or so (I now live in FL too). I will be reviewing your book for my BNC group next week. Our rules require we give educational backgrounds for our authors. Could you please let me know what college you attended. Thanks, Gail

Brenda! It's Michelle Cain in Everett Washington. I'm freaking out here! I lost all my contacts on my phone when it crashed! I have NO WAY TO CONTACT YOU GUYS! Please text me or call at (425) 280-5619. Love you!

Just finished your book The Fortune Teller's Kiss and am mesmerized. It was wonderful, so honest and touching. I am ashenazi but had an Aunt Elsie who was a sephardic Jew and your book brought back wonderful memories of her. You are one of the bravest, strongest women I have read about and feel like I know you.

Just read your poem SHATTERED about loss. It also means to me I mourn most changes in my life. I feel the sadness awhile then have to count my blessings and move on or i will be the shattered one.

When and where is your next talk in South Florida.I will be visiting turkey with a friend and come from the Bronx. We are interested in your book and talk.

Discussion questions are always available! Contact me at: They are also in the back of the paperback edition of the book. BLS

Hi Brenda:

Just read your amazing book for my book group. Are there any discussion questions out there? Thank you.

Will the 2nd book be in paperback since the first was already?
Not sure. There was a hold-up with book two because of illness and then revision. Hang in, she's comin'!


Dear Brenda..just finished reading Fortune Teller's Kiss and loved it. It brought back so many memories of growing up in the Bronx. Your courage to fight for life was so amazing. Would like to know the rest of the story of your life up to date. EC

Do you think that your father needed more support to deal with your illness and that might have been helpful to your mother and caused less fighting?

No, just the opposite. He was uneducated but savvy and dealt with it fine. My mother became almost unbalanced and needed her own help. All this I gleaned from writing about it. BlS

Dear Brenda,

Just ordered your published work from Amazon The Fortune Teller's Kiss. I know you have worked so hard on this & must be so proud to see it published & on shelves. Will have Mum, and a bunch of friends here read it Kuwait, North Cyprus & beyond read it.
Congrats Phoebe

Thank you, Phoebe! So good to hear from you!

Regarding The Poison Tree.....was it revenge or grief or lust that freed her finally....and I did think she had posined him with either ground glass or something from that tree.

Dear Brenda,

Our book club met tonight. (Notice how I waited until the last minute to search out questions… I appreciate the prompt response!) We had an excellent discussion. Of particular interest were the changes in how disabilities are regarded today, learning about polio and discussing your courage and willingness to put forth the effort needed to overcome your illness.

Thank you for the questions.

Nancy Margulis
Where's the next installment? Love it! Sandy.

Coming very soon! Brenda
Your "Reading French" piece was moving. Is there more to it?
A Facebook Friend

Yes, the story is about 20 pages and has since been revised, but is essentially the same. Thanks for stopping by!
I just re-read your book. Can't wait for the NEXT story, or batch of stories. A fan in Seaside Heights, New Jersey

Dear Brenda:
Thanks for the questions! We all liked the book,
Book club went well.
They did have two questions for you.
Do you have children?
Did you ever have a relapse?
We made the following dishes:
Appetizer plate w/ goat cheese, cucumber, turkish olives, sardines, beef sujouk.
Fidellos Tostados
Turkish Coffee
A good time was had by all.
Thanks again, Susie Frank, St. Louis, Missouri

Author's note: email me for Discussion Questions for The Fortune Teller's Kiss, and I'll be happy to send them to you.

Dear Brenda,
Just finished reading The fortune teller. What a pleasure,made me think for days. How happy I am that the next part of your life is coming in the new book(that was the question in my mind while I was reading,how did her life worked out). Can't wait to read it. Your book is a big inspiration to all people that are different,not the main stream. All my friends are reading your book now.Thanks again and when the next book will be available?
Yor big fan,
marina vinnitsky,

Dear Marina, thanks so much for your comments; I appreciate them! Hopefully my next book will be published soon; we're looking for a publisher now, and I'll keep everyone posted. Take care, Brenda

Hi Brenda,
Both my husband and myself were born in the Bronx; he on the Concourse! We now live in the Berkshires. As Education chair of Berkshire Hills Hadassah, I suggested your book for all local book clubs. It was unanimously applauded. Thanks for a wonderful read...looking forward to more of your work.
Susan Zuckerman

I ordered "American Lives: A Reader," and I'm enjoying it. Although I read your memoir, "The Fortune Teller's Kiss," I still liked reading the Chapter excerpt again! Thanks, Susie J.

