Though sex and sexuality is part and parcel of human nature, it is often viewed as something dangerous and wrong.
For decades, Dr. Ruth Westheimer (aka Dr. Ruth), has been America’s sex therapist. The 2019 Hulu documentary movie, Ask Dr. Ruth, tells her story. Born in 1928 to an Orthodox Jewish family in Germany, everything was normal for the first ten years of her life. When it became clear that being a Jew in Germany was dangerous, Ruth (then known by her first name, Karola) was sent to Switzerland on the Kindertransport.
At the age of 17, she emigrated to what was then British controlled Palestine (pre-Independence Israel) and joined the Haganah. Years later, she again emigrated to the United States. Living in New York City, she married, raised her two children and became the woman we know her to be today.
The thing I love about her is that at nearly 100 years old, she has the energy of a woman half her age. She represents hope, life, change, and that a woman can never be limited to what she can do because she is “female”. Her presence first on the radio and then on television, helped to open the door to long overdue conversations about sex and sexuality.
War often forces us to make choices that would not be made during peacetime.
The Last Train to London: A Novel, by Meg Waite Clayton, was published last month. It starts in 1936 in Austria. Stephan Neuman is fifteen years old and best friends with Žofie-Helene. Stephan comes from a upper class and influential Jewish family. Zofie’s comes from a Christian family; her mother publishes a newspaper that is decidedly anti-Nazi. Then the Nazis invade and their lives are forever changed.
In the Netherlands, Truus Wijsmuller cannot sit back and do nothing. She travels back and forth to Nazi Germany, getting out as many Jewish children as she can. Known to the children as Tante Truus, she is one of the adults who coordinates what will be known as the Kindertransport. It maybe the only way out for young people whose lives and futures are at stake.
This book is brilliant. What struck me about this book is that it is incredibly relevant to the world that we live in in 2019. There was language and action that is not too far off from what often makes the local news. There were also, as there are now, individuals who are willing to put their lives on hold to save the lives of others.
Love and war are the two things that cause rational human beings to do irrational things.
In Pam Chenoff’s 2011 book, The Things We Cherished, lawyer Charlotte Gold is trying to shake off the scars of the past. The only child of a mother who survived World War II and the Holocaust because she was on the Kindertransport, the last thing Charlotte needs back in her life is her cheat of an ex-boyfriend, Brian. He pleads with her to taken on the case of Roger Dykmans. Roger Dykmans is a wealthy businessman and the brother of a man who was martyred in the Holocaust. He has been accused of leading the Nazis to his brother and the innocent people his brother tried to save.
Charlotte will be working with Brian’s estranged brother, Jack. While they have professional and potentially romantic chemistry, their job is hampered by Roger’s refusal to prove that he is innocent. The only evidence Roger will provide is in a clock that has not been seen for decades. While Charlotte and Jack try to prove Roger’s innocence, they run into a long-held secret: the mutual love between Roger and Jewish his sister-in-law, Magda.
Like all of Pam Jenoff’s books, I loved it. It’s hard to balance a historical narrative with modern characters who are going through a journey of their own. But she finds a way to do that while keeping the tension and making sure that the details are on point.