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- From The Rabbi's Desk - Temple Beth Emeth v'Ohr Progressive Shaari Zedek, Brooklyn, NY
I stretch my neck as far as it will go in order to catch a glimpse of my father. He is standing in the Umschlagplatz, the assembly point for deportation, which is next to the Great Synagogue of our town, Piotrkow, Poland. We felt enormous tension that day as we stood in the assembly square in front of the synagogue. A threatening silence surrounded us. The captain of the Piotrkow Gestapo approached my father, a deadly look in his eye.
He stopped, and pulling out his maikeh—a rubber club about three feet long—he began to beat my father on the back with all his might. When the first blow struck my father from behind, the force of it made him stagger forward. His body bent over as if about to fall. And then, in a fraction of a second, he straightened up to his full height, stepped back and returned to where he had been standing.
There he stood erect, making a supreme effort to hide the physical pain as well as the intense humiliation. Father knew that if he fell, the spirit of the Jews in our town would break, and he was trying desperately to prevent that. Everyone there knew why the German had beaten him. When the Nazis had ordered the Jews to shave off their beards, many of the Jews of Piotrkow had come to ask Father whether they should follow the order. His answer was firm: do it in order to save yourselves from punishment. But he was stricter with himself; he kept his beard and sidelocks, his peyot, not only to safeguard ancient tradition but also to preserve the honor of the town rabbinate.
His defiance of this order resulted in the maikeh on his back. But the beating was for other reasons as well. The captain had singled out my father for abuse because he was the chief rabbi of the town. Father was the representative of the Jews to the Germans. He was a highly respected figure in the Jewish community. Beating him, and especially humiliating him, meant more to the Germans than beating just another Jew; it was an act of enormous symbolic meaning, one that had a powerful effect on morale.
Many years later, I heard the following from Dr. Abraham Greenberg, who had been standing next to my father in the synagogue square. We have nothing to lose by trying to fight them. As a child, I did not understand the issue of the beard so well or the significance of the order to shave it, but I did understand that they were beating my father.
I could not bear to see the beating or the degradation. Today, looking back on the six years of that war, I realize that the worst thing I endured in the Holocaust was not the hunger, the cold or the beatings. It was the humiliation. It is almost impossible to bear the helplessness. How great was our crime that this is our punishment? There was no answer. Only this: we were Jews, and they, the Nazis, saw us as the source of all evil in the world.
Yet, on the other hand, I carry in my mind another memory as well—that instant in which Father, with astonishing spiritual strength, braced himself from falling and, refusing to beg for his life, stood tall once again before the Gestapo captain. For me, that image of his inner spiritual strength completely eradicates the helplessness that accompanied the humiliation. There they called out the names of those who were allowed to leave; those remaining inside were to be deported, destined for death.
One person had not left: my mother. Her maternal instinct aroused, she scrutinized the narrow passage between the two guards at the door. She planned our moves quickly and precisely. She grabbed me with one hand, and Shmuel with the other. We jumped to her. The three of us had to meld together as one. She planned to smuggle us both out under the cover of darkness, as if we were part of her body. But a group of three could not possibly pass through the narrow opening the Germans had left.
I went out first, with Mother close behind me, and Shmuel behind her. But one German noticed that there was a bit more movement than there should be. Facing us, he raised both his arms together, and swung them down with all his might, one to the left and one to the right. Shmuel, who was on the left side, fell to the synagogue floor and had to go back inside. On the right side were my mother and I. The force of the blow hurled us into a puddle in front of the synagogue.
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The two of us were saved, but we were separated from Shmuel, and we never saw him again. Later we learned that he was sent to Treblinka that same day. As an adult, Rabbi Lau recalls the taste of the honey cookies mentioned here as symbolic of his Holocaust experience.
Father was not with Mother and me when the two of us hid at 12 Jerozolimska Street, a building near our house, where he had arranged a hiding place for us. This large building had been filled with Jewish residents, who then abandoned it for reasons unknown to me. The floor of one room in the top story was littered with wooden boards; the entry to the attic was through this room.
Mother and I crowded into the attic along with about ten other Jews. They were constantly darting frightened looks at me, as if threatening me to keep silent, and at my mother, as if blaming her for bringing me to the hiding place and possibly endangering their lives. At least that is how it seemed to me. They were busy thinking of ways to make the child keep silent, but the child never even made a peep. Before leaving our house, my mother had foreseen what was ahead of us, and baked my favorite honey cookies.
