This tale of a Russian immigrant is a “gripping and gritty memoir [and] a eulogy for a combative, self-conscious, often violent American working class” (Los Angeles Times).
Jennie Persily, with her fiery red hair, buxom figure, and bohemian spirit, is a strong-willed fighter for justice and a passionate lover. A Russian-Jewish émigré who organizes unions in the sweatshops and on the mean streets of Chicago during the thirties and forties, Jennie frequently brings her son—the book’s author, Clancy Sigal—along to rallies and on dangerous missions, often eluding union-busting hit men.
As unsentimental, intelligent, and brazen as its subject, A Woman of Uncertain Character is a candid look into a childhood shaped by a feverishly brave, sexually open, and very complex mother. Sigal gains a deep, satisfying understanding of the woman who made him, and the world that made her.
Clancy Sigal was born and raised in Chicago, the son of two labor organizers. He enlisted in the army and, as a GI in occupied Germany, attended the Nuremberg war crimes trials intending to shoot Herman Göring. Although blacklisted and trailed by FBI agents, he began work as a Hollywood agent on the Sunset Strip, hiding in plain sight and representing Humphrey Bogart, among many others.
Sigal moved to London in the 1950s and stayed in the UK for thirty years, writing and broadcasting regularly from the same BBC studios that George Orwell had used. During the Vietnam War, he was the “stationmaster” of a London safe house for American GI deserters and draft dodgers. For several years, he collaborated with the radical “anti-psychiatrists” R. D. Laing and David Cooper, with whom he founded Kingsley Hall in London’s East End, a halfway house for so-called incurable cases.
Sigal’s most recent book was the memoir Black Sunset: Hollywood Sex, Lies, Glamour, Betrayal, and Raging Egos (Soft Skull Press, 2016).