As a twin whose sister writes for the New York Times, Abigail Pogrebin seems uniquely qualified to author a book titled One and the Same: My Life as an Identical Twin and What I’ve Learned About Everyone’s Struggle to Be Singular. But she didn’t think so at first.
“It was percolating in a way I didn’t necessarily confront, and every time I considered exploring it, it got so personal that there was no way to separate approaching it as a journalist and as a twin,” said Pogrebin, an Upper West Side native and former 60 Minutes producer. “I finally decided to not be frightened by the fact that it would be personal.”
Of course, since the book covers her life as a twin, including a visit to Twinsburg, Ohio, which hosts an annual twins convention, her family is included, especially her twin sister.
“To write this was to decide that [Robin’s] life would be peeled back too,” she said. “It wasn’t an easy decision, and I needed to do it with Robin’s blessing. The biggest act of love was that she let me go ahead and write it—that took a lot of trust, since there are things she wasn’t comfortable with.”
Although her interviews with fertility clinic doctors and other experts are included, the portraits of different twins are the heart of the book.
“The people who really come to life are the twins profiled in each section,” Pogrebin said.
She talks to NFL players Tiki and Ronde Barber (there are not as many celebrity twins as one might think, she points out) and, in one of the most emotional sections, Gregory Hoffman, whose twin brother Stephen died on Sept. 11.
“I was struck by how unraveled he was,” Pogrebin said. “His was a different kind of loss [than others’ on that day], not unique, but its own distinctive pain. I couldn’t help putting myself into his shoes and thinking about how close Robin and I are. There was an urgency to his saying not to take [our relationship] lightly.”
Writing One and the Same opened Pogrebin’s eyes to a world she couldn’t have imagined growing up a twin in the ’60s and ’70s.
“There are so many more twins now, obviously, so it’s a different landscape than when I was being raised,” she said. “And online, there are twin blogs and twin sites everywhere.”
On Sept. 30, Pogrebin also begins an interview series about her hometown, “What Everyone’s Talking About: Governing the Ungovernable City,” at the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan.
“We want to hit the chord of what people are debating, writing about, talking about and worried about,” she said, “since we’re not around water coolers any more.”
The first topic is Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s run for an unprecedented third term, with guests Joyce Purnick of the New York Times, whose new Bloomberg biography is coming out, and former Mayor Ed Koch.
“There are so many interesting questions built in to his run for another term, and Joyce knows the mayor well and Ed has his own take on what that office requires in this crazy city of ours,” she said.
Pogrebin seems to have an organic view on what other topics her series will cover.
“What’s planned ahead are the dates and me, but we won’t know what the world will bring. And we’ll be in front of a smart audience, a West Side audience, who are not passive participants but active listeners.”
One and the Same
($26.95) is being released by Doubleday on Oct. 20.
“What Everyone’s Talking About” premieres at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 30 at the JCC in Manhattan, 334 Amsterdam Ave.; $10 members and $15 non-members; jccmanhattan.org.
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