Saturday, March 11, 2017

A Map To The Starrs

The SJG was a shy girl, growing up in a humble little town called Westwood. I was never one to crave attention, unlike now, when I'll take whatever attention I can get. In elementary school, when the teacher called roll and said, "Carol Starr?" I whispered, "Here." Starr sounded like such a boastful, look-at-me name. "That's right, I'm a Starr.  What's it to ya?"  I didn't have the confidence to match my last name.  To be a Starr, I needed to feel like a Starr, and act like one.  I needed to get up out of my chair and grab the microphone. Sing and dance. Bring it. When people asked if Ringo Starr was my father-brother-uncle, I wanted to say, "Hell yes, and he's leaving me all his money." Instead, I giggled. Hee hee. That's funny. Never heard that one before. At UCLA, the more mature, coming-out-of-my-shell SJG entered into a serious reporter stage, writing for the Daily Bruin. I went from Beatle knock-off to Brenda Starr. This suited me better.  I was more comfortable as a cartoon character than a drummer from Liverpool.
Full disclosure: The thing is, my last name isn't really Starr. Well, it is, but it isn't. It's a truncated version of a long Russian name -- Starratiefsky. When my grandparents arrived at Ellis Island, the judge said the name was too long, and shortened it to Starr. By the time I got married, I loved the boldness of Starr so much, I couldn't let it go. Carol Starratiefsky Schneider would've been too long a byline. Carol Starr Schneider? Just right. To this day, I love my maiden name so much that whenever I see Starr somewhere, it feels like a personal shout-out.
You can only imagine the thrill I experienced several years ago when I read Alice Hoffman's book "The Red Garden," which traces the history of a small town in the Berkshires. One of the founding families: The Starrs! Then I went to hear her speak, and when they turned it over for questions, up went my hand.
"This is totally self-serving, but I'm wondering why you chose the name Starr? It's my last name, and it's not that common." Alice Hoffman smiled at me, patiently. Actually, Starr was a fairly common name in colonial times and that's why she used it. "Well, I just wanted to thank you for using it. I get such a kick out of seeing my name in your book." "Uh huh," she said. "Next question?

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