The First Lady of Dos Cacahuates

The Desert Dwellers Trilogy, Book Two

Harriet Rochlin
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A prolific artist once told me, "It's all self-portrait." For my first attempt at a historical novel, I unwittingly turned to the predecessors I knew best: my mother, her Yiddish-speaking parents, and her five American-born siblings. The oldest of six, Mama arrived in St. Louis as an infant, and as an adult she concealed her foreign birth as if it were a criminal offense. In her mind, that inalterable fact of life indelibly labeled her as inferior, a condition she projected on everyone who overtly bore the defect she concealed. She had energy, intelligence, curiosity, and a yearning for independence. But her actual self and the self she wished she were frequently wrestled each other to an impasse. As I progressed in the novel, I wanted more for Frieda, the central character. So I gave her Miss O'Hara, who lauded her spirited efforts. Then Bennie Goldson, an adventurous, amorous, at times incurably hopeful pioneer who needed her as much she needed him. Is it a self-portrait, or in this case, a family portrait? I started with family lore, my own and my husband's, drew on the hundreds of pioneers I came to know in print and person, and the rest was imagination.


Her husband promises adulation, communal respect, and wealth. Her father predicts she'll cry to come home. Frieda experiences the delights and discomforts of desert life, independence, hard work, infidelity (hers), chicanery, and disappointment. She cries -- but not to go home.


"The author serves up enough period charm, crackling storytelling, and priceless details to satisfy devotees of both wild west lore and Jewish history." - Publishers Weekly

"Seldom is a book hot -- with believable characters caught in dilemmas that feel utterly familiar -- and historical, with an attention to detail that comes with years of archival research." - Cathy Luchetti, Children of the West: Family Life on the Frontier

"The book is an excellent blending of history, romance and plenty of excitement, and Frieda Levie Goldson is a plucky and thoroughly likeable character. . . . The story of the Goldsons' Passover seder, a blending of Hebrew, English, and Spanish, and celebrated with the Mexican construction crew, is priceless." - Norma Libman, New Mexico Jewish Link

"The First Lady is a novel for everyone who loves blue skies, vast space, and the idea that love can endure beyond suffering. It is a story about family and its deepest roots." - Denise Chavez, Author of Loving Pedro Infante

Product Description

Roots West Press (1998-2004)
ISBN 0-9741349-1-0 
Trade paperback: List price $12.95, Our price $7.25
ISBN 0-9741349-3-7
Hardcover: List price $19.95, Our price $10.95
229 pages