Memory loss—my father’s last battle

September 7 | 2020

Dr. Archie Kirsch, my father, volunteered for Medical Corps in the Second World War and was commended for his bravery during the D-Day landing. Here he’s pictured in the London field hospital where he served as a doctor after having sustained a shrapnel injury while tending to wounded soldiers on Juno Beach, Normandy. In the 40 years I knew my father, he only once expressed fear—as a man in his eighties when his memory began to fail. “It’s frightening,” he told me. In my new memoir, The Smallest Objective, I recall my father’s words as he prepared to fight his last battle. This September, World Alzheimer’s Month matters more than ever as people with dementia have suffered disproportionately from Covid-19. 

https://www.worldalzmonth.org


The Smallest Objective reviewed in The Miramichi Reader and Winnipeg Free Press!

September 2 | 2020

Please enjoy these two recent reviews of my memoir:

https://www.winnipegfreepress.com/arts-and-life/entertainment/books/treasure-hunt-leads-to-deep-historical-dive-572259211.html


Let’s not forget to remember—September is World Alzheimer’s Month

September 1 | 2020

My mother, seen here as a young woman, had no trouble recognizing who she was—“myself,” as she wrote in this caption from her photo album The Story of My Life. She would never have imagined that her story would end with her forgetting her precise age, the season of the year, or the name of the serving prime minister. Yet such is the nature of dementia, an illness that afflicted my mother in her final years. As I discovered while writing my new memoir, The Smallest Objective, disease itself has no need of memory: “Illness shows no hesitation, not even illness that ravages memory. It needs no reminder, proceeding with certainty to its next move.” 

https://www.worldalzmonth.org

https://alzheimer.ca/en/Home


The way summer lingers—my father’s memories of Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts

August 24 | 2020

As we near the end of August, some of us may be recalling our childhood summers spent at camp in the Muskoka lakes or the Laurentian mountains. For my father, Archie, who suffered from dementia in his final years, the memory of his summers as a counsellor at Camp B’nai Brith https://cbbmtl.org remained vivid right to the last. In my new memoir, The Smallest Objective, I describe the setting of this camp where Simon, my father’s father, served as the second president: “The property was classic Laurentian and indistinct — scrappy conifers, low mountains sloping one into the other, a lake that didn’t conform to any known geometry.” Seen here is my father (right) in one of his favourite roles at camp—helping to oversee the kitchen. 


A common thread—my grandmother’s sewing box

August 17 | 2020

Like my new memoir, The Smallest Objective, my grandmother’s sewing box harbours many secrets. At first glance, the box and its contents appear ordinary: “The box in most ways aspires to nothing more than everyday life: the fraying threads, the small repairs, the effort to keep things, if not new, at least viable.” Nonetheless, over the centuries girls and women have safeguarded mementos in their sewing bags and boxes in the form of poems, love letters, or cherished pictures. My grandmother Rose’s sewing box, with its wicker handle and floral decal, likely dates from the 1930s. Beneath the sharps, yarn darners, spools of thread, thimbles, hooks and eyes is hidden a mechanism, covered in red silk. Revealed is “a musical sewing box, wound from the underside to produce a halting, delicately shaded tune. …”


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.”