And technically, they aren’t books. Not yet anyway.
They are writings by Suzanne Reisman about her grandparents. And they are well worth your time.
I met Suzanne about a year ago in a Drisha Institute Jewish-text-and-writing class taught by Amy Gottlieb. (FYI: If you’re in NYC and interested, the class will run again, soon.) I was immediately impressed by Suzanne’s work, and we’ve stayed in touch since the class ended.
I knew a little bit about the writing Suzanne has done that is inspired by her grandfather’s life; she has completed a novel manuscript titled This Eden Called Warsaw. As Suzanne explains on her website, “Set before World War II, this work of literary historical fiction sheds light on the little known last decade of dynamic Jewish life in the city with the largest Jewish population in Europe, and was longlisted for the 2015 Caledonia Novel Award for unpublished novelists. I believe it would appeal to readers who enjoyed The Marrying of Chani Kaufman and The Family Moskat.”
Writing about her grandfather and this manuscript elsewhere, Suzanne has also noted:
[My grandfather] was the only person in his large religious family who survived the Holocaust, but he never spoke about them or his life before the war. I wanted to know who they (and he) – were.
To answer this question, I researched his community in the 1930s. I integrated this with the few genealogical details that were available, and filled in the blanks with my imagination. I will never know how close I am to their true lives. It is my deepest wish that I have honoured those who were lost – including my grandfather – with this novel.
I suspect that Suzanne speaks for many grandchildren of Holocaust refugees and survivors who have turned to fiction to write about their family histories. I know that the wish she describes here has similarly infused my own writing.
Suzanne’s grandfather passed away some years back, but her grandmother survived him until just last week. I hadn’t realized that, back when she was finishing her MFA at The New School, Suzanne had also written about this remarkable woman, born in Belarus. In her memory, Suzanne has just shared online a beautiful work of nonfiction that was part of her MFA thesis. I encourage you to read it—and get to know both Suzanne Reisman and her amazing Bubbe.