If you’ve been following my pre-publication posts, you already know that the material in my forthcoming story collection, Quiet Americans, has a great deal to do with my grandparents’ identities and experiences as Jews who escaped Nazi Germany in the late 1930s. And while only three of the seven stories in the book were written during the time I was an MFA student, suffice to say that more than just a few of the pieces in my thesis were similarly inspired.
This didn’t seem to worry two of my three thesis readers. But the third did express a reservation: “Too much grandparents and too much Holocaust.”
My faith in Henry James notwithstanding (recall the Jamesian dictum to allow the writer his/her donnée and criticize only what is made of it), that reader’s comment lingered (obviously!), and its impact wasn’t fully assuaged even when other, equally wise authority figures told me otherwise. During the past several days, however, the old warning has finally lost some of its sting. And for that, I am grateful to author Deborah Eisenberg.
“I believe that people are what happened to their grandparents,” Deborah Eisenberg says…. “I’m not sure I can articulate this,” she continues, “but I’m in the generation that was brought up close enough to the war, the Holocaust, the camps, and yet was protected, to a degree that is amazing to think about now, in a world of synthetic safety. And I would say there was a current of anxiety that any child would have picked up on, probably continuing for several generations, underneath the very, very, very tense kind of perfect world in which I grew up.”
Thank you, Deborah Eisenberg, for somehow–in a way I’m not sure I can articulate–validating my book, and the path that brought me to it.