Committed to Memory

January 11 | 2022

As we grapple with this latest wave of Covid, I console myself with the thought that one day, with luck, our experiences will be behind us, committed instead to memory. What will we or won’t we remember? For those intrigued by the subject of memory and its representation in the arts, I suggest the new English translation of In Memory of Memory by the Russian author Maria Stepanova. It’s a big book, both in depth and breadth—perfect for adding lustre to the darkest days of the year. 


The Smallest Objective at Canada’s oldest subscription library

December 6 | 2021

I was privileged recently to introduce my memoir to a virtual audience at Atwater Library in Montreal. The oldest subscription library in Canada, Atwater Library originated in the first Mechanics’ Institute in British North America (1828). The purpose of the institute was to educate workers in Montreal’s many industries. By 1920, the institute had moved to its current location at Atwater and Tupper streets, where it became known in 1962 as the Atwater Library. This building by Hutchison, Wood, and Miller (shown here) celebrated its centenary in 2020, upholding the mandate of the original institute—access to books for everyone.  


The Smallest Objective wins a Vine Award for Canadian Jewish Literature!

November 24 | 2021

I’m absolutely thrilled to share the news that last night my memoir, The Smallest Objective, won a 2021 Vine Award for Canadian Jewish Literature (history category).

Sincere thanks to the Lillian & Norman Glowinsky Foundation, Koffler Centre of the Arts, and jurors Zelda Abramson, Nathan Adler, and Naomi K. Lewis.

https://kofflerarts.org/Events/Vine-Awards/About


Please join me—Vine Awards Panel “Memoir & Motherhood”

November 12 | 2021

I’m delighted to have the opportunity to chat about motherhood with other Vine Awards finalists in what promises to be a lively hour moderated by jury member Zelda Abramson. My mother, Rene Kirsch, is a central character in my recent memoir, The Smallest Objective, nominated in the History category. Pictured below are me and my mother in her first years as a parent. 

Please join me on November 18 at 7 p.m. for this free panel discussion (registration required):

https://kofflerarts.org/Events/Books-Ideas/Vine-Awards-Panel-3-Memoir,-Motherhood,-and-Lived


For Jewish Book Month—remembering writer Ethel Vineberg

October 29 | 2021

When I was a girl in Montreal, my mother presented me with the children’s book Grandmother came from Dworitz: A Jewish story (Tundra Books, 1969)My mother was keen to impress upon me that the book’s author, Ethel Vineberg, was related to us. Only now, a half-century later, have I discovered that the connection was through my paternal grandmother, and that Ethel Vineberg was equally the author of The History of the National Council of Jewish Women of Canada. I’ve discovered, too, the whereabouts of Dworitz, or Dvorets—in present-day Belarus.

What hasn’t changed over the decades is my enjoyment of this family narrative of traditional life in the Pale of Settlement, including the decision made by one fearless young daughter to immigrate to America. Nachama, whose father encouraged her to read the Bible but also Tolstoy, eventually settled with her husband near Saint John, New Brunswick, where she raised her daughter Ethel. Ethel Vineberg thus begins her family history with the words, “I write this because I am the link between the old and the new. I was born here, but my mother came from Europe. I shall tell you the stories she told me and that her mother told her of a way of life that no longer exists.”


THE SMALLEST OBJECTIVE SHORTLISTED FOR THE VINE AWARDS!

October 22 | 2021

I’m thrilled and honoured to share the news that my recent memoir, The Smallest Objective (New Star Books), has been shortlisted for the 2021 Vine Awards for Canadian Jewish Literature in the history category.

https://kofflerarts.org/News-Insights/News/The-2021-Vine-Awards-Shortlist

Several exciting panel discussions are scheduled in advance of the awards presentation on November 23. I’ll be participating on November 18 at 7 p.m.

https://kofflerarts.org/Events/Books-Ideas/Vine-Awards-Panel-3-Memoir,-Motherhood,-and-Lived


Harvest time—imagining Thanksgiving

October 5 | 2021

Betty Crocker’s Dinner for Two, published in 1958, was a cornerstone of my Aunt Carol’s recipe collection. The cookbook she studied as a young bride is now one I like to browse through myself, especially the holiday tips for “When Company Comes.” For Canadians, harvest time arrives early, and so does Thanksgiving. To set the tone for this weekend’s festivities, Betty Crocker recommends surrounding tall ivory candles with “richly colored fruits and golden wheat” or arranging gleaming red apples, clusters of grapes, and ears of corn on “a doily of autumn leaves.” Other items on the table? Candied yams, celery sticks, creamed onions, cranberry ice, and pumpkin chiffon or minced pie. Bon appetit, everyone!


His very best salute

September 15 | 2021

My father in wartime, savouring a rare moment of leisure. As a young doctor seconded to the Canadian regiment The Queen’s Own Rifles, my father was called upon to give his utmost, including, possibly, his life. He counted himself lucky to have survived the D-Day landing on Juno Beach. The challenges facing today’s medical personnel are no less formidable, and I’ve no doubt that my father, if he were still alive, would honour them with his very best salute. 


Summer through a lens

August 12 | 2021

Mid-August, the pace is lazy, the temperature’s rising, and nothing is more alluring than the beach. My mother thought so, too. Here she is in the 1950s posing for the camera in Ogonquit, Maine. The beach movie genre of the 1960s—Where the Boys Are, Beach Party—was still to come, but my mother could already have been inspired by Deborah Kerr in From Here to Eternity. The 1953 classic is remembered for the scene in which Kerr and Burt Lancaster make ardent love on the beach. Unlike Karen, Kerr’s character, my mother wasn’t risking an “affair.” The photographer here was my father, camera shy and besotted with his bride to be. Both my mother and my father are major players in my recent memoir, The Smallest Objective


“Bright, optimistic, energetic”

July 29 | 2021

For her high school scrapbook on birds, shown here, my mother was awarded a “B” without comment. Dating back to the 1940s, the scrapbook is wide ranging and lavishly illustrated. More than any others, perhaps, the birds of Australia and New Zealand intrigued my mother, but also worthy of her attention were the birds of Eastern Canada. As I tell in my recent memoir, my mother briefly studied biology at McGill University. There she put into practice the lessons from her scrapbook, striving to be a Canada warbler—“bright, optimistic, energetic”—and not a Wood Peewee, “a “feathered sad sack haunting somber groves.” 

Birds scrapbook