I read Chapter 2, "Fortuna," over and over. Still stunning. A Miami Fan

I felt the emotions of sadness and acceptance when I read the exerpt about your father. You two had a special connection and you were "best and most loving daughter". Your Dad is alive in your writing. Thank you.


I can't wait to read the new book! This excerpt has me hooked!

Bren, I just finished reading your new excerpt, and it brought back some wonderful memories. We both remember him in the same way...BIGGER THAN LIFE! Great job!

Love, Ellen

This new excert is great, Bren! You get better and better!

Can't wait to read your book; my group is excited. Everyone ordered it. Judy in Philadelphia

Just caught up with your very glowing and moving story in Back to the Bronx, "The Grandest Concourse." What you have overcome and achieved are so impressive. I, too, loved growing up in the Bronx, Near Moshulu Parkway. My dad had a deli and a restaurant on 204th Street. Funny name: Gitiltz's. He was very special. Jonah Gitlitz, April 2009

I enjoyed the "Wedding" chapter! Sandy Gelpieryn

Can't wait to read the next book! Fanny G.

The Mattress King! Fabulous. Keep it comin'! Ross

I LOVED this new excerpt, and can't wait to read the whole book! Peggy

Hi Brenda, I just finished reading "The Fortune Teller's Kiss," for my book club, and found myself deeply moved by it. Your ability to create visual images is amazing! I was very troubled, however, by your relaionship with your mother and was wondering if the two of you ever resolved your issues when you were older. I can't wait for the book group to meet this coming week -- I'm sure everyone got something out of this wonderfully told and very poignant story. Dorothy Nutkis, Mountainside, NJ

Your book, "The Fortune Tellers Kiss"
, is amazing and has really touched me. I grew up at about the same time you did and remember the fear we lived with, concerning contracting polio. I'm a nurse and your description of your hospital experiences was chilling, inspiring and so insightful. I selected your book as this month's reading selection for my synagogue Sisterhood book group. I'm honored to be leading the discussion, which will take place on May 18. Have discussion questions been written for this book? Thank you, and I look forward to following your career and reading what ever you write, in the future! Jeannie Raffle Agoura Hills, CA

We just discussed your book in our book group! Wonderful! BM Goldenberg March '09

What are you working on, Ms. Author? (A fan in Forest Hills, NY)

(Author's reply: Another memoir, due to popular demand!)

Brenda, I'd love to reconnect with you; we knew each other growing up in the Bronx! I'll email you...BJG

Hello, my name is Ahmed and I red your Turkish version of The Fortune Teller Kiss while in Istanbul visiting my mother. She is reading it now. Thank you, thank you!

Eagerly awaiting your next book. A fan in Miami

Just read your memoir. Sorry I waited so long!! I'm half in tears, half hysterical laughing. Thanks for writing this. A fan in Brooklyn, New York: B.G.

Brenda: We met at the Brandeis Book and Author Luncheon...I was so impressed with the book and its capability to reach and interest a larger audience. M.G.

Dear Brenda:
You have no idea how this book has opened up the memories that I never shared with anyone...It is something to know there are others that have gone through what you have.  Bless you for putting it in print. Sincerely, N.A., March 6, 2008

Dear Brenda, I am a reader from Istanbul ,Turkey.The reason I chose to read your book was that one part of you belongs to Turkey, where I was born, and the opther part of your life belongs to New York, the city I adore and have strong connections with as a part of my family lives there. I am glad to have read your book. I am truly inspired by your courage as a child in fighting your illness. It's a warm book that touches one's heart. Keep on writing please.

