Phyllis Zimbler and Mitchell Miller at the Coronation Ball at Michigan State University on Saturday, November 18, 1967, sponsored by the Cadet Officers Club and the Arnold Air Society.
Because MRS. LIEUTENANT: A SHARON GOLD NOVEL evolved from my experiences as a new Mrs. Lieutenant in the spring of 1970, I’m often asked how much of the novel is true. This is a good question whose answer even I’m not so sure of any longer. That’s because some of the fiction I wrote in the novel and some of the truth have become intertwined in my mind.
And often other people also get confused. Recently a book blogger from my hometown of Elgin, Illinois, included a paragraph in her review of MRS. LIEUTENANT referring to something about growing up in Elgin. Yet I purposely made Sharon – who is the closest of the four women to me – from a northern suburb of Chicago. (Trust me, in the ‘50s and ‘60s those two worlds couldn’t have been further apart.)
Let’s put it this way – there is a great deal of truth in MRS. LIEUTENANT but this truth is often a mash-up (to use a term currently used in music I think). For example, the character of Wendy is a combination of two black new officers’ wives, an article in The Wall Street Journal, my own imagination, and bits of other people’s stories.
The following is absolutely true: When my husband and I were at Ft. Knox for him to attend Armor Officers Basic, I did volunteer to be the chair of the entertainment committee for the AOB officers’ wives’ graduation luncheon. And that committee did consist of me, a Southern white, a black, and two Puerto Ricans (one of whom didn’t speak English).
Yet the characters in the book and the incidents are often pieces patched together, including something (would be a spoiler to tell you which) that happened when we were stationed in Munich that I transposed to Ft. Knox.
FYI – The scene of Sharon feeling like an alien at the Jewish Wives’ Club meeting is as accurate as memory allows. My LA business partner and I were just talking about how that scene reflects how naïve I was living in a small town in the early ‘60s.
I did have a very strong objective in writing this novel so many years after I lived the experience of being a new Mrs. Lieutenant during an unpopular war. I wanted to preserve a small slice of women’s social history at the beginning of the women’s liberation movement. Within that decade of the 1970s I would go from being Mrs. Mitchell Miller to Ms. Phyllis Miller (I’m still married after 38 years) as the times changed for those of us living through that period.
The sequel to the first book will be MRS. LIEUTENANT IN EUROPE about when we were stationed in Germany as an occupying force 25 years after the end of WWII. And my planned third book is MS. LIEUTENANT IN CIVILIAN LIFE – what happens to Sharon when she returns to civilian life and has to re-adjust all over again just when the playing field for women is being leveled by the early feminists.
If after you’ve read MRS. LIEUTENANT you have specific questions, email me through the book’s website (www.mrslieutenant.com) and I’ll be happy to answer the questions – if I can.