The First Time I Read . . . Welcome Joan Lipinsky Cochran

Today on Birds and Books, writer Joan Lipinsky Cochran shares her thoughts on why J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye is her literary inspiration. I didn't read the book until I was an adult. At the time I was teaching adolescents, and Salinger's story provided me a greater insight as to what my students were experiencing emotionally. It also brought back memories from when I was that age. Understanding adolescence is difficult; writing about it is challenging. Read what Joan has to say about how Salinger and his writing helped her develop her characters and the subtleties of their relationships.

Catching Up with J.D. Salinger

A few  years ago, a fellow writer told me he’d read Catcher in the Rye three times and hated it every time. I don’t remember his reasoning but I do understand his compulsion to reread the book. I’ve read J.D. Salinger’s opus of alienation and teenage angst five times, most recently to try to understand what my teenage sons were experiencing during those years when they barely spoke to me. Neither would agree to read the book when I asked—it’s no longer required high school reading as it was when I was a student—but I suspect they’ve picked it up and leafed through it.  

The magic of Catcher in the Rye is that it captures such  genuine emotions—emotions shared by every American kid who must come to terms with the disillusioning reality that parents aren’t the heroes we expect them to be and adults don’t always act maturely.  J.D. Salinger—in this book and his other writing—has driven me to work harder to capture my characters emotions in a genuine way so that readers can experience these moments in the same visceral manner.  Studying his work also has helped me express what’s unsaid in relationships, especially among family members.

Finally, I admire Salinger’s spare writing style, his quirky characters and his ability to write with the kind of natural rhythm that makes his work sound like he produced each story easily and in a single sitting. I also admire his ability (I don’t know if it’s lack of ego or stubbornness or what, though I daresay his biographers have theories)  to turn his back on the world and write for himself.  All writers do this, I think, but when we come out of our zones I think we tend to be aware of the reader or editor looking over our shoulder and, perhaps, judging us even more harshly than we judge ourselves.

Joan Lipinsky Cochran is the author of Still Missing Beulah: Stories of Blacks and Jews in Mid-Century Miami, (available on Amazon) a collection of award-winning short stories and historical accounts of black and Jewish relations during the civil rights era. She is a journalist, fiction writer and adjunct professor whose work has appeared in Family Circle, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Sun Sentinel, The Palm Beach Post and Florida Living, among other publications. Her unpublished novel, The Yiddish Gangster’s Daughter, was a Claymore Award and Amazon Novel Breakthrough Award finalist.  A native of Miami, she lives in Boca Raton with her handsome husband, ungrateful cat and a yard full of rotting tropical fruit. She can be reached at

About Still Missing Beulah: Stores of Blacks and Jews in Mid-Century Miami.

No Jews. No Coloreds. No Dogs.

It's the 1950s and Miami businessman Tootsie Plotnik counts his Bahamian mistress and his black business associates among his dearest friends. But he also refers to his African American employees using the derogatory Yiddish term, schvartz, and comes within inches of murdering an unarmed black teenager.

Using linked short stories and brief historical accounts, Still Missing Beulah takes the reader into the heart and mind of an aging Jewish businessman whose prejudices are challenged by the black people who enter his life. Written in the same vein as The Help, this collection documents the struggles Jews and blacks faced during an era when both groups experienced rampant discrimination  and signs prohibiting Jews and blacks in hotels and clubs were as pervasive as palm trees and mosquitoes.