She knew that when I ate them they would distract me. More importantly, they would fill up my mouth so I would be unable to make a sound. Even today, many long years after those days of horror, when I close my eyes and yearn for those honey cookies, I can remember their wonderful taste. During trying times, this memory is my consolation; it is the drop of honey with which I sweeten bitter days. The rules of the camp were ironclad, and chances were slim that they would allow a child of seven to stay with the men.
But as usual, Naphtali1 did not give up. With the help of two friends, he wrapped me up in the feather quilt that Mother had supplied us with, and put me inside the sack he had carried with him ever since we had parted from her. As I was already used to transitions, to entering and exiting labor camps, he had no need to warn me to keep my mouth shut until it was safe to leave the sack. Despite my being so young, the procedure was clear to me.
Meanwhile in ... Berlin, three new rabbis have made history
Like a rabbit, I jumped into the sack, curling up as small as possible, and that is how I entered Buchenwald with my brother. The Germans made the newly-arrived Jews stand in formation, arranging them in threes. What may be different about a lot of the recent memoirs is the writers are not necessarily well known. Christina Haag, WSJ I once heard writing fiction described as planting a garden in the desert, and memoir as weeding in the jungle.
What I experienced was more akin to chiseling, as if all that had happened was stone, and I had only faith and a small bit of metal to find the shape, to tap out the places where meaning might lie. Invariably, to jot things down, I learned to carry a pen and index card with me wherever I went—even on beach walks clad only in a bikini. Times, , on people from our past banging on our cyberdoors, looking to set us straight on our memories. We take half-remembered events and stitch them together to form a larger story that will, we hope, resonate with others and help them make sense of their own scraps.
A first thing to ask yourself about personal narrative is: What portion of my experience will resonate with other people? The Fry Chronicles. Stephen Fry twitter address: StephenFry , as Fast Company puts it, transforms how we read by producing the first book truly designed for the Internet his memoirs. Sanford Dody's own memoir of ghostwriting: Giving Up the Ghost James Birrens' brainchild.
Structured memoir writing, two pages at a time, on a different theme each week, including branching points in life, family, health and body, sexuality, spirituality, work, death--and sharing those pieces aloud in small groups. I got instructor training through Cheryl Svensson when she and Anita Reyes taught together. There are many local workshops and some online: I love teaching it and participants seem to love it too.
It tends to draw an older group, or younger adults at a stage of life crisis or soul-searching. Now it's of Everyman. Tristram Hunt, The Observer, Excellent essay. Writing not only plays fast and loose with the past; it hijacks the past. Which may be why we put the past to paper. We want it hijacked What we want is a narrative, not a log; a tale, not a trial.
This is why most people write memoirs using the conventions not of history, but of fiction. The more you can yank yourself away from your own intimacy with yourself, the more reliable your self-awareness is likely to be We should see ourselves as literary critics, putting each incident in the perspective of a longer life story. The narrative form is a more supple way of understanding human processes, even unconscious ones, than rationalistic analysis.
See her website: Center for Journal Therapy. What's Yours? It's an act of memory. Pick at your memories. An interesting read. Proceeds from the sale of an anthology I Speak From My Palms: The In Visible Memoirs Project Anthology help support the In Visible Memoirs Project, a project of no-cost, community-based writing workshops in communities underrepresented in literary publishing and programs. How can we achieve both uniqueness and universality? Another challenge: dealing with characters who really exist.
How can we maintain our real-life relationships without compromising the stories we need to tell? Memoirists Sarah Saffian, Alexandra Styron, and Kathryn Harrison discuss these issues, in pursuit of a form of expression that we can support as both authors and daughters. What was missing and forgotten was less often crucial or even trivial details of events than the events themselves, gone in their entirety.
They alert us, calm us, reach toward us. They say implicitly, Yes, I have hoped, and yes, I have wanted, and I know that you have, too. Can a memoirist write with total honesty if she is worried about what her son might think? Christina Patterson, The Independent, Sharon Olds' account of her marital break-up made her a deserved TS Eliot winner. But that doesn't mean confessional poetry is easy to pull off. Confessional poetry, says critic Mack Rosenthal, is poetry that "goes beyond customary bounds of reticence or personal embarrassment.
