The Red Leather Diary

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How many life-changing events are unplanned, but come from chance discoveries?

The Red Leather Diary – Reclaiming a Life Through the Pages of a Lost Journal by journalist Lily Koppel, is the story of such a discovery.


Like something out of a novel, a chance find in an Upper West Side dumpster turned into Koppel’s look at a young woman coming of age in New York City in the 1930s. Koppel stumbled across the diary inside a steamer trunk near her apartment. And thanks to a hired sleuth, she found the owner of that diary. Florence Wolfson, the young writer, was still around at 92.

In her diary, which Koppel augments with interviews with Florence, we can see a young woman with an artistic, literary aesthetic trying to take advantage of all New York City offers and find herself in the process.

Though written at a time when sex was a a subject discussed discreetly at best, the diary is studded with brief but graphic details about relationships with both men and women.

How, Florence was asked, did the diary end up in dumpster? She is not sure, but she suspects the journal was inadvertently abandoned in storage when she and her husband left 98 Riverside Drive in 1989.

The move from New York City to an affluent Connecticut suburb seemed to write a final entry to the chronicle of the eager, searching girl she had been. “Where did all of that creativity go?” Wolfson wondered aloud to Koppel as she pondered the newly rediscovered story of her youth. “If I was true to myself, would I have ended up in Wesport?”

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