The ProsenPeople

New Book Reviews January 16, 2016

Saturday, January 16, 2016 | Permalink

This week's new reviews at Jewish Book Council:

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The Yiddish Question

Friday, January 15, 2016 | Permalink

Earlier this week, Visiting Scribe author Anthony Schneider shared how he managed to bypass the difficulties of beginning to write a novel. His novel Repercussions comes out January 31 from The Permanent Press.

You fall in love when you write a novel. One of the things I fell in love with in writing Repercussions was the Yiddish language. It’s so vivid, so full of metaphor and mischief. Yiddish words are often connected to the body or the animal world—interesting places for words to play. Yiddish epithets tend to be nasty, philosophical, metaphysical, or plain old funny, sometimes all at once. Compare “wet behind the ears” with “what does a pig know about noodles.” The Yiddish aphorism (“vos veis a khazer von lokshen”) covers idiocy as wall as infancy, but they’re in the same ballpark. Indeed, Yiddish sayings are often complex, and as a result there are many that don’t really have equivalents in other languages. “Abi gezunt dos leben ken men zikh ale mol nemen” means something like, “Stay healthy, because you can kill yourself later.” Nice shmice.

Henry, the protagonist of Repercussions, was born in Lithuania and moves with his parents at a young age, first to Liverpool and then to South Africa, arriving in 1936. His parents speak Yiddish, and the South African Jewish communities in which he finds himself have a lot of Yiddish speakers, almost all Eastern European immigrants. Henry’s mother speaks Yiddish at home, but his father chooses to speak English. Like my maternal grandfather, Henry’s father is a Yiddish denier, who refuses to speak his mother tongue. So the Yiddish in the book is not Henry’s mother tongue but words and phrases that resonate, some of which he remembers decades later, long after he has fled South Africa and moved to America.

Some Yiddish words and phrases that appear in the novel:

Shlemazel: an unlucky person.
Not to be confused with shlameil, which is a bungler. (It is said that "the shlemiel spills the soup on the shlemazel".)

Alevai:It should only happen!
As in, “When our daughter gets married, alevai, we can make a nice wedding.”

Geshvolen: Swollen. Which may not be a bad thing, as in “geshvolen lips.”

Kishnev:a remote place (named for a remote city in Russia).
I was originally going to use a phrase I heard from my grandmother, “
alle shvartz yoren,” as in “all the dark years,” which is a lovely conflation of time and place. Einstein would have loved that saying, but I couldn’t find a reference, not even from the Google golem. Sidenote, there are a lot of Yiddish sayings about time and place. Here’s one of my favorites: “Farloreneh yoren iz erger vi farloreneh gelt.” Lost years are worse than lost dollars.

Fremder mensch: strange people, foreigners. (Henry describes his grandson’s girlfriend as a fremder mensch, because her parents were born in Vietnam.)

Wayse shtern: white stars. There’s a song about white stars, (“Unter Dayne Wayse Shtern” (“Under Your White Stars”), a beautiful and heartfelt song that came out of the Vilna ghetto. Henry would have heard it from survivors, and his uncle who was a partisan would have heard it in the ghetto. (Listen here.)

Language is where thoughts and feelings meet the world. Yiddish is a language that aims at expression over precision. Like the Expressionist painters and writers, the Yiddish language seeks to express the inner world of emotion rather than define external reality. Yiddish is also a language with a long history, the language of Eastern European Jews, linguistic testament to their suffering and travels and staying power, their wit and wisdom and sadness. It occurs to me now that Henry is a personification of the language. They’re both funny, irascible, wise and bawdy. Like the Yiddish language, Henry is often moved but never unrooted. If “language is the dress of thought,” as Samuel Johnson puts it, the Yiddish fabric is a rich and darkly comic dress that should not be forgotten in grandma’s attic.

Anthony Schneider has been published in McSweeney’s, Conjunctions, Mid-American Review, and Details. Born in South Africa and educated in the United States, he divides his time between London and New York.

