Historical events and personal family stories entwined in essays.
In these narratives of 25 moments in her life, essayist Schwartz (Emerita, Writing/Richard Stockton Coll.; Good Neighbors, Bad Times: Echoes of My Father’s German Village, 2008, etc.), the child of German-Jewish immigrants, begins with her father, who returned to the village in Germany that he fled after he realized that as Hitler continued to rise in power, Germany would quickly become a dangerous place for Jews. He managed to move most of his family out prior to the Holocaust, saving them from deportation to the concentration camps. Across other pieces, Schwartz ponders her childhood growing up in Queens, New York, her puppy, her mother’s handbag, and the wallpaper, bricks, and hidden rooms in her house, which dovetails with her consideration of the Underground Railroad and life as a slave. She writes about being a juror and deciding the fate of a prisoner as well as two men, one Jewish, one Arab, who have been lifelong friends; she wonders why others can’t overcome these same “political chasms.” Some of the other tender, reflective pieces include a story about writing poems and stories with her granddaughter, living beyond the label of “cancer survivor,” and ruminating on her husband, her lifetime love. “It is through these private lives,” writes the author, “that we come to understand how the thunderstorm in one neighborhood can be a drizzle a few blocks away—and who sees a rainbow, who hears only the storm?....[This book] is my weather report from the mid-twentieth century until now. It’s not truth with a capital ‘T.’ ” Although the essays are highly personal, most readers will relate to the larger pictures of human rights, racism, the women’s movement, and a score of other topics.
Expressive, intimate snapshots of one woman’s life set atop the backdrop of global history.