A memoir of mothers and daughters, hoarding, and healing.
Judy Batalion grew up in a house filled with endless piles of junk and layers of crumbs and dust; suffocated by tuna fish cans, old papers and magazines, swivel chairs, tea bags, clocks, cameras, printers, VHS tapes, ballpoint pens…obsessively gathered and stored by her hoarder mother. The first chance she had, she escaped the clutter to create a new identity—one made of order, regimen, and clean white walls. Until, one day, she found herself enmeshed in life’s biggest chaos: motherhood.
Confronted with the daunting task of raising a daughter after her own dysfunctional childhood, Judy reflected on not only her own upbringing but the lives of her mother and grandmother, Jewish Polish immigrants who had escaped the Holocaust. What she discovered astonished her. The women in her family, despite their differences, were even more closely connected than she ever knew—from her grandmother Zelda to her daughter of the same name. And, despite the hardships of her own mother-daughter relationship, it was that bond that was slowly healing her old wounds.
Told with heartbreaking honesty and humor, this is Judy’s poignant account of her trials negotiating the messiness of motherhood and the indelible marks that mothers and daughters make on each other’s lives.
“More than a marvelous coming-of-age tale of one woman’s journey toward motherhood, White Walls
is a delightful, delicious, and daring account of how, seemingly trapped forever within the wild absurdities of a mad family, she learns how a frightened and loving daughter can become a loving and happy wife and mother. This is a gorgeously textured, beautifully crafted book that touches the heart, tenderly, with laughter and with wonder, even as it reminds us of the strange, unyielding, often magical force of family in our lives.”—Jay Neugeboren, author of Imagining Robert
and Transforming Madness
“Sharp, quick, funny, but the kind of funny that sometimes has you feeling kicked in the stomach and teary with the delight of recognition. For the girl who leaves Montreal for Harvard, a room with white walls was a dream of order after the panicked hoarding of her mother, the daughter of a Holocaust survivor. But hang on for memoir as romantic comedy—part Nora Ephron, part Woody Allen—and the hilarious resilience of a heroine who ends up in Manhattan with a husband, two daughters, and, yes, white walls, starting the world anew.”—Honor Moore, author of The Bishop’s Daughter
“In this terrific and powerful book about hoarders, antihoarders, parents and children, Judy Batalion tells a laugh-out-loud story about her own mother and daughter—and shows how profoundly all of us are shaped by events before we were born, how trauma moves through families, and how responsibility can be the most meaningful path to freedom. Anyone who has ever had a parent, or been one, needs to read this hilarious, beautiful book.”—Dara Horn, author of A Guide for the Perplexed
is an unforgettable trip into a truly original mind—from Montreal to London to Manhattan, from childhood to adulthood, and from worrying about parents to worrying about children, with many strange, uncomfortable, and beautiful points in between. You won’t read another memoir quite like this one.”—Matti Friedman, author of The Aleppo Codex
“Clear-eyed and compassionate, Judy Batalion’s White Walls
is a sharply funny, evocative, and moving memoir chronicling her voyage from daughter to mother as she finds her place in the world amidst the shifting currents of history, religion, time, and place. The wisdom of how to move forward while caring for the past emanates from every page. Batalion brings a palpable warmth to difficult subjects that will leave her readers inspired to contemplate the construction of their own stories and how transformation is possible.”—Ruth Andrew Ellenson, winner of the National Jewish Book Award for The Modern Jewish Girl’s Guide to Guilt
“This relatable multigenerational tale of stuff and survival moved me equally to tears and to laughter. It is funny, wise, and real.”—Jessie Sholl, author of Dirty Secret: A Daughter Comes Clean About Her Mother’s Compulsive Hoarding
“This book is honest, difficult, and perfect. Batalion’s sharp wit and hard-earned wisdom provide the reader with hope that we can all somehow find it in ourselves to embrace the inevitable chaos and change that comes with living an imperfect life.”—Nicole Knepper, LCPC, author of Moms Who Drink and Swear