Or how not to write a grief memoir, in her view. Should Joyce Carol Oates have revealed her second marriage? Tempest in a teapot? David L. Ulin, Jacket Copy blog, L. Two of the writers withheld important facts and wound up producing inferior books; the writer who held nothing back produced a masterpiece.
Joan Didion "understands that if you want to write about yourself, you have to give them something. Actually, Didion understands a far larger and deeper and darker truth. She understands that if you want to write about your grief, you have to give them everything. My favorite: Ernest Hemingway's "For Sale: baby shoes, never worn. Elsewhere, he writes "One of the saddest sentences I know is I wish I had asked my mother about that. I wish I had asked my father about that. Writers are the custodians of memory so it's extremely important to get to people, interview your parents, your grandparents.
Don't worry what anybody else thinks. The important thing is to be a recorder of the past. But it's very important work, I think, writing family history, whether anyone ever sees it or not. Stiles, Yahoo! Scott Raab's article for Esquire, based on an interview with the novelist in the town that provided the setting for so much of his fiction, is a Notable Narrative, as featured on Nieman Storyboard: Esquire goes home with Philip Roth Plot Twist : Philip Carlo, true crime writer with Lou Gehrig's disease, is working on his memoir.
His deadline: his own death. And therein, to me, lies the privilege and also the challenge of teaching how to write memoir. Anybody and everybody are writing memoirs these days. Before you join the crowd, suggests Genzlinger, in reviewing four memoirs. Don't write for sympathy. Don't be a copy cat. And consider making yourself the "least important character" in the story.
It makes its interest in readers explicit, offering not just a series of life events, but a deliberate suggestion of what it is to be a human being — to experience confusion, despair, hope, joy, and all that happens in between. Secrets of Memoir panel. Six-word memoirs hosted by Smith, a personal stories magazine. One life. Six words. What's yours? Six word memoirs on love and heartbreak. Everyone has a story to tell. The Slate Diaries. A collection of some of the "diaries" published by Slate the online literary magazines. Speak Memory. Oliver Sachs's fascinating long essay in the New York Review of Books on the nature of memory-- how we remember, misremember, and construct memories -- and borrow from what we read!
She learned that obsessive precision is not the greatest quality in a would-be memoirist. When Sting did this, his creativity was reborn. Songs exploded from his head. More should do so because artists write about what matters to artists, so it is helpful to new artists. A Story Circle is a group of women who come together on a regular basis to write, read, share, and celebrate the stories of their lives. Clearly the method can be adapted to other types of groups.
I was ecstatic when I sold a book about my sordid first marriage. I would only be pretending to be at peace with my past and ready to share its lessons with the world.
Judaism and the Twice-Born
I thought becoming a writer was a Cinderella, all-or-nothing type deal. But it turns out to be more of a Velveteen Rabbit situation. The Thing About Life Is That One Day You'll Be Dead , David Shields' excellent autobiography of his body, is a fascinating little book about life and death and about what's happening to your body enroute from one to the other. Don't read it if you don't want to hear the bad news, but it does help explain things like why you have to make more trips to the bathroom as you age.
Rules for the much-maligned form. In brief but read the article! Part 1 by Matilda Butler, Women's Memoirs blog, about truth being affected by relative age and wisdom ; Part 2 about differences in vantage points and information ; and Part 3 about the difference between two people's emotional truths. Writers wrote them, of course, but rarely did they become known for the memoir alone JR Ackerley and Laurie Lee may be two exceptions. Publishers and readers thought instead of "autobiographies", in which intimate personal disclosure took a back seat to records of achievement.
The boundary between the two forms is blurred and bridgeable: VS Pritchett's wonderful account of his early life, A Cab at the Door, was described as "autobiography" when it first appeared in , whereas now it would have "memoir" written all over it. Gore Vidal explained the difference in this way: "A memoir is how one remembers one's own life, while an autobiography is history, requiring research, dates, facts double-checked.
More important, by stressing subjective, unverified memory it permits the memoirist to misremember and, unconsciously or otherwise, to embroider and invent — an indulgence, it has to be said, that Athill has never been interested to take. It was liberating to write so truthfully.
