ONCE I WAS A PLUM TREE by Johanna Hurwitz


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Once Gerry Flam's family name was Pflaumenbaum, just as once the family was Jewish. Now (1947), not only do Gerry's assimilated parents eat bacon and have a Christmas tree; they also make the girls dress up in new spring clothes on Easter Sunday. (Then the two girls sit on the stoop and wait for their friends to get home from church.) This only makes Gerry feel more ""different,"" and more curious about what it means to be Jewish. She begins to learn from the Wulfs, her piano teacher's family, refugees from Germany who seem strange at first but with whom she feels much closer after they invite her to share their seder. Gerry's Christian friends and their families, though, remain clichÉs. Earlier there's a most effective small scene where Gerry finds her father drawing pictures over a swastika scratched on the apartment building mailbox. The swastika turned up a few days after the Flams moved into the building, he tells her now, and ever since, when the super cleans and rubs the old drawing off, Mr. Flam has been making a new one to cover up the mark. But later there is a far more crudely staged scene in which some older boys (her friend's brother among them) harass Gerry and the Wulf boy with ""Heil Hitler's"" and cries of ""Christ killer."" In so slight and single-minded a story, such heavy-handed elements jar.

Pub Date: March 6th, 1980
Publisher: Morrow