“The black as rich as velvet”

May 13 | 2021

For those of us living in a cold climate, every spring presents itself as a surprise and a revelation. This thrill of the unfamiliar inspired my debut book of literary non-fiction, What Species of Creatures. In its pages, 17th– and 18th-century newcomers to Canada marvel at wildlife they encounter for the very first time. “The black as rich as velvet” is how Elizabeth Simcoe, a watercolourist and naturalist born and raised in England, described this Montreal butterfly she rendered so exquisitely in June 1792.  


A wonderful Sunday at Junction Reads

April 20 | 2021

My sincere thanks to Alison Gadsby of Junction Reads for allowing me this weekend to share my memoir, The Smallest Objective, with her audience. Alison is an attentive reader and a consummate interviewer. Following is a link to the video of my event, along with a more general link to Junction Reads. Do check out the forthcoming editions of this excellent series.

 www.junctionreads.ca


The Smallest Objective in April’s Jewish Book Carnival

April 15 | 2021

Many thanks to Israel-based novelist and book blogger Gila Green for interviewing me recently about my memoir, The Smallest Objective. The Q&A with Gila is featured on her own website and in this month’s Jewish Book Carnival, an event bringing together those who cover Jewish fiction online. The April host for JBC is author Mirta Ines Trupp, who has created this wonderful image of a virtual tea party:

https://www.gilagreenwrites.com/index.php/blog/author-interviews


The Smallest Objective in Canada’s History

March 25 | 2021

I’m most grateful to Sharon Hanna for her sympathetic review of my memoir in the current issue of Canada’s History. Having praised the “warm, clever tone” and “vivid writing,” Hanna concludes that this family history “is an unexpectedly relevant book for our time, when we’ve been confined to our homes like never before. In this story of both loss and recovery, Kirsch reveals to us that much can be known through what surrounds us and through what has been left behind by others.”

For those unfamiliar with Canada’s History, it’s the much-admired official magazine of Canada’s National History Society. Formerly The Beaver, the magazine was founded in 1920 by the Hudson’s Bay Society.  

https://www.canadashistory.ca/magazines


My mother & the longing for something new

March 15 | 2021

Pretty well all of us right now are longing for something new—spring blossom, a silken-eared puppy, the freedom to roam. My mother, in the early 1950s, was feeling the same. Already dating my father and soon to become engaged, my mother, a natural brunette, reinvented herself as a blonde. No doubt she was imagining herself as one of the flaxen-haired beauties of Hollywood’s Golden Age—Rene Rutenberg turned Grace Kelly, Jayne Mansfield, or Marilyn Munroe. As I relate in The Smallest Objective,my recent memoir of mid-century Montreal, my mother married my father, Dr. Archie Kirsch, in April 1955. A onetime blonde returned to a ravishing brunette, she was ready, once again, for something new.


Prohibition-era Montreal—a good-time town

March 5 | 2021

The 1928 Irving Berlin song “Hello Montreal” celebrated North America’s sin city, where cheap whiskey and illicit gambling were rife in the 1920s and 30s—the Prohibition era. My great-uncle Jockey Fleming, whose early history was said to be “rather fogged,” came of age in the city’s gambling dens and speakeasies. Yet as I tell in my recent memoir, The Smallest Objective, Jockey’s disregard for the law went well beyond sipping an illicit Tom Collins or Last Word. An early purveyor of fake news, Jockey made up his own story about his Montreal antics during the 1920s: He claimed to be a singing waiter, no less. 

Poster

Reminiscence—my grandmother Malca and her fine feathers

February 15 | 2021

So pleased to share my latest small publication, a story about my paternal grandmother, Malca Kirsch (left)—a woman with a generous impulse and a penchant for fashion. “Fine Feathers” appears on the Australian site Jewish Women of Words (JWOW). Those of you who’ve read my recent memoir, The Smallest Objective, will remember Malca as a Jewish immigrant from Lithuania, a fastidious homemaker, and the devoted mother of three sons.


Butterfly fish and staghorn coral—Barbados on a postage stamp

February 10 | 2021

My father was a collector, as mentioned in my recent memoir, The Smallest Objective, and among his favourite collectables were stamps. His set shown here dates from 1968, purchased when we vacationed in Barbados that Christmas. It was on the same trip that a Cheezie I dropped on the floor of our villa triggered a thousand-strong procession of ants, each one helping itself to a minuscule portion before climbing the wall with its booty. Now that flights to the Caribbean have been grounded, such adventures are out of reach. In their place, I offer these still-vivid stamps from a half century ago—a promise of what lies farther south. 


Navigating the pandemic bit by bit

February 2 | 2021

As I tell in my recent memoir, The Smallest Objective, I’m the daughter of a gamester—a father who, though not an out-and-out gambler, played golf and cards for modest sums. Only recently, during this pandemic winter, have I discovered a similar urge in myself. My taste isn’t for Blackjack or Gin Rummy but rather jigsaw puzzles. The novelist Margaret Drabble also inclines to jigsaws, so much so that she’s written a book inspired by them, The Pattern in the Carpet. From Drabble I’ve learned that jigsaws originated in the 18th century as “dissected maps,” a tool for teaching children geography. From a recent New York Times story, I found that jigsaws enjoyed huge popularity during the Great Depression—another era of turmoil—and are experiencing a revival right now. As I lock my pieces into place, I’m aware that I’m not merely assembling them. I, too, am part of a pattern. 


Turning to the US—shout-out to author and book blogger Deborah Kalb

January 25 | 2021

Like so many Canadians, my parents had a special affection for the US and vacationed at the Lake Tarleton Club in New Hampshire, shown here, before honeymooning in Washington, DC. They would have been especially pleased, then, to find themselves on the book blog of DC-based author Deborah Kalb. In December, Deborah was kind enough to interview me. Then in mid-January, she shared the interview about my memoir, The Smallest Objective, with participants in Jewish Book Carnival, a meeting place for those who cover Jewish literature online. See the link below.

Apart from her valuable contributions as a blogger, Deborah is herself an author. Be sure to check out her middle grade novels focused on the early presidents, as well as her adult book Haunting Legacy: Vietnam and the American Presidency from Ford to Obama, co-authored with Marvin Kalb. You can find Deborah on her website http://www.deborahkalb.com or on facebook @deborahkalbauthor