It was also effective. My teacher finally smiled at me, and he said my words held wisdom. Traversing the Mystery of Memory by Richard A. Friedman NY Times, About the accuracy of nostalgia and how the brain records memories. Friedman concludes: "if anything marks us as human, it's more our bent for making sense of things than for discovering the essential truth about them. For example: "The single biggest change in recent years has been the dramatic drop in advances for most biographies. While this may seem shortsighted in the long run, it makes financial sense when considering the declining state of books.
Biographies, like most forms of nonfiction, have a hard time earning back the kind of money necessary to research and write them. The story part book, part film, part family photo album of Pine Point, a mining town that existed only long enough to give a generation or two some memories--and was then erased from the map. Scroll to bottom and click on Visit Website. He's writing about fiction but offers helpful insights how memory is affected by details from reality. Critics take grim satisfaction in tearing the genre to pieces.
How quickly they forget Nabokov and Karr and Wolff. While some require the freedom of fiction, what if some stories need the pressure of truth — not because a writer perceives reality or confession as more interesting or so different from fiction, but because there is a unique dialogue that happens only in memoir between the present and the past.
Writing and publishing a memoir requires us to reveal and share your authentic self. A memoirist must attempt to avoid predetermined stories and challenge these popular narratives by plunging the subjects into a testing moment It is important for the memoirist to distinguish between what is lively detail and what is digression. But the record itself still matters; we do need to know who we are. What were the challenges of working with their subjects and their families? How did they get access to archives and research materials? How did they find publishers? These experienced writers share stories and tips that will enlighten both jazz biography readers and would-be biography authors.
This webinar is part of a monthly series produced by the Jazz Journalists Association. David Foster Wallace was inspired to write about a breakup. So are a lot of memoirists. It's not always worth it. Both ingredients—memory and story—are equally vital. Like a journal, a memoir is a passionate account of your experiences—but like a novel it has narrative structure.
A journal may be eloquent, and you may choose to share it with selected others, but it is essentially a conversation with yourself.
A memoir is inherently a conversation with others. Voice, persona, and point of view in memoir "Just as in everyday life we laugh and cry, show anger and sadness, so, too, for personal essayists and memoirists, one voice is rarely enough. Memoirists, for example need different voices in order to reveal the complexity of a life. You may need to twine a child voice with an adult voice; a lyric voice with a comic voice; a sober voice with an out-of-control voice. How she loved, feared, yearned. This embodies the mysterious nature of memory, upon which memoir and much of adult life rests.
And how to find a suitable prose style for it. You start with an interesting voice; the rest follows. If the voice is strong enough, the reader will go anywhere with you. They are very surface-oriented. In memoir, the only through-line is character represented by voice. In memoir, you are that main character.
It has to engage your emotions in some way. You need two things for the text to move forward. And so my review will be less about this book's extraordinary perspective on the Holocaust more broadly and specifically about the predicament and response of the Jewish community in Britain. Other reviews have addressed that achievement very effectively.
What I want to comment on and celebrate, as a student of biography, is Haber's remarkable control of the narrative voice she uses in this painfully moving book. I would argue the most difficult task of all for a memoirist is reaching back in her memory and giving the reader the perspective she had then, early in her life, rather than the meaning she now imparts to it as an adult. Haber might have chosen to pronounce truths about that stage in her life as she now understands them. But instead she finds a way as a writer to put us back there with a little girl who has no idea what is happening to her, not only within the greater drama of Britain at war and London under attack, but even more intensely the mysteries of her own predicament as a child imperfectly loved, occasionally abandoned, and consistently refused warnings or explanations.
So we wander and wonder with her, we never know why certain things were done, only that they were done. We can manage anything, even in a world at war, even as a child, if adults around us understand what we are emotionally owed, what we need to get through. There were some such adults in this child's life, but not enough, and not always. So read this book because of the history it conveys, but mostly read it to understand what it is to be a child.
By the end, I was finishing years of study of nonfiction form, hours of writing workshops with invested peers and mentors in the same field. So when my point of view as the narrator changes, it is through an integral change of the persona itself. I was more aware of myself, and more in tune with my surroundings, by the end of the writing process, so I resisted changing earlier bits to make myself look smarter. I just left in my initial excitements and lack of knowledge. Into those surrogates will be poured all that the writer cannot address directly -- inappropriate longings, s defensive embarrassments, anti-social desires -- but must address to achieve felt reality.
