Lisa Gruenberg first started writing when her elderly father, a Viennese Holocaust survivor, began having flashbacks and nightmares about the past. She wrote in the voice of her father’s sister, Mia, who disappeared into Germany in 1941 and whose name her father would not say out loud until a year before his death. Her father always spoke about his city in the most joyous way. By the time she inquired more deeply, he was unable to reliably remember the past. After his death, she translated family letters and traveled to Vienna and Germany to explore his lost landscape. She interwove her present-day story with Mia’s and her father’s, linking them with photographs, primary-source documents, letters, her father’s writing, and the joyful tales he told her long ago. This is a Holocaust tale, but it is also very much the modern-day story of the relationship between one daughter and her father, about how trauma travels down through the generations, and about how we find meaning in our lives.
My City of Dreams: A Memoir
September 1, 2019
Courtesy of Lisa Gruenberg
- Did you find the author credible? Could you relate to her story? Did you learn anything new from this book?
- The author uses original documents, letters, and photographs. Did these enhance your experience?
- To tell this story, the author has to move around in time within a chronologic framework. How did she accomplish this? The author uses the fictional voice of her Aunt Mia speaking in the present tense, while she tells her own story in the past tense. At the end of the story the voices merge, and for the last few pages, the author speaks in the present tense. What do you think about this device?
- In the book, the author tries to resolve conflicting narratives to try to find meaning in her and her family’s story. What are the overarching themes that tie the storylines together?
- If you could hear this story from another perspective, from whom would you want to hear?
- If you had the chance to ask the author a question, what would it be?
Jewish literature inspires, enriches, and educates the community.
Help support the Jewish Book Council.