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Shulem Deen's Top 10 Rules for Memoir Writing

Thursday, January 14, 2016 | Permalink

Jewish Book Council was honored to present Shulem Deen, the author of the 2015 National Jewish Book Awards winner of the Myra H. Kraft Memorial Award for Contemporary Jewish Life and Practice All Who Go Do Not Return, as the keynote speaker at the annual Jewish Writers' Seminar last month. "Lots of people mistake memoir writing for therapy; I mistook therapy for storytelling," he began his unforgettable address on recognizing the form of his writing as a craft, rather than an indulgence. For those who missed the speech in its entirely, Jewish Book Council is proud to publish its conclusion, a countdown of the most important rules for memoir writing, according to Shulem Deen:

10. You don't need to have had an “interesting life”; only the ability to see life in interesting ways.

9. Memoir isn’t autobiography; its unifying principle should be thematic, not just “My Life.”

8. Just because it happened doesn't mean it's interesting. Be selective with both scenes and details.

7. Don’t come dressed in a three-piece suit. If your memoir doesn’t embarrass you at least a little, you're not doing it right.

6. If you’ve been wronged: press charges, file a lawsuit, or hire a hitman. Never, ever, ever use memoir to get back at someone.

5. Write from your scars, not from your wounds. If you need to, do your therapy first.

4. Find your three-act narrative arc early on, and you’ll avoid having to trash hundreds of pages.

3. Sections and chapters must have a cumulative effect. If it doesn’t propel the narrative—by helping to build tension, or resolving it—it doesn't belong. Cut it.

2. Be truthful. This should be obvious.

1. Always remember: memoir might be about you, but it's not for you. It’s for your reader. Respect that.

Shulem Deen is a former Skverer Hasid and the author of the memoir All Who Go Do Not Return. His work has appeared in The Forward, Tablet, and Salon. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.

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Spring 2016 Book Preview

Tuesday, January 12, 2016 | Permalink

Posted by Nat Bernstein

January 2016

Primo Levi's Resistance by Sergio Luzzatto (Metropolitan Books)

The Road to Resilience: From Chaos to Celebration by Sherri Mandell (The Toby Press)

White Walls by Judy Batalion (Penguin Random House)

David's Sling by Victoria C. Gardner Coates (Encounter Books)

The Lightkeepers by Abby Geni (Counterpoint)

Groucho Marx: The Comedy of Existence by Lee Siegel (Yale University Press)

The Book of Love by Roger Rosenblatt (Ecco)

Repercussions by Anthony Schneider (The Permanent Press)

Good on Paper by Rachel Cantor (Melville House)

Breakdown: An Alex Delaware Novel by Jonathan Kellerman (Ballantine)

The Hero Two Doors Down: Based on the True Story of Friendship Between a Boy and a Baseball Legend by Sharon Robinson (Scholastic)

The Dirt Cure: Growing Healthy Kids with Food Straight from Soil by Maya Shetreat-Klein (Atria Books)

Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit (Knopf Books for Young Readers)

February 2016

Stolen Words by Mark Glickman (University of Nebraska Press)

The Bible Doesn't Say That by Dr. Joel M. Hoffman (Thomas Dunne Books)

The Yid by Paul Goldberg (Picador)

In the Land of Armadillos by Helen Maryles Shankman (Scribner)

The Photographer's Wife by Suzanne Joinson (Bloomsbury)

Exit Right: The People Who Left the Left and Reshaped the American Century by Daniel Oppenheimer (Simon & Schuster)

The Beautiful Possible: A Novel by Amy Gottlieb (Harper Perennial)

Kafka's Son by Curt Leviant (Dzanc Books)

Piece of Mind by Michelle Adelman (W.W. Norton & Company)

The Ghost Warriors: Inside Israel's Undercover War Against Suicide Terrorism by Samuel M. Katz (Berkley Caliber)

Shylock is my Name by Howard Jacobson (Hogarth)

Max Baer and the Star of David by Jay Neugeboren (Mandel Vilar Press)

Putting God Second by Rabbi Donniel Hartman (Beacon Press)

And So Is the Bus by Yossel Birstein (Dryad Press)

Green on Blue by Elliot Ackerman (Scribner)

An Undisturbed Peace by Mary Glickman (Open Road)

March 2016

Don't Let My Baby Do Rodeo by Boris Fishman (Harper)

The Lost Book of Moses: The Hunt for the World's Oldest Bible by Chanan Tigay (HarperCollins)

Letter from a Young Poet by Hyam Plutzik (Books & Books Press)

The Daughter Who Got Away by Leora Freedman (Yotzeret Publishing)

Raoul Wallenberg: The Heroic Life and Mysterious Disappearance of the Man Who Saved Thousands of Hungarian Jews from the Holocaust by Ingrid Carlberg (Quercus Piblushing)