I will, thank you! And I'm glad you enjoyed my stories. I'm almost done with my second book, a novel, and part of it touches on the plight of Greek Jews from Salonica during the Second World War. Brenda

Dear Brenda:
I was so moved by reading your Grand Concourse article in Back In The Bronx that I got a copy of
The Fortune Teller's Kiss and recently completed it. In many ways I feel I know you personally. I also went to PS 64 and Taft (56)...What I was most moved by in reading your life story, was the tremendous courage you exhibited in overcoming the ravages of polio...Nevertheless, you persevered and have made remarkable progress in you life. Awesome! It was a real pleasure meeting you this way. In many ways you never really leave The (Beautiful) Bronx.

In peace and gratitude, David

Hi Brenda, I read your article in Back in the Bronx. I too lived at 1475 Sheridan Avenue, and went to Taft H.S. from 1965-1968. We probably cross path at one time or another in the building. The 50's and 60's were a glorious time to be a Bronxite. It's great to read about a fellow Bronxite who made good, but we all made good having that childhood. R. Soohoo

Brenda: What I love most about you is that you see the world from a different angle than most and describe it clearly and with a wonderful, wry sense of humor. Cher

I find your strength and growth trully amazing. I don't know anyone else who has gone from secretary, to educator, to author with such talent that you have shown. It is really a gift. Mr. D., Bronx, NY

Wow! After reading your memoir, I have nothing but respect for your abilities to survive and thrive in the face of adversity. You are tough, observant, and filled with love. We the audience are blessed to encounter your creations. Thank you for your hard work! Vic, from the Bronx

Dear Brenda:
I wanted to thank you again for speaking at our library. EVERYONE said how much they enjoyed your book and your book talk. It was fascinating and you are a wonderful speaker. Warmly, Wendy Parkland Library

Hello Brenda:
I have been reading “The Fortune Teller's Kiss.” I bought it from you the day you spoke at Posnack JCC on February 27, and you inscribed it in Ladino. I love it. I am another Sephard from the area of the Bronx you grew up in. I, too went to P.S. 64 and I remember the Polio Pioneers. One of my cousins took part in the immunizations. I think I am about 10 years older than you, give or take.
I think I knew your Aunt Alice; I recognize her picture, and Doris, in your book. I [also] remember her bring loukoum [Turkish Delites candies], when she visited. I looked forward to that…My mother always taught: “You never go empty-handed,” and I think that was one of the social mores of the Sephardim. At any rate, I had to share my extraordinary experience looking at the pictures in your book. Small world.
–Best regards, Joyce Amir Ben-Ezra

Dear Brenda: Just finished reading "The Fortune Teller's Kiss" - in 2 days! Could not put your book down! I had to google you and contact you. Your book is compelling, fast-reading, filled with courage. Thank you for sharing your story with the world. Your writing is honest and straightforward - couldn't wait to read what came next. Congratulations. I am a belly dancer. For the past 31 years, I've studied belly dance, performed all over the world and today train professional and amateur dancers in Manhattan. Would love to meet you, hear you lecture or do a book reading. Wishing you the best for the new year.
Sandra C., New York City

Dear Ms. Serotte, I heard you speak at the Brandeis Women's luncheon at Diamonte's last March, and I'm still thinking about your words. Wonderful! You were an inspiration, and I finally got to your book. I LOVE it! Can't wait for the next one!
Best regards, Myrna Weinstein, Plantation, Florida

Dear Brenda,it took me a while to get back to you. I'm so so happy for you. Did you ever dream that "The Fortune Teller's Kiss" would make you an star? That's encouraging for all of us dreamers. I keep missing your presentations but I know you are a long way from being done in Florida. Does your new novel have a name? And keep rolling, go for the sequence of The Fortune . . .
Warm hugs, Zenaida, Boca Raton

