General

Burden of memory on both sides of the ocean

In 1938, when my mother fled Stockstadt am Rhein -- the small German town her family had helped settle in 1721 -- it had 2,000 people and two Jewish families totaling eight people. That means the Jewish population in Stockstadt was about one half of one percent, a statistic that mirrored Germany at large. In 1939, 350,000 Jews lived in a country of 50,000,000 people. By 1945, the German Jewish ...

My Neuro Hero

Dr. Robert Sapolsky and friend I stumbled upon Professor Robert Sapolsky’s lecture series at a local library. His presentations gave me an amazing understanding of stress. Dr. Sapolsky, a MacArthur Fellow and a professor at Stanford University, spends each summer in Kenya studying a population of wild baboons, trying to identify the relationship between an animal’s personality, environment and stress levels. What Dr. Sapolsky has discovered is that low-ranking baboons ...

The Art of Titling a Book

I’m often asked why I titled my upcoming book, Is It Night or Day? Warning: what follows is a bit of a spoiler. An explanation of the title appears on page 205 of the book. For those who don’t want to wait, read on. The cover of my new book, "Is It Night or Day?" My new book is about child immigration. Throughout history, many families have made the painful ...

Birding and Blogging

Each day, ideas fly through my mind like birds gliding across the vast blue sky. They flicker in my consciousness, capturing my attention for only a moment. “Hmmmm,” I say to myself, or “Interesting.” Then they pass. I haven't ever taken the time to record or catalog my birds. But now, I have entered the world of blogging. Here, in this unique medium, small, significant thoughts or fleeting observations are ...

"It was dark. They were kids. He was killed."

While listening to the radio yesterday, I heard an interview with a man who was telling the story of how his father had been murdered. I was struck by the way in which the man remembered the incident, which happened when he was 9 years old: “It was dark. They were kids. He was killed.” Then, he would take a breath, collect himself, try again. “It was a gang. He ...

A bullet that cannot be extracted

A friend who read Motherland three times wrote to tell me that he had made new discoveries on his most recent reading. He said he looked at the book through the “specially-ground lens” of his own personal experiences. On this reading, he identified “the vividness with which she (Edith) carried, late into her life, the feeling of desertion she had when her parents sent her to safety, even though - ...

Second thoughts on teaching writing

If it is true, as the Iowa Writers' Workshop website claims, that "writing cannot be taught but...writers can be encouraged," how can the university expect students to pay thousands and thousands of dollars for an MFA in writing? That's a lot of money for encouragement!

Can writing be taught?

I've been thinking about this question since I occasionally teach one-day writing workshops at colleges in the area. I came upon an interesting sentence at the Iowa Workshop website. "We continue to look for the most promising talent in the country, in our conviction that writing cannot be taught but that writers can be encouraged." I certainly encourage the writers who attend my classes, but I also believe students can ...

Telling my mother's story

In my new book, Is It Night or Day?, I wrote my mother’s story from her perspective. I have only fictionalized this work for the purpose of point of view. My mother, like many survivors, cannot tell her own story so I am attempting to tell it for her. I think that this is one of the responsibilities of the second generation.

Skokie's Holocaust Museum

The new Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center Thanks to all who came to the lecture and museum tour last Thursday. For those in Chicago who could not attend, don't miss the new Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center. I was deeply moved by the architecture of the building and the personal items survivors have donated for display. As we walked through the exhibits, my mother began to consider whether ...
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