Children of the Stone: The Power of Music in a Hard Land by Sandy Tolan (Bloomsbury)

The Image of the Jews in Greek Literature: The Hellenistic Period by Bezalel Bar-Kochva (University of California Press)

The Passenger by Lisa Lutz (Simon & Schuster)

All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation by Rebecca Traister (Simon & Schuster)

Mrs. Houdini by Victoria Kelly (Atria Books)

Cursed Legacy: The Tragic Life of Klaus Mann by Frederic Spotts (Yale University Press)

The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman (St. Martin’s Press)

A Man Lies Dreaming by Lavie Tidar (Melville House)

Scary Old Sex by Arlene Heyman (Bloomsbury)

Alligator Candy by David Kushner (Simon & Schuster)

1915 Diary of S. An-sky by S. A. An-sky (Indiana University)

The New Mediterranean Jewish Table by Joyce Goldstein (University of California)

Hiding in Plain Sight: The Pursuit of War Criminals from Nuremberg to the War on Terror by Eric Stover, Victor Peskin, and K. Alexa Koenig (University of California Press)

April 2016

Kosher USA by Roger Horowitz (Columbia University Press)

Casting Lots by Susan Silverman (Da Capo Press)

Orchestra of Exiles by Josh Aronson and Denise George (Penguin Random House)

Modern Girls by Jennifer S. Brown (Penguin Random House)

Utter Chaos by Sammy Gronemann (Indiana University)

Because of Eva: A Jewish Genealogical Journey by Susan J. Gordon (Syracuse University Press)

The Salome Ensemble: Rose Pastor Stokes, Anzia Yezierska, Sonya Levien, and Jetta Goudal by Alan Robert Ginsberg (Syracuse University Press)

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher (BLUE RIDER PRESS)

Texts in Transit in the Medieval Mediterranean by Y. Tzvi Langermann and Robert G. Morrison, eds. (Penn State University Press)

Barbra Streisand: Redefining Beauty, Femininity, and Power by Neal Gabler (Yale University Press)

The Most Good You Can Do: How Effective Altruism Is Changing Ideas About Living Ethically by Peter Singer (Yale University Press)

Till We Have Built Jerusalem: Architects of a New City by Adina Hoffman (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

The Houseguest by Kim Brooks (Counterpoint)

Fever at Dawn by Peter Gardos (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

The Dinner Party: A Novel by Brenda Janowitz (St. Martin’s Press)

Can You Keep a Secret? by R. L. Stine (St. Martin’s Press)

Rhapsody in Schmaltz by Michael Wex (St. Martin's Press)

The Lady with the Borzoi: Blanche Knopf by Laura Claridge (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Six Memos from the Last Millennium: A Novelist Reads the Talmud by Joseph Skibell (University of Texas)

Ghetto: The Invention of a Place, the History of an Idea by Mitchell Duneier (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Nurture the Wow: Finding Spirituality in the Frustration, Boredom, Tears, Poop, Desperation, Wonder, and Radical Amazement of Parenting by Dayna Ruttenberg (Flatiron Books)

Disraeli: The Novel Politician by David Cesarani (Yale University Press)

May 2016

100 Years: Wisdom from Famous Writers on Every Year of Your Life by Joshua Prager and Milton Glaser (W. W. Norton & Company)

Travels in Translation: Sea Tales and the Source of Jewish Fiction by Ken Frieden (Syracuse University Press)

Literary Hasidism: The Life and Works of Michael Levi Rodkinson by Jonatan Meir (Syracuse University Press)

We Were Feminists Once: From Riot Grrrl to Covergirl, the Buying and Selling of a Political Movement by Andi Zeisler (Public Affairs Books)

Our Separate Ways: The Fight for the Future of the US-Israel Alliance by Dana H. Alling and Steven N. Simon (Public Affairs Books)

Walter Benjamin and Theology by Colby Dickinson and Stéphane Symons, ed. (Fordham University Press)

One-Way Street by Walter Benjamin (Harvard University Press)

The Winter Fortress: The Epic Mission to Sabotage Hitler's Atomic Bomb by Neal Baswcomb (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

The Last Days of Stalin by Joshua Rubenstein (Yale University Press)

Anatomy of Malice: The Enigma of Nazi War Criminals by Joel E. Dimsdale (Yale University Press)

