Farewell to Vilkomir—the immigrant journey of Simon Kirsch

August 11 | 2020

My paternal grandfather, Dr. Simon Kirsch, was born in Vilkomir (now Ukmerge), Lithuania, in 1884 and immigrated to Canada at the age of six. A Yiddish speaker versed in Hebrew, he excelled at English-language school in Montreal, becoming one of the first Jewish faculty members at McGill University. In my recent memoir, The Smallest Objective, Simon plays an important role in the final chapter, where his architectural legacy to Montreal, the city of his youth and adulthood, is revealed. A community leader, a botanist, and a land developer, the grandfather I never knew described himself as “One of nature’s living jokes.”

Black walnut ink—the writer’s medium

August 4 | 2020

Since the pandemic has effectively nixed opportunities for a single indoor book launch in Toronto, I’m hosting instead a series of backyard mini-launches to celebrate my new memoir, The Smallest Objective. At the first of these, my friend Ian, a talented architect, presented me with a bottle of his handcrafted black walnut ink with its own beautifully designed label. Ian extracts the ink from the husks of black walnuts native to Southern Ontario. It’s for use with a dipping pen, not a fountain pen and, like Lysol, is NOT to be ingested.  

Five cents and you’re in—the pleasures of Dominion Park

July 28 | 2020

Pictured here are Rose, my maternal grandmother (right), and her older sister Myra at Dominion Park—a favourite summertime attraction for children on Montreal’s waterfront. The year? Circa 1920. The source? Young Rose’s album of “snapshots.” In my new memoir, The Smallest Objective, I describe some of the park’s attractions: “Myth City, the Crystal Maze, Shoot-the-Chutes, the Laughing Gallery. At the centre of it all stood a 125-foot tower illuminated by seven thousand bulbs and a searchlight that rotated day and night, casting its beam indiscriminately over the surging crowds.”

The Smallest Objective featured on Women Writers, Women’s Books

July 15 | 2020

Please enjoy the following interview on the international book site created and managed by Barbara Bos. Many thanks to Barbara for this opportunity!

Interview with Sharon Kirsch, author of The Smallest Objective




It doesn’t have to be “fancy”—the 1950s hostess

July 8 | 2020

Like so many young brides in the 1950s, my mother took pride in her role as a housewife. The image shown here is from The Golden Touch of Hospitality by Mary Grosvenor Ellsworth, a handbook belonging to my mother. Although Ellsworth advises young homemakers that “It doesn’t have to be fancy,” the elaborate trays, bowls, and garnishes say otherwise. In my new book, The Smallest Objective, I describe entertaining in genteel circles as the high-wire act that it was. More than anything, my mother feared her guests would “deride her chicken à la King, zippy pineapple salad, and icebox lemon torte.”

True magic—the intricacy of a lantern slide

June 30 | 2020

In my recent book, The Smallest Objective, a whole chapter is devoted to my paternal grandfather, Dr. Simon Kirsch. A botanist at McGill University in the early 20th century, Simon created his own lantern slides illustrating the cellular composition of plants. Each slide consists of a glass plate imprinted with a positive image. The images on the slides were projected by means of a magic lantern, a wooden box with a flame chamber like this one in the collection of the McCord Museum in Montreal: http://collections.musee-mccord.qc.ca/en/collection/artifacts/M970.92.1.1-4

Kudos to the class of ’58—my aunt Carol graduates!

June 25 | 2020

Convocation this year has taken shape in new ways—celebrated online or in intimate groups in backyards. In my new book, The Smallest Objective, the McGill convocation in May 1958 is central to the chapter about my aunt Carol, my mother’s only sibling. Here, Carol and her mother, Rose, are shown in the moment after Carol has been awarded her diploma in physiotherapy. The narrator of The Smallest Objective writes, “I have several relics from that day in May, when tents and folding chairs obscured the central playing field of the university, and the wind lifted the hem of my aunt’s graduation gown, exposing her white pencil skirt beneath.” During this pandemic summer, 62 years after Carol’s graduation, the diploma in her hands belongs to me.

The Smallest Objective featured on CBC Radio

June 22 | 2020

I was very fortunate yesterday to be able to share some thoughts about my memoir, The Smallest Objective, with CBC listeners. Many thanks to host Ainslie MacLellan and the entire team at All in a Weekend for this wonderful opportunity. 


The Smallest Objective in the news in Montreal!

June 18 | 2020

Please enjoy this week’s coverage in two Montreal newspapers:

www.westmountindependent.com/WIv14.6c.pdf (page 18)



Memory loss and selective remembering

June 15 | 2020

In my new memoir, The Smallest Objective, the themes of willed forgetfulness and selective remembering are foremost. Racism, now so much on our minds, entails both of these. In discriminating against others, we “forget” their humanity, their entitlement to equal rights and opportunities, and the suffering they endure. If we remember related history, we are apt to do so selectively, too often eliminating the events that make us ashamed or uncomfortable. The form of racism that afflicts some characters in The Smallest Objective happens to be anti-Semitism, but all forms of discrimination—whether arising from race, colour, gender, or sexual orientation—are to be condemned.