Dough: A Memoir

Mort Zachter’s childhood revolved around a small shop on Manhattan’s Lower East Side known in the neighborhood as “the day-old bread store.” It was a bakery where nothing was baked, owned by his two eccentric uncles who referred to their goods as “the merchandise.” Zachter grew up sleeping in the dinette of a leaking Brooklyn tenement. He lived a classic immigrant story one of a close-knit, working-class family struggling to make it in America. Only they were rich.

In Dough, Zachter chronicles the life-altering discovery made at age thirty-six that he was heir to several million dollars his bachelor uncles had secretly amassed in stocks and bonds. Although initially elated, Zachter battled bitter memories of the long hours his mother worked at the bakery for no pay. And how could his own parents have kept the secret from him while he was a young married man, working his way through night school? As he cleans out his uncles’ apartment, Zachter discovers clues about their personal lives that raise more questions than they answer. He also finds cake boxes packed with rolls of two-dollar bills and mattresses stuffed with coins.

In prose that is often funny and at times elegiac, Zachter struggles with the legacy of his enigmatic family and the implications of his new-found wealth. Breaking with his family’s workaholic heritage, Zachter abandons his pragmatic accounting career to pursue his lifelong dream of being a writer. And though he may not understand his family, in the end he realizes that forgiveness and acceptance matter most.


“[A] small, wry memoir … that is as miraculously loving and nonjudgmental as it is cleareyed.”
New York Times Book Review

“This rich story pays off with honest but lighthearted discoveries about loyalty and wealth”
Publishers Weekly

“Zachter charmingly portrays the changing Lower East Side…Zachter never seems bitter, describing the discovery of his uncles’ secret hoard with such surpassing sweetness and affection that readers won’t dream of envying his newfound wealth…a warm family narrative.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Zachter’s memoir, with well-paced chapters that are nostalgic yet often humorous and pungent, gives a distinct take on the classic saga of working-class immigrant families struggling to succeed….This is recommended for all libraries.”
Library Journal

“What if, after a life of struggle, you found out you were about to inherit several million dollars? Run to the Mercedes dealer? Call your travel agent? Call Paine Webber? Mort Zachter did none of the above. Mort turned first into an investigator, trying to unlock the mystery of how his modest, bread-selling family amassed a secret fortune. And then Mort turned into a writer, putting down the tale in this delightful and elegant book. Read it. It will make you smile and see that sometimes good things happen to good people.”
–Ari L. Goldman, author of Living a Year of Kaddish

“With a sense of detail as sharp as the perceptions of a quietly observing child and with the insight and compassion of an adult, Mort Zachter takes us back to the Manhattan of the sixties, where he gracefully and wittily examines the mysteries–and baffling complexities–of family, work, love and sacrifice.”
–Elizabeth Frank, Pulitzer Prize winning author of Louise Bogan

Dough is rising! More than just a story about bread or money, it’s a beautifully written family memoir-with an astonishing twist!-that brings to life a vanished Lower East Side and the people who walked its streets. Mort Zachter’s keen eye and humor will keep you reading way past your bedtime.”
–Hettie Jones, author of How I Became Hettie Jones

“Rich in spirit and detail, DOUGH is a sweet, wistful, and eloquent tale of faith, family and the real meaning of wealth.”
–Debra Ginsberg, author of Waiting: The True Confessions of a Waitress