Zelda’s Daughters

My novel Zelda’s Daughters is based on my life story: I was born to heroin addicts and separated from my severely disabled twin sister when we were babies. My biological mother Zelda was a life-long drug abuser who grew up in the Bronx during the 1940s-50s. In 1954, at age 18, she began her battle with heroin. In 1964, when we were two years old, she relinquished me to her sister Sally to be raised on Long Island while she raised my twin sister Alison, exposing her to abuse and squalor. My novel depicts my harrowing and emotional “reunion” with Zelda and my twin sister. A story about loss, betrayal, and transcendence, Zelda’s Daughters portrays a New York family’s saga from the 1940s to the 1990s. Its themes include overcoming the legacy of addiction, the redemptive power of love, and the indestructible bond of twins.

Why isn’t Zelda’s Daughters a memoir?

That’s a good question, one I didn’t ask myself until I was asked several years after I’d begun writing it as fiction. The truth is, I was born in 1962, so I had to imagine the first half of the book based on what my mom Sally told me had occurred within her family.

I have long dreamt of fictionalizing my family’s story in the hopes of creating something beautiful and honorable out of something tragic and destructive. When I was sixteen, I was profoundly affected by William Styron’s novel Sophie’s Choice and decided that being a novelist was one of the coolest things I could ever aspire to be.

I hope I have done my family proud in rendering our story. And I hope my novel offers readers insight, hope, and inspiration in facing addiction’s destructive legacy.

My Twin Sister

Her name was Alison Rae Schlesinger. She had cerebral palsy and was mentally challenged. She lived in an intermediate care facility (ICF) called Tanya Towers in New York City. She was extremely loving, kind, and childlike. She suffered heartbreak, loss, and faced many obstacles because of her disability, but her heart and soul were full of goodness. We were fraternal twins, but she was older than I by five minutes.

Reuniting with my twin sister let me move beyond the pain of our twenty-four year separation.

Alison was extremely loving, kind, and childlike. I’m forever grateful for our 28 years together.

Our Reunion

Alison and I reunited on June 25, 1990 at United Cerebral Palsy in New York City. That day was one of the hardest I’ve ever faced—and the most rewarding. Reuniting with my twin sister let me move beyond the pain of our twenty-four year separation. Rekindling our relationship helped me become whole and overcome my guilt, shame, and insecurities; it also helped Alison to know that she had a sister who loved her and cherished our time together. Alison passed away on March 11, 2018, but her spirit lives on in my heart and soul, and in the hearts of everyone who loved her.

Family Pictures (click on the photo for names and dates)