It would be easy to wish, that as adults, the experience of our childhood have no effect on us. But the truth is that as much as we have grown up, who were and what we went through when we were young is always with us.
Growing up, writer Helen Fremont knew two certainties. The first was that she knew that her parents lived through and survived World War II, but refused to share the details with their children. The second was that what happened in their house stayed in their house.
Her new memoir, The Escape Artist, was published last year. Her story is that of long held secrets (her parents were Jewish Holocaust survivors from Poland), mental illness, and the heart breaking discovery that her father wrote her out of his will. Add in the questioning of sexual identity and you have a messy youth that has the power, if allowed, to destroy the chance of having a productive and happy adulthood.
I loved this book. Her story has all of the complications that life throws at us. It was at times, painful to read. I kept wishing that I could have given her the innocence and happiness that I knew when I was a girl. I’ve read more than a few memoirs over the past few years. This book is one of the best.
I wanted to like this book. If I am to be completely honest, it was an infodump. In writing terms, an infodump is where the writer(s) provide the reader with a lot of information without emotion or insight into what the characters are thinking or feeling. Now granted, this is a memoir and not a fiction book. What I was missing was the quickening of my pulse and the uncertainty of the dangerous situations she put herself into.
Yesterday was International Holocaust Memorial Day. Looking back on this time in history from a 2021 perspective, what hurts the most is the loss of 1.5 million young people who were killed simply because of their faith. They had their who lives in front of them. But because they were Jewish, they were seen as worthless.
Last night, 18 Voices: A Liberation Day Reading of Young Writers’ Diaries from the Holocaust was released on YouTube. The readings are done by a group of actors and media personalities. It is utterly heartbreaking to hear these voices, some who survived and some who didn’t.
Miranda Richmond Mouillot is the granddaughter of Jewish Holocaust survivors. But her grandparents story of survival is not the usual story.
In her new book, A Fifty-Year Silence: Love, War, and a Ruined House in France, the author tells her grandparent’s story in a narrative that is part fiction and part biography. Her maternal grandparents, Armand and Anna fell in love and married during World War II. While the families and the friends they left behind were slaughtered, Armand and Anna were living in a refugee camp in Switzerland. But the marriage would not last. After the war, Anna would leave Armand and take their children to America. The only connection they would have fifty years later was their granddaughter.
There are thousands of Holocaust stories. Each is more heart breaking than the last. But what makes this particular story unique is not the traditional story of the Holocaust, but of this couple and the journey that their granddaughter takes two generations later to find out what really happened in her family.