The German Wife: A Novel Book Review

War forces us to hate one another based on outside characteristics such as the nation of origin. But that does not mean, that we can see each other as human beings once the conflict ends.

The German Wife, by Kelly Rimmer, was published last year. The book follows two women as their fates are intertwined in post-war Huntsville.

Lizzie Miller experienced unimaginable loss during The Great Depression. After the war is over, she is appalled that Operation Paperclip has allowed former Nazi scientists into the country and into the most sensitive scientific work of the era. While other women in the community are eager to welcome the wives and children of these scientists, Lizzie is completely against the idea and is not silent about it.

In 1930 in Berlin, Sofie von Meyer Rhodes, whose husband is a respected academic, does not agree with the politics of the new government. But his status gives them a leg up. For this alone, she is willing to make some compromises. It slowly becomes clear that that are difficult decisions to be made. After the war, Sofie arrives in America, expecting some sort of hostility. But she has no idea that the secrets from the past are going to catch up with her.

This is an amazing book. Both Lizzie and Sofie are in a tough position. Due to circumstances forced upon them by history, they have to make choices that would otherwise not exist.

I wanted to be on Lizzie’s side. She has every right to be angry. But I also understand that Sofie is caught in an impossible position. She has two young children to take care of. But she also has her own moral compass that goes against everything she is seeing and hearing.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

The German Wife: A Novel is available wherever books are sold.


Leopoldstadt Play Review

There are some theatrical experiences that stay with you forever.

Leopoldstadt, by Tom Stoppard, is presently playing on Broadway. Taking its name from Vienna‘s old Jewish quarter, the play follows an assimilated and upper-class Austrian Jewish family from the turn of the century until the mid-1950s. Some members of this particular family have married out or have converted to Catholicism for business and social opportunities.

Though it seems that the antisemitism of the past has died, it is simmering just under the surface. As time progresses and the family changes, the safety net slowly dissipates, revealing the dark underbelly that was only waiting for an opportunity to be released into the world.

Leopoldstadt is one of the best plays I have ever seen. If my own work is half as good as this script, I will jump for joy.

What astounds me is that there are 38 main characters across multiple decades and generations. In my own writing, one of the rules that I go by is to limit the number of people who exist within the worlds I am creating. Too many characters make it confusing for both the writer and the reader/audience. No one on that stage is an afterthought or hastily drawn.

Based on the revelations of Stoppard’s own family history that was hidden for decades, this story is universal, heartbreaking, joyous, and a reminder that the Holocaust is far from ancient history.

By the time we got to the final scene, the stage felt empty. It was as if the ghosts of those who were murdered filled up the space, begging the audience to never forget. My heart was pounding, and my mouth was open, but I could not speak. Without giving the specific details away, I will say that it is devastating and heartbreaking.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely. Run, don’t walk to see Leopoldstadt.

Leopoldstadt is playing until July 2. Check the website for tickets and showtimes.

I Will Protect You: A True Story of Twins Who Survived Auschwitz Book Review

Among the many horrors of the Holocaust (and there are many) is the use of prisoners in Auschwitz as lab rats. Done by “Dr.” Josef Mengele, his specialty was the tests that were done on identical twins.

The late Eva Mozes Kor and her sister Miriam were one of many pairs of twins who were used as guinea pigs. Her memoir, I Will Protect You: A True Story of Twins Who Survived Auschwitz, co-written by Danica Davidson was published last year.

Until the age of ten, Eva and Miriam had an ordinary childhood. In 1943, they were deported to Auschwitz. Separated from their parents and siblings, the girls survived twice over. Not only were their parents and sisters murdered, but they were among the minority of twins who did not die from being experimented on.

Though the book is meant for a younger audience, adult readers will not be bored. The details are so precise and cinematic that it is hard to ignore what can only be described as hades on Earth.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

I Will Protect You: A True Story of Twins Who Survived Auschwitz is available wherever books are sold.

A Small Light Review

It takes a brave person to stand up and do what is right, especially when doing so puts your life in danger.

The DisneyPlus/National Geographic miniseries A Small Light is the story of Miep Gies (Bel Powley). It starts in 1933. Miep is a shiftless young woman who has no direction. This changes when she is employed by Otto Frank (Liev Schreiber). This job will forever change her life.