The persona in a nonfiction narrative is an unsurrogated one The unsurrogated narrator has the monumental task of transforming low-level self-interest into the kind of detached empathy required of a piece of writing that is to be of value to the disinterested reader. Fierce Attachments was the first thing I ever wrote in which I felt the presence of a persona on whom I could rely. She figured out the scope of the book and how to fill it properly. I was never under the impression that I had written a major book, but I thought that what I had written was a small good thing.
Then one day I wrote something about the city, about going out into the street for relief from my solitude and having an encounter in the street, and suddenly it came together for me. I thought, I can write about Leonard and myself as creatures of the city. Martin evokes his experience in scenes while also slipping into the action musings by his older and wiser self. For one price, we get two points of view—that of the sensitive, difficult boy and that of the wiser adult he became. And then there is So, What?
Without this reflective voice, the Coors story lacks the impulse for understanding that drove me to the page in the first place. It remains a surface recounting of events, which leaves my readers scratching their heads and saying, 'So, what? While most stories have a single protagonist, addiction narratives are usually about two people: the addict deep in the throes of their addiction, and the recovered narrator looking back objectively on the experience.
In that sense, addiction narratives are schizophrenic, offering two perspectives—one reliable, one unreliable—opposing and informing each other. How those two perspectives are apportioned determines the nature of the result. Craft basically my working on the words and syntax can get such a passage flowing because such recasting reconnects me to subjective experience.
And honestly, probably because varying sentence structures both mimics emotional connection and creates it. Our moods, our beings are as changeable as the sky long hours at any writing project teach us , so we can no longer trust any one voice as definitive or lasting. We can evoke the people or places that move us by becoming them, since every subject worth taking on remakes us in its own image.
In my first book, I thought it only right to describe the Philippines in a passionate, undefended, solicitous voice — to reflect what I saw in the place itself — and, five chapters later, to evoke Japan from a glassy remove, to speak for its cool and polished distances. Writing on the Dalai Lama, I work hard to espouse an analytical and logical and rigorous part of myself — to transmit by example those qualities most evident in him. And then, when I turn to writing about Graham Greene, I aspire to a more haunted, shriven, doubting even English voice. He's talking about the voice of a self-involved, neurotic but emotionally honest New Yorker.
Perhaps voice is the combination of these, powered by the essence of the narrative self who is the subject of the memoir," writes the anonymous author of the Slightly Nutty blog. Tone can range widely from highly emotional to melodramatic, from blackly humorous to cheerful or self-contained and can also be a combination of any of these. For example, you can use language to bring the reader closer to the emotion or distance them from it.
Big Hair. Big Problems. Read a sample chapter here. Can memoirists take liberties with the truth?
From The Rabbi's Desk - Temple Beth Emeth v'Ohr Progressive Shaari Zedek, Brooklyn, NY
They learn that on the one hand they will interact with the inmates much as they do with other students, but on the other, there are differences. They must not touch inmates. They cannot exchange gifts or information with them. They cannot take notes during the class and must keep in strictest confidentiality anything the inmates share about themselves. ConTextos first developed the writing program for public schools.
But it has since found equal success in the prison setting, where inmates are finding a voice to tell their stories. This moving talk is in Spanish with subtitles; her prison writing workshops focus on short poems, but as you can see when an inmate reads his poem are also about memoir. David Coogan. Stories from ten men in a writing class that started in the Richmond City Virginia jail. Mass incarceration began in earnest when the radical s came to an end and we began warehousing social problems we could not deal with: racism, but also poverty, drug addiction, homelessness, mental illness, substandard public schooling, violence against children, violence against women, and so much more.
Between and we went from incarcerating about a half million Americans to over two million Americans, a large many of them nonviolent drug offenders. We went from triaging the violence of legitimate challenges leveled at America by groups like the Black Panthers to taking whole segments of America out of America and into this enormous warehouse. At the same time the genre of memoir began outselling fiction four to one. We became fascinated with the life stories of strangers while we began locking up our neighbors.
We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did. See also: Regional and international oral history organizations H-Oralhist , a network for scholars and professionals active in studies related to oral history. A very popular guide for doing oral histories and personal and family histories, with memory prompts that encourage storytelling more than fact-finding: What were you like as a child?
What did you think? What did you do? Organized by topic, from earliest memories, school life, young adulthood, marriage, children, grandchildren, through later life. The discovery of a tape recording shed light on a puzzling family photograph which was taken in - and changed historian Lisa Jardine's views about the genealogy boom. Michael Takiff, Gravitas History. It just depends whether you want to go camping in the Rockies or take a world cruise on a luxury liner. Overnight the website closed down, to meet the rules of the bankruptcy court, so a lot of us felt abandoned.
