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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A NEW Thanksgiving tradition?

Thanksgiving smacks of Tradition.
Shelves overflow with books about turkeys, Pilgrims and family gatherings.
Bloggers and columnists laud keeping a Gratitude Journal.

Reading, sharing and modeling Debbie Levy’s The Year of Goodbyes (Hyperion, 2010), however, could start a whole new tradition for a holiday that celebrates family, friends and life.

In her introduction, Debbie Levy writes,
“This book is based on another book – not a library book, or a bookstore book, or even a typed manuscript. It was a book written by hand and owned by my mother when she lived in Germany as a girl. The year was 1938. In her own language, German, the book was known as a poesiealbum (po-eh-ZEE Album). In English you could call it a poetry album.”

Poesiealbums weren’t hastily created. “Usually,” Levy shares in her introduction, “you took your friend’s
album home overnight and used your best handwriting, and maybe also colored pencils, to create a lasting impression. Your illustrations were likely to include symbols of good luck, such as ladybugs, piles of coins, horseshoes, fly mushrooms, four-leaf clovers, hearts, and chimney sweeps and their tools. You might further decorate your page with oblaten (o-BLAH-ten), stickers that girls collected and traded.”

Levy uses her mother Jutta’s discovered album - the actual poetic entries, art and oblaten of her friends sharing their twelfth year in Hamburg, Germany, from January through November – as the springboard for telling, in poetic verse, the true story of the Salzberg family’s last year in Germany. Adolph Hitler and the Nazi Party reigned supreme. As public persecution of Jews and thus Jutta’s family increased daily, escape to family in America proved the only way out. Excerpts from Jutta’s diary share the Salzberg’s eventual safe passage to New York. Jutta’s sister Ruth’s entry closes the book.

        “Whoever loves you more than me
          Should write behind me, certainly.”

Levy created The Poesiealbum Project on her blog, The Year of Goodbyes.
She invites readers of all ages to send their own pages. 
Perhaps six lines about a wrong in the world we'd want to make better, someone who inspired us or others to face adversity or fear.
Perhaps a three-line goodbye, to someone important.
What treasured possessions would we pack in our one suitcase, were we forced to leave home?
What lines would we write to tell about another's Holocaust experience?

Jutta created her poesiealbum over the course of a year.  She looks back at the handwriting, at the poems, at the images, and abracadabra, she's with her friends - Cilly Seligmann, Eva Rosenbaum, Ellen Berger, Elli Lipka.  Aunts, uncles, neighbors, grandparents, the Bar Kochba Gymnastics Club, the Jewish School for Girls.  All are there in Jutta's poesiealbum, some seventy-two years later, thankfully alive.

Writing words that could be read many years later so the world might know our story?
That's the stuff of new (Thanksgiving) traditions. See the Writing Workout below for details.

[And don't forget to enter our latest TeachingAuthor book giveaway here for a chance to win an autographed copy of Ann Angel's acclaimed biography Janis Joplin: Rise Up Singing.]

Happy Thanksgiving!

Esther Hershenhorn
WRITING WORKOUT

Why not create a Thanksgiving Poesiealbum of sorts with those who gather at your table, around your tv or on the front porch tomorrow.
Ask guests to come prepared to note the day, the gathering, the celebration - with a poem, a photograph, a stamp, a picture that reveals something special about them, perhaps something for which they are grateful.
Assign each guest a page.  Note the guest's name, age.  Be sure to record the date.
Tuck this year's album safely away, leaving room for others to follow.

5 comments:

  1. What a wonderful idea for a new Thanksgiving tradition. Thanks for sharing, Esther.

    ReplyDelete
  2. So glad Debbie Levy's book is doing the unlikely, the seemingly impossible.....i.e. showing us how we can find beauty where and when horror may surround us........whilst reminding us how important it is to tell our stories....as they happen and unfold...in our own words.

    ReplyDelete
  3. So glad Debbie Levy's book is doing the unlikely, the seemingly impossible.....i.e. showing us how we can find beauty where and when horror may surround us........whilst reminding us how important it is to tell our stories....as they happen and unfold...in our own words.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Jeanne Marie Grunwell FordDecember 5, 2010 at 8:42 PM

    Debbie Levy is doing a book talk in my hometown this month! I'm not sure whether she's a local, but I surely hope to be there.

    ReplyDelete

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