Possession: The Curious History of Private Collectors from Antiquity to the Present by Erin Thompson (Yale University Press)

Diaries: 1955-1970 by Eva Hesse (Yale University Press)

Bellow's People: How Saul Bellow Made Life into Art by David Mikics (W. W. Norton & Company)

We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Student Resistance Movement That Defied Adolf Hitler by Russell Freedman (HMH Children's)

She Made Me Laugh: My Friend Nora Ephron by Richard Cohen (Simon & Schuster)

The Nazi Hunters by Andrew Nagorsky (Simon & Schuster)

Central Station by Lavie Tidhar (Tachyon Publications)

Another Little Piece of My Heart: My Life of Rock and Revolution in the '60s by Richard Goldstein (Bloomsbury)

Song of Exile: The Enduring Mystery of Psalm 137 by David W. Stowe (Oxford University Press)

Modern Lovers by Emma Straub (Riverhead)

Divine Nothingness: Poems by Gerald Stern (W. W. Norton & Company)

Buckley and Mailer: The Difficult Friendship That Shaped the Sixties by Kevin M. Schultz (W. W. Norton & Company)

Pumpkinflowers: A Soldier’s Story by Matti Friedman (Algonquin Books)

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In the Beginning(s)

Monday, January 11, 2016 | Permalink

Anthony Schneider is the author of Repercussions, a novel about a grandfather whose South African past continues to affect his family in the generations to come. Anthony is blogging here all week as a Visiting Scribe on The ProsenPeople.

“Beginning a book is unpleasant,” Philip Roth observed.

Roth is a veteran writer who has written 27 novels, give or take. So for the first-, second- or third- time novelist, beginning a book is very unpleasant indeed, bordering on terrifying. You sit at your desk with an outline or a blank piece of paper, perhaps you’ve jotted some notes or written a few pages, but you have no idea how you’ll get from there to a finished manuscript weighing in at two or three hundred pages. Ask a dozen writers how their books began and you’ll likely get a dozen answers. That’s because beginnings are mysterious, and different writers have different processes.

My novel Repercussions started by accident. I was at the MacDowell Colony (thank you MacDowell) and gave myself writing exercises. One of my grandfathers had moved from Liverpool to South Africa, and I’d been thinking about his generation and his life and had brought along a book about Liverpool in the early twentieth century. I thought it might be liberating to write a day in the life— a character sketch, not a story (the word “novel” wasn’t even hovering in the air above my laptop back then). So I wrote about a boy in Liverpool. After twenty or so pages, I moved on.

A few months later I found myself writing about a grumpy grandfather in New York City, and at some stage it struck me that the two characters might be the same person. That was the first seed. As I wrote more, I had the sense that I already knew this character, that I wasn’t inventing him as much as uncovering him.

There was a second seed, which came much later, when I had written hundreds of pages (don’t worry, the finished book is a trim 227 pages). I asked myself what I was writing about, and it occurred to me that the book was about the conflict between humans and history. The forces of history are immensely powerful, too big for most people to understand, let alone control. At the same time, an individual’s actions, even when one is acting to make the world a better place, have ripples and repercussions that affect others, sometimes for many generations. The pages sort of opened up when I hit upon that idea, and I was able to mine a vein of the stories flooding in and begin threading them together into a single novel.

Novels teach us not only what happens but how it feels. Repercussions is very much an exploration of how it feels to be caught in the clash between your life and job and family—and history. It’s not a fair fight, precisely because history is a tsunami: big, complicated, powerful, and unpredictable, further complicated by the fact that history isn’t really observable while it’s going on. We spend our days thinking about tomorrow, our job, the holiday we’re planning, what to cook for dinner, our child’s homework. We can’t help being immersed in the quotidian even if we have our sights on the future. We’re not really aware how history ensues around us, and the vast majority of us certainly don’t know how we might affect it. That’s where I see the characters in my novel—inside history, whether near the eye of the storm or far from it, trying to change the world or to just get by. But history is happening, and the more powerful the currents of history the further the ripples will travel.

Postscript: I’m writing this from South Africa, where people don’t talk much about history, even recent history, and all too few are trying to change it. Perhaps a few novelists are writing about it. I hope so.

Anthony Schneider has been published in McSweeney’s, Conjunctions, Mid-American Review, and Details. Born in South Africa and educated in the United States, he divides his time between London and New York.