Some of us teach classes. Plenty of us provide services and a few regional organizations have formed. I can't find you. Let me know if you already exist and how clients may reach you, and I'll add you to the list. Many of us start doing the work, then discover the term "personal historian" and recognize ourselves. There are people for that. Backstories about the process of getting the stories into print will be helpful if you want to help others tell their life stories.
Schuetze, NY Times, It is part of an unorthodox approach to dementia treatment that doctors and caregivers across the Netherlands have been pioneering: harnessing the power of relaxation, childhood memories, sensory aids, soothing music, family structure and other tools to heal, calm and nurture the residents, rather than relying on the old prescription of bed rest, medication and, in some cases, physical restraints.
So she started a memoir-writing business. Thirty years from now, Nate's great-great- grandchildren will be able to pick up this book and know him," she said. The words we use matter The result is a moving and at times haunting first-person account of life on hospital wards. There used to be twenty-three big publishing houses and still others to send to.
Now there are fewer than half as many. Luckily she had an agent who believed in her, who knew where to find that small press that might love her ms. It had been a rocky recovery since his lung transplant three months earlier at the William S. Instead, she asked Hall if he wanted to tell his life story.
Today more than 2, patients at the Madison VA have shared their life stories. Project organizers say it could change the way providers interact with patients. Listen or read the transcript, or both. See Wikipedia's List of fake memoirs and journals surprisingly long, and some of these books were popular! Your Personal Memoirist Is Here Alina Tugend, Entrepreneurship, NY Times, "Many novices embrace the idea of talking to people and writing about their lives, but are not aware of the minutiae and marketing strategies involved.
Horne said, with time added if the interview is disjointed or if the subject has a heavy accent. Can you stop by once a week? Tyrrell said. Horne said. What's your message is part of figuring out who is your audience, which means who will buy your books! A very helpful discussion. Is the industry "undergoing a backlash after a long spate of huge advances for books that were always unlikely to make much money"?
Interesting discussion, which concludes: Downgrade your expectations. Firms that target ultra-rich investors including wealth management firms have increasingly been tapping into personal history projects as a way to attract clients. They say it's a meaningful way to bond with clients and their offspring, often leading families to entrust more of their money with the firm. Demand is growing for personal historians who can help clients craft polished narratives - but actually making the time-intensive projects pay off is challenging, pros warn.
These gods take human shape at editorial meetings all over publishing offices in New York and elsewhere, and they are a demanding lot. Whereas a book on, say, diabetes need only only? The memoir gods are often unkind; at least they have been to me and my clients over the years. So,like many agents I know, I shun memoirs. Memoirs used to be the territory of the famous, the intrepid, or the afflicted.
Today, everyone's getting into the act, often with the help of a personal historian. And yet when my dad died in — same thing While capturing sound is now so easy, make sure you record the voices you will want to hear again. The sound alone will say everything someday. Dan Bortolotti, More. Scroll down to read Jennifer Campbell's story of starting a personal history business. How an untimely layoff led four women to a whole new career--including Jennifer Campbell's shift from public television to personal history work.
When Jennifer Campbell says she's a personal historian, people think she's a ghost writer or genealogist. She tells them she is neither. I swear. It just kept tilting in that direction. The only scenes that felt real and true were those with my wife and two sons They are, after all, only as strong as the roots that bind them. Another strategy shared by such families is having a communal desire to understand their history, warts and all Perdue said that she interviewed people who married into the Henderson family about their lives and wrote biographies about them for other family members to read.
The new spouses are given the essays on what it means to be a Henderson. Where did you go? Serving that market is becoming a small-business enterprise. Personal historians help others tell their life story--in print, audio, or video, or all three. Overall, what we got from this was access to family memory, knowledge and expertise, in a way that cannot be found in a physical archive. Tanya Evans, History Workshop, More collaborative work between family historians and those based in the academy.
