Mendel’s Daugh­ter: A Memoir

Gus­ta Lemel­man; Mar­tin Lemelman
  • Review
By – May 11, 2012
My moth­er died on Decem­ber 8, 1996. Last night she spoke to me. Thus begins this unusu­al mem­oir of the Holo­caust expe­ri­ence of Gus­ta, moth­er of Mar­tin Lemel­man. Mar­tin Lemel­man is an expert illus­tra­tor who uses his con­sid­er­able tal­ent to tell his mother’s sto­ry, from her life in a Pol­ish shetl through the Nazi hor­ror era. Her mem­o­ries are replete with her Yid­dishisms just as she spoke them. The video that forms the basis of this book was cre­at­ed in 1989. Gus­ta dropped a frozen chick­en and broke her foot. To get her to take it easy, Mar­tin cre­at­ed the video. Her ini­tial opin­ion was Feh, why you need to know all this? She final­ly warmed to the project. Mar­tin did not look at the video again until 1996, and was inspired to cre­ate this untra­di­tion­al book. His illus­tra­tions make the book touch­ing and reveal­ing. The cap­tions are fre­quent­ly in Gusta’s bro­ken Eng­lish and her Yid­dish. Even the print is unusu­al, not the mech­a­nized print process. It might be the hand print­ing of the per­son telling the sto­ry. The illus­tra­tions are aug­ment­ed with pho­tos and doc­u­ments relat­ed to the text. The result is a vivid sto­ry of the Holo­caust expe­ri­ence embell­ished by the art of a lov­ing son.
Arlyne Samuels a grad­u­ate of Brook­lyn Col­lege, taught and super­vised Eng­lish in New York City for 40 years. She was the coor­di­na­tor of the book club of the Greater Worces­ter (MA) Chap­ter of Hadas­sah. Arlyne passed away in May 2009 and will be missed by the Jew­ish Book World team.

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