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. 


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 or on facebook @deborahkalbauthor

The Smallest Objective in Canadian Jewish Record

January 8 | 2021

I’m delighted to share a feature article about my memoir that recently appeared in Canadian Jewish Record. For those who aren’t already in the know, Canadian Jewish Record was created in response to the demise of the longstanding Canadian Jewish News. Like so many cultural icons, CJN was unable to withstand the economic shock of Covid-19. Fortunately, and somewhat miraculously, a dynamic group of Canadian journalists assembled to fill the void, creating a new online paper to keep Jewish and non-Jewish communities alike informed about matters of Jewish interest. I am pleased and proud that they chose to share news of The Smallest Objective with their growing readership:

My mother’s vintage holiday baubles

December 22 | 2020

As I tell in my recent memoir, The Smallest Objective, my mother’s brief career as a biology student ended when a live fish on the dissection table bolted from her grasp. Soon after, my mother qualified instead as an elementary school teacher. Occasionally in December, she brought out the tiny artificial tree once in her classroom at the Protestant School Board, festooning it with icicles, tinsel, and iridescent balls. “Hanukkah Bush” was what we called the everlasting tree. Although my mother’s gone now, I still unwrap her vintage baubles for the holiday season. The words for them are no longer important— what matters is that they remind me of her.  

Wishing everyone a safe and satisfying holiday. For those who are front-line workers, thank you for your dedication and your courage.    

My turn at “12 or 20 questions”

December 16 | 2020

I’m very grateful to book blogger Rob McLennan for inviting me to participate in “12 or 20 questions.” Rob’s questions for writers are imaginative and wide-ranging, encouraging interviewees to connect the dots not only between books, but also between books and life.  Here’s the link to my interview, along with the cover of my first book, What Species of Creatures

Please be sure to check out Rob at and on his author page on Facebook. 

Observing Chanukah with a different kind of flame—my aunt Carol in the Caribbean

December 10 | 2020

In my recent memoir, The Smallest Objective, I describe how my aunt Carol and her husband, Marvin, were honeymooning in Jamaica over Chanukah. Pictured here is the postcard of a flame tree sent by Carol to my mother, Rene, in Montreal. The year was 1960—5721—and my mother, in her kitchen at home, was preparing meat halishkes and pea hominy as prescribed by her Jewish cookbook. Carol herself was more intent on love than on latkes. “What a paradise,” she wrote of Jamaica, “And marriage is not too bad either!” 

Sixty years later, and in less buoyant times, I wish you all a safe and happy holiday season, whether your festive fare is clootie dumpling, ackee and saltfish, or sweet noodle kugel.