Anne also had cancer. When I arrived at her home in Glendale, she was gray and diminished, with barely a voice. But as the day progressed and the camera rolled, she bloomed. Her best years, she said, were during World War II. I have learned since that there is a branch of elder care called "reminiscence therapy. A study published last year in the Journal of Psychology and Aging found that these benefits were enhanced when the reminiscing occurred with others. Janet Malcolm, The New Yorker, 'When we arrived in America, and were taken under the wing of my aunt and uncle, who had left Prague six months earlier, we changed our name from Wiener to Winn, just as they had changed theirs from Eisner to Edwards, out of fear of anti-Semitism, which was not limited to Nazi Germany.
As an extra precaution, my aunt and uncle had joined the Episcopal Church. My parents balked at taking such a step. But they sent Marie and me to a Lutheran Sunday school in our neighborhood, and never did anything or said anything to acquaint us with our Jewishness. Finally, one day, after one of us proudly brought home an anti-Semitic slur learned from a classmate, they decided it was time to tell us that we were Jewish.
It was a bit late. Many years later, I came to acknowledge and treasure my Jewishness. But during childhood and adolescence I hated and resented and hid it. Personal and family histories make great books. Devin Hillis makes documentaries about the elderly. The shorter ones are played at funerals as tributes to the deceased.
We're turning stories into a symphony. We're deciphering the days of this older generation or the young father with a terminal illness or a mother with breast cancer who has a few months to live or a child with a tumor whose parents want to hang on to life. Make sense of the pain. My best friend was the daughter of a rabbi. They were haredi misnagdim. She was a wonderful, brilliant girl who drew me closer into her world and I began to see the value and the beauty of it.
I also had a number of inspiring rabbi-teachers for Torah, Prophets, and especially something called mussar — sort of spiritual guidance. Through them I began to long for a different kind of life than my parents had had. I was always writing. Always entering poetry contests, essay contests. I still felt very ignorant, as if I was just at the beginning of some real depth and understanding. In order to do this, I left home and rented a room in Boro Park with a haredi family, one of the rabbis from the Seminary.
They had a daughter my age and her life was so different than mine, so restricted. I got to know her and the life and customs in the haredi world as an intimate insider. It brought me deeper and deeper into the haredi world. Much of what I saw I deeply admired. And yet there was a narrowness there, a suspicion. A whole new world was opening up to me, a world that my nighttime studies were adamantly opposed to. No one else in the Seminary would have dreamt of going to college.
And yet my evening studies — Jewish History, Law, philosophy — also fulfilled an important need in me. I wanted and needed both. I met my husband in , my sophomore year in Brooklyn College. He was a yeshiva high school graduate studying in yeshiva as well as finishing his degree in math. We were married in In January , we moved to Israel. My dream was and has always been to be a writer.
I was a creative writing major in college and after moving to Israel began to write as a freelance journalist. I had two little babies by then, but the urge to write was so strong, so undeniable, that I had no choice but to write. I kept going, writing feature articles for whoever would pay for them — mostly Jewish newspapers, magazines. Believe me, from this you do not get rich! It was then I began to feel very odd. After all, we were living in an Orthodox neighborhood, which was getting more and more ultra by the minute.
I had come from America for religious reasons. Lech Lecha Me Artizecha. And yet, I began to feel more and more out of place. What was I doing in the park with my wig and jeans skirts and little babies working on writing term papers on the love poetry of John Donne, the poetic imagination in Coleridge? The male element in the women of D. When all the women around me were busy gossiping over what brand of kosher magarine was more kosher? When they wore longer skirts, and stockings with seams and sleeves to their wrists?
Slowly it began to dawn on me that I was uncomfortable among my own kind, religious Jews. This was a tremendous, traumatic and heartbreaking shock to me. Because I wanted desperately to keep all the mitvos, to rise higher and higher, to be part of a society that would be as close to G-d as possible. And yet, the thought of dressing as they did, of spending my days as they did, of giving up my writing, my work at the Univeristy, made me ill. All the vague misgivings I had had in Boro Park now came back with new strength. I could not live the life of the women around me. I was being pushed out against my will in very subtle ways, being made to feel there was no room for me, for any kind of variety in religious life and observance.
Maybe it was all subjective, just something in my head. I left the neighborhood. A young, beautiful haredi woman from across the street had taken her little girl to the top of a hotel in Tel Aviv and jumped to her death, killing them both. The woman, she said, was was in her early twenties, a stunning blond, very intelligent, the daughter of a very wealthy man from Europe. The child was a little blond angel. And now they were both dead. It was a shidduch, my neighbor said.