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.