New Book Reviews January 8, 2016

Friday, January 08, 2016 | Permalink

This week's new reviews at Jewish Book Council:

Related Content:

My Mother, a Character: When Judy Batalion left Montreal, her mom handed back the manuscript to her memoir about their relationship—with notes.

How does classic Nordic cooking fit in a kosher kitchen? Find out with this week's Book Cover of the Week!

Stuff: Is It Good for the Jews? Judy Batalion considers hoarding and the value of material possessions in a Jewish home

Registration for the 2016 season of Unpacking the Book: Jewish Writers in Conversation is now open!

Stuff: Is It Good for the Jews?

Wednesday, January 06, 2016 | Permalink

Earlier this week, Judy Batalion shared her experience of showing her mother her memoir about their relationship. She is blogging here all week as part of the Visiting Scribe series on The ProsenPeople.

My memoir, a tale of surviving the survivors, centers on how I endured my Mom’s and Bubbie’s hoarding. I hated the embarrassing piles—stashes of dresses procured from bargain-basements, frozen bananas waiting for their supposed transformation to loaf, mountains of handbags haggled over at bazaars across 1980s Montreal—that made me feel emotionally and physically blocked from my family. I spent my adulthood decluttering and running away. My flight, to England, to work as an art historian in cut-glass British museums and white-walled galleries, was in opposition to my family. But this militant minimalism was also, to some degree, in opposition to my Jewishness. “Curator” was the least Yiddish word I knew and I wanted in.

Hoarding is thought to affect a staggering 3-4% of the American population. As Randy Frost and Gail Steketee point out in Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things, hoarding behaviors are not necessarily related to a history of war or deprivation. However, many Jews tell me they can relate to my story. “My great-uncle-in-law was a survivor and has a house full of tomato sauce!” or “Oy, my poor newspaper-collecting cousin…” I wonder if accumulation is a Jewish tendency, in reaction to the Holocaust and in a broader way. We’re familiar with stereotypes about excessive calories, volume, words, and I sense it’s similar for objects. You’d think a nation known for thousands of years of nomadism would have perfected the art of living lightly, but it appears that Jews have lots of things. Nu, why?

There are practical reasons. A priest recently came over for Friday night dinner and confessed his envy. It’s easier to get a younger demographic to follow Jewish custom, he explained, because most of its rituals take place, not in the unpopular church, but in the home. But for those rituals, I thought, you need ritual items. (See: formal set of pareve Passover salad tongs.)

There are emotional reasons, I guessed. Our baggage, when unpacked, might function as an aggressive attempt to lay roots. When we settle, we do so with a vengeance. Hey, I’m planted here, along with 300 kippahs collected at bar mitzvahs since the 1960s. Possessions can form a protective wall. We feel cuddled and coddled surrounded by our things, womby and warm.

I had a nosh with environmental psychologist Sally Augustin who confirmed that our belongings make us feel good, in different ways than I predicted. She explained that objects are important for identity. “We didn’t evolve in a minimalist box,” she said. Our trinkets remind us of what we value, how we see ourselves, what image we want to project to the world, and who we want to be. On top of this, objects provide social clues. We make conversation around a boot collection. We subconsciously act more distanced with people whose surroundings are sparse because we are distracted, confused about who they are. Could it be a vicious substance circle? Jews are talkative, and have tchotchkes, so they’re talkative… I’d always seen a hoard as a blockade, but now I considered how our clutter might enable connection.

Of course, one chat wasn’t enough for this Jewess. I called my friend and professional organizer Elizabeth Savage who told me of a client of hers who madly collected purses. “Holocaust roots,” she said, knowingly. I knew. Bubbie had hundreds; the “pushkin” is the meta-symbol of safety. “In our mobile and transient culture, everything moves so quickly. We cling to our things because we don’t want to die!” Liz cried. Survivors or not, our objects comfort us.

Makes sense. Stuff links us to our pasts, marks our memories, challenges the inevitable demise of our biodegradable beings. Our stashes can be a hassle to store, organize and use, which is perhaps a little bit like Jewish heritage. It’s there, it’s hidden, it’s out, it’s too much, but ultimately, it feels good too.

Judy Batalion is the author of White Walls: A Memoir About Motherhood, Daughterhood, and the Mess In Between.

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Book Cover of the Week: Fire and Ice

Tuesday, January 05, 2016 | Permalink

Posted by Nat Bernstein

If you had to guess which month of the year sees the highest cookbook sales, you might place your bet on one boasting a bountiful season harvest or a holiday feast. I would!

