The Shyster’s Daughter

The title of my forthcoming memoir “The Shyster’s Daughter” is apparently as insulting to the thin-skinned politically correct as the dirtiest four letter word.  At the time my book was about ready to be sent out my agent emailed me asking if I was sure I really wanted to go with the title I’d chosen.  Just as fast as he’d emailed me he followed up with another one stating it was okay.  He’d take the verbal blows in the name of my artistic integrity.  He’d already taken one earlier that day after he mentioned the title of my memoir to someone in passing.  Just the sound of the S word chased that particular editor away from ever reading my manuscript.  At the time I didn’t understand what the big deal was about.

My father was a shyster.  He was a crooked lawyer who cheated his clients out of money.  Everybody called him that word from my mother in the heat of one of their blowouts to the men who in the past used to call the house politely asking for my father but now left furious and oftentimes threatening messages on our answering machine.  One even cased our house and vandalized it.  Therefore it didn’t occur to me that for some just by me calling my Greek father a shyster this somehow made me insensitive to Jewish cheats everywhere?

At a book party an older female Jewish author tried to explain it to me.  She said that because it was a Jewish derived word (actually the origin is unknown) I was only allowed to have it come out of the mouth of a Jewish person.  “Were any of your father’s clients Jews?” she asked.  Because I didn’t want to start any trouble since it was her book party, I simply didn’t answer.  I just let it go.

But it got me thinking and I did a little research.  Approximately 80,000 words from the English language are taken from the Greeks.  Not to mention actual Greek letters are used in modern day science and mathematics.  And let’s not even get into the roots, the prefixes and suffixes.  Should I also add in the names and symbols for frat houses and sororities?  In fact that woman writer shouldn’t worry herself with lecturing me over one word (the meaning of which is the same for everyone who is called it) that may or may not come from her ancestral background.  Instead she should be thanking me and my people for our profound contribution to such a rich and complicated language that she gets to utilize every day when she sits down to write one of her books.


Leave a Reply


  1. Soccer Mom

    October 22, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    I am a huge fan of true crime shows like Dateline and Forensic Files. Looking forward to reading about what your life was like, the lessons you learned from your defense attorney father!

    • Mystery Reader

      November 15, 2010 at 12:22 pm

      That older female writer sounds incredibly uptight and her political correctness bores me. I’ll definitely be checking out your memoir when it comes out.

  2. UK bookmakers

    December 29, 2010 at 11:22 pm

    I came across your article, i think your blog is cool, keep posting.

  3. Cee Cee

    December 30, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    I can’t wait to read your memoir!

    • Arctic Chiller

      February 3, 2011 at 11:34 am

      I can’t wait to read it either. Will be looking for it when it comes out. wish you’d write something more about your father soon.

      • Paula

        February 3, 2011 at 3:27 pm

        Thanks for wanting to read more about my father! Actually the first part of my memoir is being featured this spring in a really cool literary journal out here on the west coast called Zyzzyva.

  4. Samantha

    February 16, 2011 at 9:50 pm

    I can’t wait until your memoir comes out next year. I’ll make sure to pick up a copy of that journal you said the first chapters will appear in.

  5. Ashlee

    March 8, 2011 at 9:53 am

    I was referred to your fantastic site by a friend. Some of your blogs could actually be published as an Op-ed or something, so I thank you for sharing them here instead! I imagine you have more freedom on your own site to write what you want. I’m looking forward to reading your memoir especially the first section that I see will be published in such a fine literary journal!

  6. Lit Reader

    April 5, 2011 at 8:37 am

    I read the excerpt from Zyzzyva which was both hysterical and a little frightening. I was really pulling for your family! BTW, what a beautiful way to end the section. You have a new reader in me…

    • Paula

      April 6, 2011 at 1:45 pm

      Thanks so much to everyone for reading! And thanks to Lit Reader for supporting one of the best and edgiest outlets for artists and writers out here on the West Coast.

  7. Miranda

    April 16, 2011 at 11:03 pm

    Your memoir sounds edgy and interesting!

  8. Angelina

    December 9, 2011 at 5:23 am

    Excellent article and easy to understand explanation.

    • Paula

      December 19, 2011 at 6:23 pm

      Thanks, Angelina. And yes, you have my permission to post part of this article on your own blog if you’d like.

      • Veronica

        May 12, 2012 at 2:25 pm

        I couldn’t agree more, Paula! How dare one writer attempt to censor another.

  9. Donna McBroom-Theriot

    September 19, 2012 at 6:43 pm

    I’m enthralled by your writing and what you have to say. I love your honesty.

    • Paula

      September 20, 2012 at 7:45 am

      Thanks so much, Donna! I appreciate you reading.