Dora B: a memoir of my mother was first published in 2005 by Penguin Australia and then Berlin Verlag, following, in 2006, by Bloomsbury UK, and in 2007, by Anatolia, Groupe Libella, France. The paperback edition was published under the new title My Mother Was A Bag Lady by Bloomsbury and Penguin in 2007.
Dora B was shortlisted for the NSW Premier Award, 2006.
‘…Melbourne writer Josiane Behmoiras’s first book is a memoir of her mother, Dora B. Its short chapters and highly visual prose create the effect of rifling through a box of family photos. This tale of a childhood streaked with poverty, hunger and persecution is told with a restrain that heightens its emotional charge. Dora’s life was a sad one, but it has inspired an extraordinary memorial to her courage and great capacity for love.’
– Michelle de Kretser, Weekend Australian
‘Behmoiras barely hints at the turmoil behind the writing. Her Splendid portrait of her mother is a riposte to the humiliation and derision encountered in their early years. Dora B. restores the rich inner life and humanity of a bag lady.’
– Felicity Bloch, Australian Book Review
‘The brilliance of the book – which is everywhere dense, rich and associative – is that Behmoiras leaves her mother entirely in the precinct of her madness; she does not try to explain it or to rationalise it; she does not attempt to defend her mother’s behaviour or to condemn the behaviour of others. This, Behmoiras seems to suggest, is simply what is: the book is pure testimony.’
– Ian Sansom, The Guardian UK
‘The exotism of Israel is beautiful evoked, but its riches are juxtaposed with the abuse both mother and daughter suffer. Behmoiras conveys much feeling without slipping into sentimentality.’
– Harper Bazaar UK
‘Brutally honest and utterly original, this poignant memoir will touch readers’ hearts.’
– Emma Pickering, Waterstone’s Books Quarterly
…Dora B is a compelling read. Touching and thought-provoking, it offers a fascinating insight into the unconventional relationship between a daughter and a mother slowly losing her wits. Unlike many of the childhood memoirs that fly off the shelves, this is obviously not a self-obsessed fest of tortuous acts, but it is nevertheless heartbreaking and gripping. Behmoiras’s writing has a beautiful simplicity which fits the storyline perfectly, allowing the extraordinary strength and bravery of both her and her mother to shine through, and making a worthwhile novel indeed.’
– Kiranjeet Kaur Gill, Culture Wars UK
‘Unusual and moving mother/daughter memoir by the Parisian-born author …who becomes her mother’s protector, endures a terrible childhood, yet there is love, laughter and dreams. A sad, wonderful book that gives you a lot to think about.’
– Women’s Weekly
‘This elegantly produced book was a delight to me in almost every way. A relatively diminutive hardback, it fitted the palm of my hand, affording the kind of tactile pleasure that only books can give.
…Dora’s story might by one of those quasi-polemics about women struggling against the odds and rising above them to the nirvana of “success”, the 21st-century Horatio Alger story that, converted to the female gender, publishers are wont to foist on us these days.
Josiane Behmoiras’s eye is far too sharp for that. What she gives us instead is an unflinching account of an unbelievable harsh existence, shaped by loss of a kind that, for the average reader, is almost to great to comprehend. Indeed, if the story were told merely in factual terms – an exile, torn from her family, impregnated by a man who leaves her, a vagabond life with her child – it would be difficult to imagine such loneliness and poverty. But Behmoiras records is a life of beauty and amazing resourcefulness – genius indeed in the face of their privation.’
– Sara Dowse, Canberra Times