"Though he claims to lack the proper mien to be a Jew, Hirschhorn's verse reveals a man who is both a humanist and a humorist. His focus remains on the rich details of personal experience rather than the abstractions of larger events."
Hirschhorn, a physician who has worked to improve public health in the US and abroad, has been honored by the Clinton White House as one of six "American Health Heroes." As in his real-life travels, Hirschhorn's poetic travels range from a farm museum in Billings to a guesthouse in Java (where he is greeted with decades-old copies of Reader's Digest and a bedraggled plastic Christmas tree). His poems traverse an equally broad emotional range, from the comfortable and familiar to the unsettling (even gruesome) abuses of power—from Hitler's Germany to Pol Pot's Cambodia. In one poem, even the quiet meditations of a humble floor-sweeping monk lead to the recognition that a slaughter has taken place in the village beyond the monastery walls. Such destruction of human life must be especially disquieting to a physician, but Hirschhorn avoids the temptation of politics—and he does not make an issue of his heritage. Instead, he writes with humor and tenderness, even when drawing a parallel between his mother's escape from the Nazis (with the young author in tow) and her later half-hearted attempt to commit suicide by putting her head in their Kelvinator oven. In other hands, this conceit would have been either cruel or sophomoric.Read full book review >