When the Nazis invade the Netherlands and start to impose anti-Jewish laws, Miep knows she cannot just sit by and do nothing. The only way to save Otto, Anne (Billie Boullet), Margot (Ashley Brooke), and Edith Frank (Amira Casar), in addition to the other inhabitants of the annex, is to go into hiding.

With the help of her husband Jan (Joe Cole) and the rest of Otto’s staff, they are doing everything they can to save the lives of the eight people in hiding.

Wow. For obvious reasons, I thought I knew everything about this story. I was wrong. Miep’s narrative is powerful, emotional, and is a reminder that there are still good people in this world.

“I keep my ideals because in spite of everything I still believe that people are good at heart.”

Powley blew me away. Her growth from a girl who takes nothing seriously to a woman who knows that she could very well be killed for her actions is simply amazing. Balanced by the cool head of Schreiber’s Otto Frank, this program cannot be missed.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely. I would even state that it is one of my best shows of the year so far. If Powley does not win any award for her role, there is something wrong with Hollywood.

The first two episodes of A Small Light are available for streaming on DisneyPlus. The rest will be released every Tuesday for the next few weeks.

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P.S. May is both AAPI and Jewish American heritage month. I wish that both were unnecessary. But given the state of our world and that the Holocaust was only 80 years ago, this is a necessity.

The Things We Cannot Say Book Review

Love is one of the most powerful things on earth. It can move mountains, change lives, and forever alter the course of history.

The Things We Cannot Say, By Kelly Rimmer, was published in 2019. In our time, Alice has a lot on her hands. While her husband is constantly working, Alice is taking care of their children, one of whom has autism. She is also visiting her grandmother, whose death is only a matter of time.

Her grandmother keeps rambling in her native language of Polish about a past that is unknown to Alice. Unable to ignore the growing questions, she travels to Poland on a fact-finding mission.

Flashing back to World War II, Alina is young and in love. She and her fiance envision a bright future. The only barrier is his education. Then the Nazis invade and everything changes. Forced to put everything on hold except for surviving, Alina has to make decisions that will forever take her life and her family in unexpected directions.

Wow. This book is amazing. Rimmer writing is compelling and powerful. The thing that I was reminded of was the brutality of the invaders. Like all occupying armies, the first thing they did was to remove anyone who could have rallied the citizenry against them. Once that roadblock was out of the way, they could proceed as previously planned.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

The Things We Cannot Say is available wherever books are sold.

The Right Wants to Eliminate the LGBTQ Community

When someone shows you who they are, believe them.

It’s not exactly a secret that the cultural and religious right does not approve of anything other than the traditional gender binary. Anyone who does not fall into the archaic idea of what it is to be strictly “male” and “female” is therefore open to criticism, hate, and denial of rights.

As of last week, the “Don’t Say Gay” law in Florida extended to 12th grade. It was previously verboten for students in kindergarten to third grade. So, in essence, the first time that a young person will truly wonder about gender and sexuality will be in college. Given how much we go through by the time we reach that age, it may be a little more difficult to dismantle what we did or didn’t learn when we were younger.

Though Ron DeSantis and his allies claim that it is “parents’ rights” when it comes to what children learn in school. In a sense, it is. A parent certainly has a say in their offspring’s education. But when it is used as a smokescreen to reach a political end, it smacks of something darker and menacing that we ignore at our own peril.

In Montana, Democratic transgender state representative Zooey Zephyr was blocked by her Republican colleagues when she objected to a bill that prevents gender-affirming care to minors. As with the Tennessee Three a few weeks ago, she was silenced because she dared to speak out. Given the response from the voters and the swift backlash that the lawmakers in Tennessee received, I have every hope that she will be back in the state house sooner rather than later.

I don’t want to say this, but I feel like I have to. The comparisons to the dehumanizing of the LGBTQ community (which I am a part of) scare me to no end. In Nazi Germany, the Holocaust did not start with ghettos, mass graves, and gas chambers. It started with ugly stereotypes and caricatures that opened the door to denying my brethren their humanity and for most of them, their lives.