Fun insider tip from the publishing industry: most cookbooks are sold in January each year. Motivated by culinary, dietary, or weight-loss resolutions for the New Year, consumers stock up on titles introducing new foods and lifestyles—complete with step-by-step instructions. Indeed, my first personal achievement for 2016 was building a new home for my cookbooks (you can see it here!) and I'm itching to fill it with new ones! Including:

How does Scandinavian cuisine fit in a kosher kitchen, you ask? Well, for one, Fire and Ice: Classic Nordic Cooking is lovingly written by Darra Goldstein, founding editor of the James Beard Award-winning journal Gastronomica and the author of several academic articles and essays on Jewish food and culture. Also, I had a taste of Swedish pizza—topped with smoked salmon and cream cheese—in Crown Heights over the weekend and found it alarmingly scrumptious. So I'll skip the shellfish, but sign me up for smoked arctic char, saffron buns, chanterelle soup, raspberry-rose petal jam, and other culinary gems from the Nordic lands!

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My Mom, a Character

Monday, January 04, 2016 | Permalink

Judy Batalion is the author of White Walls: A Memoir About Motherhood, Daughterhood, and the Mess In Between. She is blogging here all week as part of the Visiting Scribe series on The ProsenPeople.

Let’s just say, I wasn’t eager to share my book with my mother. My mom was born in 1945 during my Bubbie’s return voyage from Siberian work camps to Poland, in Kirgizia, in a makeshift hospital staffed solely by a distracted janitor. Mom was a refugee before knowing what home was. She spent her formative years in Wroclaw and then Israel before settling in Canada. She was a depressed hoarder, filling our house with walls of tuna cans and thousands of videocassettes. My memoir explores my attempts to reconcile our complicated relationship and her pathologically messy home when I found out I was about to have a daughter myself.

I couldn’t shake a story I’d heard about a memoirist who showed her mother her manuscript; her mother was appalled, told her she could never publish it, then dropped dead the next day. My own mom’s mental state was increasingly fragile, her depression deepening, her suicidal threats frequent. She hadn’t left her house in years. I toyed with the idea of keeping my book a secret. But she used Google, and one day, outright asked to read it. I couldn’t deny her request. Last summer, when I was in Montreal—nearby in case of an emergency—I decided it was time.

I printed the pages, put them in a grocery bag, and left them in my car for 3 days. Then I handed them over. “This book is dedicated to you,” I said, leaning into her shrinking physique, the small, soft mass that overshadowed my entire life. “I tried to be honest. You should tell me if I wasn’t.”

Radio silence.

Until three days later, when I was chasing kids in a berry orchard, and her number showed up. “I read your book.” Her voice was hushed, thin like candy paper. I felt the car keys in my pocket, knew I could get to her in 20 minutes. “The tone in Chapter 17 is really off.”

“Mom, I—” Wait. What?

“I like how you braid together humor and pathos, but the comedy is jarring in that scene. You lose emotional impact.”

I was shocked, relieved, delighted and confused. I wrote a whole book about her emotional states and that was her response? But I reminded myself that we’d always connected through literature. As a kid, most of our conversations ended in tears and slams, but I cherished memories of us laughing together as she unpacked Amelia Bedilia puns. When I left home, we developed a nurturing long-distance rapport analyzing my romances on an Aiden/Mr. Big scale (it was the ‘90s). A few years earlier, she’d read a short piece of mine about her hoarding. “How could I not have known how much this affected you?” she’d said. “Now I understand.”

“Thanks, Mom,” I now said, realizing she was right about Chapter 17.

When I left Montreal, Mom handed me back my pages—with notes. (And I’d thought it was stressful opening mark-ups from an editor!) After another few days in the plastic bag, I glimpsed them to find just a few comments. One was an explanation about her behavior on a particular day, about how her absence had been in attempt to help me, not a withdrawal. Sitting there, clutching the sheets that her fingers had also grazed, I thought about how despite all her hoarding, she’d given me space to make sense of the world as I needed. Room to grow.

Judy Batalion is the author of White Walls: A Memoir About Motherhood, Daughterhood, and the Mess In Between.

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New Book Reviews January 1, 2016

Friday, January 01, 2016 | Permalink

This week's new reviews at Jewish Book Council:

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