She's Ilka Weissnix, a young Jewish refugee from Hitler's Europe, newly arrived in the United States. He's Carter Bayoux, her first American: a middle-aged, hard-drinking black intellectual. Lore Segal's brilliant novel is the story of their love affair one of the funniest and saddest in modern fiction. First published by Knopf in 1985, Her First American is widely considered to be a modern classic. It is about the process of "naturalization," about the differences and the common ground between peoples and people. It is also about Jews and Blacks, whose experience, to quote Carter Bayoux, is parallel in the sense that two lines are parallel: running side by side but never meeting; except that this man and woman are able, for a time, to love. Wholly original, Her First American is an unforgettable novel, humorous, sad, and deeply moving.
Lore Segal may have come closer than anyone to writing the Great American Novel.