Thanks for the kind wishes! Hope to see you at a presentation soon! Brenda

I loved your story and wished their had been an epilogue to tell us about your life now! Are your parents still alive? Did you marry? Do you have a relationship with your brother? Are there any physical remnants of your childhood polio? What aspects of the "old country ways" did you incorporate in your life? Thanks for sharing your touching story. Fran, Owings Mills, MD

Author's comment: Dear Fran: Thanks so much for writing to tell me your thoughts. I do appreciate hearing from readers! Many people have written asking about my life after polio, so many, in fact, that I am considering, by popular demand, a sequel memoir! I'm finishing a novel now, and then, we'll see...What I can say here is that my Nona Behora apparently gave me some gifts of ESP...more to come...and sadly, my parents are no longer alive, but have read my memoir in another place and are happy that I wrote it. Stay tuned!

Brenda: The craft of your writing is so amazing! I absolutely LOVED your book, and have given it to two people already. Congratulations on this beautiful story.
Goldie, Miami, Florida

Dear Ms. Serotte: I loved "The Fortune Teller's Kiss," and I laughed and cried. I grew up in Brooklyn in the 1950s, but it could have been any of the boroughs. From one New Yorker to another: You did a great job!
Alan Seidelman

Happy New Year! I read your book in one sitting; couldn't put it down. What a feat! You must write a sequel! Any plans for that?
Marcia S., Huntington, Long Island, New York

Author's response: Hold on, I'm comin'! Sort of an autobiographical novel in the works...1980s...

I just loved, LOVED, this memoir! I laughed, I cried, I want more! Are you going to continue with your off-beat Sephardic family story? Hope so!
Devia Smith, Queens, NY

Kudos, Brenda! You have "the knack" of painting vivid images that drew me right in to your life. I felt as if I were there, experiencing it with you! What an extraordinary childhood - very poignant reading. I'm looking forward to the sequel!!
Rhona Lewis Bronx, New York

So interesting to go back in time, see the world through their eyes...and you did a great job telling the story with great humor that reflected the Sephardic Jews of the Ottoman Empire.
--Roz Kohen Drohobyczer, St. Louis, MO.

I am interested to know your current views on religion/spirituality. Do you participate in any formal religious traditions or practices?
Rhona Lewis Bronx, New York

Author's response: I am not "formally" religious, but I feel the presence of a Higher Power in my life, day by day, and it's stronger when I give to others and not expect a lot for myself. This, I consider to be true spirituality, and I strive for it.

Very moving and beautiful. You don't know me, but my mother met you at the Barnes & Noble booksigning in Plantation, and gave me your book to read. We both loved it. I laughed and cried.
Sincerely, Flora D.

Brenda, I just finished your book and, as the father of a daughter, I must say, I cried at certain passages--and couldn't stop. Beautifully done!
Gary in Miami

Are you going to write more stories about the Bronx? (A Bronx Gal)

Look for an article one of these days in "Back in the Bronx" magazine. Also, my novel-in-progress has a lot to do with the Bronx and with Peru. bls

Comment from a Reader, July '06: Loved THE FORTUNE TELLER'S KISS! Great history lesson, great story. Thanks for sharing! When is your next book coming out?
Rosie Tucker

Working on it, Rosie! Thanks for your comments! bls

What are you working on now, if I may ask? Doreen, aka, Cousin "DuDu" in Ladino

(My answer):A novel about a brother and sister bond, Peru, love, and the 1980s...sort of. Don't want to say too much about it at this stage.

Was the part about the gypsies in Rockaway Beach really true?
Cousin Ralph, Long Beach, New York

(The author answers): You bet! Although dialogue is often "re-created" in memoir--who can remember EXACT conversations, from decades past, really?--I feel passionately about this: If a writer gives the genre title "Memoir" to a piece of writing, it must be 100% TRUE, at least from that writer's memory. The day in question, with the gypsies, actually happened to me, and I wrote it how I remembered it.

