IN PHYLLIS M SKOY’S SECOND BOOK, SHE EXPLORES HOW TRAUMA BLURS OUR VISION
Told through the life of Skoy’s ophthalmologist father, who fled the Russian pogroms, Myopia asks whether we can really ever know another
PLACITAS, New Mexico– At 91, Nathan Mitnick is so intent on dying that he asks his daughter to poison him with potassium. At that moment, Phyllis M Skoy, author of Myopia, a memoir, wonders if she ever really knew him. “Has there always been a part of him that stayed behind in those frozen places of his past where I’ll never walk?” she writes.
In Myopia, Skoy follows her successful debut novel What Survives, with an exploration into her own family history, as the daughter of a man who fled a brutal life in Russia marred by beatings and burnings. “If this is the best God can do for his chosen people, Mitnick’s father would say, “I wish he’d choose somebody else.”
With a voice that is at times funny, tart and brilliant, Skoy provides in Myopia a panorama of Jewish life. “Many memoirs have been written about the challenges Jewish families have faced and their forced immigration,” Skoy says. “I have a room full of them.”
A psychoanalyst, Skoy became fascinated with generationally transmitted fear. The writing of it took place over 30 years. “This was as much a psychoanalytic process as it was a writing process,” she says. What surprised her most was how her view of the characters changed over time. “Even in the worst of our emotional struggles, I don’t believe that my father was capable of knowing any of us. Through the writing, I began to see my father as he truly was, a man dominated by his fears.”