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Wrottesley, C. (2013). Meeting the Author: An Interview with Deborah Cohen. Cpl. Fam. Psychoanal., 3(2):244-250.

(2013). Couple and Family Psychoanalysis, 3(2):244-250

Meeting the Author: An Interview with Deborah Cohen

Catriona Wrottesley, M.A.

Deborah Cohen, an American historian of modern Britain and Europe, is Peter B. Ritzma Professor of the Humanities and Professor of History, at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois. Educated at Harvard (BA) and Berkeley (PhD), she has a particular interest in British social history, and how private lives and social mores intersect.

Her first book, The War Come Home: Disabled Veterans in Britain and Germany, 1914-1939, was published by the University of California in 2001, and awarded the Social Science History Association's Allan Sharlin Prize. Her second book, Household Gods: The British and their Possessions, published by Yale University Press in 2006, won the American Historical Association's Forkosch Prize for the best book on Britain after 1485. Her latest book, Family Secrets, which draws on archival material from marriage guidance bodies, including the Family Discussion Bureau (FDB) out of which the present-day Tavistock Centre for Couple Relationships (TCCR) grew, was published in January (2013) in the UK by Viking Penguin.

CW: Can you tell me something about yourself?

DC: My own family history certainly contributed to my interest in the different ways in which families manage secrets. I grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, in the south, in a Jewish family. Both sides of my family were in retail. My father's parents owned a small grocery store and my mother's parents owned a women's clothing store. Their parents had come to the US from the Ukraine, then part of the Russian Empire, in 1917, 1921, and 1922. My maternal grandmother came in via Poland, while my maternal grandfather, exiled from Russia, came into the US first of all on a student visa and then remained illegally until he met and wanted to marry my grandmother. Her parents weren't going to allow their daughter to marry an illegal immigrant, so they made him leave the country and re-enter, legally, via Mexico, which was at that time a regular route for people wanting to enter the US and gain citizenship.

I know less about my paternal grandfather, except that he grew up in a Louisville Jewish ghetto.

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