My favorite line: "It wasn't what you'd call a normal American life,...When I came home from school, guess who greeted me? Six Turkish women, sitting around in a circle, sewing. And guess what they were sewing? Their shrouds!" They say there are eight million stories in the Naked City. Yours shines through with stinging humor and realism. Not to mention courage. Congratulations on melding the chaos of your early years into a fabulously funny and bittersweet cultural milieu!
Ross from Seattle, WA

Brenda your memories of your colorful and delicious Turkish family is something to savor. I have read your book twice and some parts more. It's a truly wonderful book of your heritage and your strength and courage that has shaped you into the beautiful talented woman you are today.

Dear Brenda, You have written a miracle -- the book that my wife would have written as her autobiography. She lived at 179th and Walton Ave. Instead of polio,she had an accident to her foot that put her in children's hospitals and the retreat up in Westchester, where she learned to love the other children, not to cry, and to wave to her friends who were not permitted to come closer than the roadway because of fear of infection. Her father treated her as his special beloved. The only big difference was that Nona was a very loving woman Rockaway was the summer place for many years. A little bit of heaven that even I, a goy, got to know and enjoy. Thank you very, very much. I am still rationing my enjoyment to one chapter a day so I have not finished it yet. It is a delight -- really a blessing.
Bill Williamson

I read the exerpts and poem and you have made all of my mother's Bronx memories and some of my own come to life again, reminding me of tiny Sephardic women who wore evil eye necklaces and pinched my cheeks and the men who played cards and Backgammon, all of whom spoke Ladino so us "criaturas" wouldn't understand. Can't wait to buy the book!!
Sincerely, "Cynthia the violin player's" daughter, Lisa

Howard and I share your joy! Well done Brenda,you are a credit to all Polio Survivors. Spectacular website, absolutely spectacular. Can't wait to exchange tales about the multitude of Pisco Sours I drank in the lounge of the Crillon Hotel....or to share my experiences in Lima during that dreadful earthquake in the early seventies.I will get an order in right away for our copy of your book.
Jane & Howard Mades

Hey Brenda! You know I love you and am so excited about your website and the upcoming release of your book. You have waited a long time for this, and I've waited a long time to read it! It's so close now. Can't wait til spring! Marcy (Ft. Lauderdale, FL)

hey! I really enjoy the formatting of this webite--it is creative. It feels like you are reading a newspaper with the columns! Very clever. Kristin Byrne

dear bren, kudos on these impressive literary feats.i am so happy for you and i look forward to more touching reads from my friend. these writings are the real soul within in you. enjoy. enjoy. love you, ricki d.

having been and grown at the granja azul in lima peru....the short passage really described it to perfection...specially the part about all being drunk by the time the chicken arrived...been there done that james frank, lima peru

I,m so delighted and excited for you. You've waited a long time for this. Can't wait to read the book. I know it will bring back many memories for me. Congratulations! Denise

Bravo, my friend! A great website, an inciteful poem, and a great photo! Can't wait for the book! Your Bronx "partner in crime", Ellen

This sounds like a read that will broaden my horizons and sensitivity having grown up in the 50's and knowing the polio scare of that time. Good luck Brenda. Cora, The Bronx

What a wonderfully unique and expressive body of work...can't wait to read "The Fortune Teller's Kiss"! Victor from Seattle

I am so excited and happy for you, and yet so jealous! You must be (rather, should be) floating. If seeing these volumes in print doesn't bring you fulfillment, satisfaction and inner peace, I absolutely give up. I can't wait to read and savor your work, and for the world to discover(more of)your amazing talents. Mazel Tov and Felicidades. Love, Barbara

Dear Brenda, What a pleasure to hear about you after all this time. I am happy for you, seeing that you have been so productive. Anyada buena con salud cumplida. Great Website Brenda. David Altabe

Note: the writer is my late, esteemed teacher of Ladino, along with the late David Siman. Both taught at University of Miami. It was a pleasure to know them.

American Lives: A Reader, edited by Tobias Wolff

New Mobility Magazine
See link below
Growing up Turkish in the Bronx
Poetry about the value of family, poetry, the mystery of Peru, and more...

QUICK LINKS Read an Excerpt from The Fortune Teller's Kiss

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