Ghostwriting in the Family

When I was in high school I don’t remember anyone making a big fuss over college admissions.  In fact what I remember most about senior year was shopping with my mother for my college wardrobe,  walking around Greenwich Village with my friends,  and slow dancing to 50s rock ‘n’ roll in dark living rooms.  And I certainly don’t remember writing my college essay,  because in fact my father wrote it for me.

I don’t remember why he did,  I guess I was just too busy trying on clothes at Loehmann’s,  wandering around the Village,  or dancing to the Platters.

My dad went to NYU Heights and loved it,  and he was sure I would too,  and so he sat down one night and wrote my essay.   I think the gist of the essay was,  “My dad went to NYU Heights and loved it,  and I am sure I will too.”

Well,  it must have done the trick because I got in,  and of course I did love it,  and not for a minute did I feel guilty about that ghost-written essay.

In 1973,  nine years after I graduated,  New York University closed it’s arts and engineering schools at the Heights and sold the buildings and grounds to CUNY.   And so my old Alma Mater became the new leafy campus of Bronx Community College.

I guess some things change.

Years later when my son was too  busy studying his Torah portion,  my husband sat down one night and ghost-wrote the kid’s bar mitzvah speech.

I guess some things never change.

Dana Susan Lehrman


  • My father was a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. The union produced a film about the origin of unions in the U.S. and needed a title. I came up with the title, "Birth of a Brotherhood," which won first prize which was ten dollars. My father gave me ten dollars but never cashed the check. He kept it in his wallet and would pull it out, especially after a few drinks and talk about "my daughter, the writer." But the best thing was one day when I came home there was a typewriter sitting on the dining room table. "For you, because you need a typewriter to write. " PS: That was my first ghost writing experience, but years later I made a pile of money ghost writing a book for a doctor. It was a book about alternatives to drugs using natural and herbs instead of chemicals to treat illnesses.

  • I loved this one! I had the obnoxious habit of correcting Anya's homework b/c I just couldn't stand all the misspellings, non-sentences and ink blotches. it was an issue then and now just a funny memory but I'm happy to say she still sometimes uses me as her editor! That's forgiveness.

  • I loved this! Imagine that said by a long-time college admissions director who unwittingly read many ghosted essays. But surely our very proudest ghostwriting is acknowledged when we look at a grown son or daughter and think, “You know, that’s a really wonderful story that I helped to write.” Congrats on the NYT placement!

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