Their ultimate goal is to eliminate us. At best, they want to force us underground and take away our rights. At worst, they want to not exist.

Either way, it is a scary premise that we should not ignore.

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Some Things Never Change: How Saba Kept Singing Review & Justice for Joey Borgen

As much as things change, they stay the same.

In honor of Yom HaShoah earlier this week, PBS aired the documentary How Saba Kept Singing. The film followed David Wisnia, the late Cantor and Holocaust survivor.

Originally from Poland, David was the only member of his immediate family to see the end of the war. The only reason he walked out of Auschwitz was his singing. The audience travels with David and his grandson Avi as he talks about his past and visits the place in which he nearly died.

I loved it. I was in tears by the end. This was a man who had every reason to be angry and bitter. But he found the light and a reason to live. It is a message that anyone can relate to.

Back in 2021, Joey Borgen was attacked in broad daylight in New York City. His crime was being visibly Jewish and attending a pro-Israel rally.

His attacker (who shall remain nameless on this blog) was given a slap on the wrist: six months in jail and five years probation. Alvin Bragg‘s office claims that they did a thorough investigation. If they did, these men would have been charged with a hate crime and given a significant jail sentence.

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The message is loud and clear: anyone who verbally or physically assaults a Jewish person in NYC will not be treated as the criminal they are. They will be told they were naughty and nothing more.

That is not the city I know and love. Shame on you, Alvin Bragg. You know better. You could have done better, but you chose not to.

Thoughts on Yom HaShoah 2023: Book Bans, Repeating History, and A Slight Glimmer of Hope

The only way to truly learn from the past is to walk through the pain. The problem is that many of us, for a variety of reasons, are unable to walk through that pain.

Today is Yom HaShoah. Though World War II ended 77 years ago, it sometimes feels like we are still stuck in 1940s Europe. Antisemitism is on the rise. Book banning is becoming the new norm in certain parts of the country.

Last week, two African American teenagers verbally assaulted Jewish teenagers via the Nazi salute.

Beyond the obvious disgust, this incident points to the lack of education. Black people in Nazi Germany were as much a target as Jews, Roma, LGBTQ, etc.

But even with all of that, there is still light. The #StandUpToJewishHate campaign will (crossing fingers) will prevent another Holocaust.

May the memories of the 6 Million (my own relatives among them) be a blessing. #ZL

Transatlantic Review

Heroes don’t always wear capes and are not paragons of perfection. They are usually human and as flawed as the rest of us.

The new limited Netflix series, Transatlantic, is the story of a multi-national resistance against the Nazis. Based on a true story, the series follows a series of individuals in Marseille who try to save as many lives as possible.

Mary Jayne Gold (Gillian Jacobs) is an heiress who is putting her money and status to good use. Varian Fry (Cory Michael Smith) is a journalist who is doing all he can to get as many out of Europe as he can. Albert O. Hirschmann (Lucas Englander) is a freedom fighter who is helping to get his fellow Jews to freedom.

The first thing that struck me was that despite the danger and the darkness, there were still signs of life. There was joy, love, and triumph over evil.

What was interesting was the previously overlooked heroism of the darker-hued French citizens who also stepped up to the plate. It added another layer to a narrative that, unfortunately, still needs to be told today. Though some have questioned why the creators played with the known facts, I don’t mind the changes. They just make the series richer, more compelling, and more relevant in 2023.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Transatlantic is available for streaming on Netflix.

Three Muses Book Review

Trauma has a way of bringing people together like nothing else can.

Three Muses by Martha Ann Toll was published last fall. The book follows the two protagonists. John Curtin survived the Holocaust by literary singing for his supper as a young man. Though he tries to reinvent himself in post-war New York City while training to become a psychiatrist, he is still haunted by his past.

Katya Symanova was born to dance ballet. A child prodigy, she rose through the ranks to become Prima Ballerina. While working towards her dream, she got involved with her much older choreographer; that relationship became abusive. Now he controls both her life and her career.

Fate brings them together in an unexpected way, sending them on a path that neither saw coming.

I enjoyed this book. Despite their individual challenges, they find a way to work through their pain and find a reason to truly live. It is a message that I hope resonates with anyone who needs that emotional leg up.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Three Muses is available wherever books are sold.

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