His father, Sol Salinger was of Jewish descent and worked trading kosher cheese. Sol’s father, Salinger’s grandfather, was a rabbi in Louisville, Kentucky.
Salinger’s mother, Marie, was born in Atlantic, Iowa, and was descended from German, Irish, and Scottish ancestors. Once she married Sol, she changed her name to Miriam and converted to the Jewish faith. Salinger was also raised Jewish, as was his sister, Doris, who was seven years his senior and died in 2001. Salinger’s mother’s non-Jewish heritage was not something that many people knew about. In fact, Salinger did not find out about it until he had his bar mitzvah when he was fourteen years old. The family chose to hide the mixed nature of the marriage due to societal stigma at the time.
Jerome David Salinger’s Romantic Relationships
In 1955, Salinger married Claire Douglas. He was thirty-six at the time and she was twenty-two. Douglas was a student at Radcliffe College. Together the couple has two children, a daughter Margaret and a son Matthew born respectively in 1955 and 1960. Salinger convinced his new wife to drop out of school so that she might move in with him and take up the role of wife. As a child, Margret was frequently sick but Salinger refused to take her to a doctor, deciding instead to embrace Christian Science. With this religious belief system, Salinger was of the mind that only God can control the world and that illnesses are illusions that can be overcome through prayer.
Salinger’s marriage to Claire did not age well. After their first child, Claire believed that Salinger spent less time with her and more time with their daughter. Margaret, who in later years spoke about her parent’s unhappiness, revealed that her mother once told her that she planned to murder her and then commit suicide in order to escape the relationship. This, of course, did not come to pass and the couple divorced in 1966, six years after their second child, Matthew was born.
Salinger’s most famous relationship was with Joyce Maynard, an 18-year-old. He was fifty-three at the time. She was a writer for Seventeen magazine and moved in with Salinger after her freshman year of college. She spent ten months living within him until, she says, he ended the relationship and sent her away.