Jerome David Salinger was born on January 1, 1919 in New York City to a Jewish importer of kosher cheese and his Scotch-Irish wife. He had one sibling, an older sister named Doris. The Salingers lived in a wealthy Park Avenue apartment in Manhattan. Growing up, J.D. (also called Sonny, and today called Jerry by friends and family) was distant with his father. Being half Jewish (his mother was Catholic) was a source of much conflict in J.D., so much in fact that he did not even attend his father's funeral. The conflict was more of a social conflict than a religious one, however. Salinger was very fond of his mother, but his father had always put a lot of pressure on him to succeed in school and get a steady job, preferably in the meat and cheese importing business. After viewing a meat packing plant, Salinger decided he did not want to have anything to do with the business, and this trauma is most likely also a reason for his vegetarianism as an adult. Salinger grew up wealthy, but because of the pressure his dad placed on him to land a high paying job as an adult, he resented it, and finally decided to become a writer. .
Jerome received high marks in grade school, but once he entered prep school, he was dropped out for failing. He briefly attended Valley Forge Military Academy in Pennsylvania (1934-1936), which was the source for many of his critical and cynical descriptions of Pency Prep in Catcher in the Rye. (He later admitted to having fond feelings for the school, however.) This was where J.D. developed his sarcastic wit, and started writing. He spent five months in Europe in 1937, and returned to attend Ursinus College and New York University in 1938.
While attending college, J.D. fell in love with Oona O'Neill, writing her love letters almost daily. Many say Salinger's talent for writing charming and witty love letters could sway any girl, but this was proven wrong when he attempted to write letters for a friend in order to help him charm a girl and she still denied him.