Skip to content


Josiane Behmoiras Book

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