A BBC RADIO 4 BOOK OF THE WEEK
‘Esther Safran Foer has written of her family in a way that is both uniquely and heartbreakingly her story and a deeply important testament for Ashkenazi Jews. Her memories are our important history.’ Robert Peston, ITV Political Editor
A moving and powerful inter-generational memoir about story and memory.
Mine is a family of readers and writers. Our house is filled with books. There are contemporary design books on the coffee table in the living room, legal books in my husband’s home office, and piles of children’s books for when my grandchildren visit. However, the side table next to my bed is piled with books about the Holocaust. Framed maps of shtetls line my office walls and pictures of relatives killed in the Holocaust are displayed on our family gallery walls.
Sometimes I feel like I exist across two polarized realities, experiencing great fulfillment from family, friends, and a meaningful career, and, at the same time, finding the joy of my life tempered by its shadows. In the darker corners of my mind live ghosts and demons who visit me from the shtetls in Ukraine where my family came from. Some of the details that make these visions so vivid are imagined because I grew up in a family where memories were too terrible to speak of.
This is the true story of four generations who have been dealing with the Holocaust and its aftermath. We are four generations, survivors and survivors of survivors, storytellers and memory keepers. And we’re still here.
Esther Safran Foer is one of the most well-known and influential women in Washington, D.C. Most recently she served as the executive director of the Sixth & I historic synagogue for nearly 10 years, revitalizing the cultural relevance of the historic building. Before taking over at Sixth & I, she was the president of FM Strategic Communications, a public relations firm that advised top law firms and Fortune 500 companies. Her first job in politics was on the staff of the George McGovern campaign for president in 1972.
”'[In this book] Esther Safran Foer has written of her family in a way that is both uniquely and heartbreakingly her story and a deeply important testament for Ashkenazi Jews. Her memories are our important history.” - Robert Peston
”'A vivid testimony to the power of memory.” - Kirkus
”'A powerful memoir about the Holocaust” - Radio Times
”'a moving and well researched memoir” - The Observer
‘superb memoir … a hymn to life’. TELEGRAPH -
‘you will applaud the defiance of the title as her story makes you weep’. SAGA -
”'This moving memoir documents Esther Safran Foer’s tireless search for traces of her murdered family. Her success is a testament to the power of memory to rescue the dead from oblivion.” - Diane Armstrong, author of THE COLLABORATOR
”'Stirring and inspiring, this remarkable book is a labour of love and hope. Esther Foer goes on a brave journey abroad in search of unsettling family secrets buried in the darkness created by Nazism. Her odyssey is harrowing and heroic. When she returns, she can never see things in the same way, and neither can we. This book is a little triumph over fascism.” - Congressman Jamie Raskin
‘Foer documents her quest to gather information about her family’s life during the Holocaust in this skilfully written debut. Foer’s engrossing, well-researched family history will resonate with those curious about their own roots. Publisher’s Weekly -
”'In effect this book is a search for the tiniest of things among the large mess of history: a name. It’s a noble search, and makes for a moving book. Much of the narrative is sad. Death, silence, emptiness haunt the work. There are things that may never be known. But the telling is unique and interesting. The book succeeds in putting names (or more precisely, stories) to things that exist only as artefacts, and inversely putting physicality to things that exist only as story.” - Irish Times