Holocaust Memorial Day 2018 | Night by Elie Wiesel, Marion Wiesel (Translator)

“Those who kept silent yesterday will remain silent tomorrow.”

My first reading of Elie Wiesel’s Night occurred during this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day.Night is Elie Wiesel’s masterpiece, a candid, horrific, and deeply poignant autobiographical account of his survival as a teenager in the Nazi death camps. This new translation by Marion Wiesel, Elie’s wife and frequent translator, presents this seminal memoir in the language and spirit truest to the author’s original intent. And in a substantive new preface, Elie reflects on the enduring importance of Night and his lifelong, passionate dedication to ensuring that the world never forgets man’s capacity for inhumanity to man.

Words cannot begin to comprehend the plight of suffering and cruelty revealed in this book that had me on the verge of breaking into sobs page after page, so I’ll let the writing speak for itself by sharing moments and passages that cannot be forgotten in time:

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This here is exactly why I refuse to participate with anything regarding Germany; the world is complicit in its indifference.  “…my hatred remains our only link today.”

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It pained me beyond words to see my people fall under the “this surely won’t happen to me” spell.

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And the effect spreads like a snowball, gathering more and more edicts as the days go by.

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Nothing gets my blood boiling quite like seeing the numerous acts of silence committed by these citizens. People love to victim-blame the Jews by asking the distasteful question of why they didn’t stand up to the oppressor… But a more pressing notion, for me, is why those German citizens, watching idly by in the face of atrocity, didn’t stand up to their fellow Nazis… 

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I was appalled from start to finish with the above. Not only do they watch idly by from a short distance away, but to then FLIRT with them…

You think you’ve reached the peak of cruelty, but then you read on:

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Experiencing numbness in order to remain sane at the sight of tragedy.

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This French girl’s wisdom has stayed in mind, in particular, because the next paragraph describes an out-of-this-world experience wherein Elie Wiesel stumbles upon her eons later:

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But the most painful of all remains to be the relationship portrayed between father and son that keeps both alive in the face of inhumanity.

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Many more sorrowful revelations are shared within the pages of this must-read. Elie Wiesel’s raw written voice commemorates all that must never be forgotten.

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My arms gathered with goosebumps at that because the date I was reading this book was April 11th.

I’ll end this review by sharing my favorite Elie Wiesel quote:

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”

Summer Camp, Russian Culture, and Belonging | Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol

Having adored Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol, I was keen on checking out her spin with this gripping and hilarious middle-grade summer camp memoir.

All Vera wants to do is fit in—but that’s not easy for a Russian girl in the suburbs. Her friends live in fancy houses and their parents can afford to send them to the best summer camps. Vera’s single mother can’t afford that sort of luxury, but there’s one summer camp in her price range—Russian summer camp.

I’m gonna jump right into discussing the book by highlighting the dreaded sleepover scene that still gives me chills… and it’s been over a decade for me. All the more painful to relive it through Vera’s young eyes. She’s trying her hardest to assimilate as smoothly as possible by pulling together a sleepover (by replicating her friend’s version), but then her mother gives her Russian twist on it.

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As a child of Russian Jews (like I mention in my review for Natasha and Other Stories), I know all too well that you’re donzo if your third-grade classmates see those Russian letters on the cake…

It’s these intimate moments of struggling to belong and navigating your own culture that stood out to most when I read Anya’s Ghost back in 2016. So I was glad to see it delve deeper with Be Prepared. I mean, the painful courage it took to include the sleepover must’ve been tremendous.Be Prepared 2-- bookspoils

Moving along to Vera finding out about a Russian summer camp “build around fostering Russian community” and deciding to join in the hopes of finding people that’ll get her. But she’s not quite prepared for the conditions set in the middle of nowhere.Be Prepared 3-- bookspoilsYou pretty much knew what to expect with this introducing letter:Be Prepared 5-- bookspoils“Dear mom, could you pick me up as soon as you get this? PLEASE! I’m desperate”

What follows is a journey of self-acceptance and resilience, finding friendship within the right people, and more and more summer hardships to overcome. I read it in a heartbeat.Be Prepared 4-- bookspoils

All in all, I more than keen on reading more of Vera Brosgol’s graphic memoirs, especially with that ending we got from Be Prepared!

ARC kindly provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Expected publication: April 24th, 2018

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Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying Be Preparedjust click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!

Personality Tests & Modern Feminism in Choose Your Own Disaster by Dana Schwartz

It’s known by now that I’m a fan of memoirs, given that I’m easily swept up in the juicy secrets of someone’s thoughts and secrets without having to reciprocate; it’s bliss for my nosy self.

With this new release part-memoir, part-VERY long personality test, Choose Your Own Disaster is a manifesto about the millennial experience and modern feminism and how the easy advice of “you can be anything you want!” is actually pretty fucking difficult when there are so many possible versions of yourself it seems like you could be. Dana has no idea who she is, but at least she knows she’s a Carrie, a Ravenclaw, a Raphael, a Belle, a former emo kid, a Twitter addict, and a millennial just trying her best.

This memoir-ish book was a) entertaining b) morally questionable and c) utterly vulnerable when covering such topics as:

  • eating disorders, bulimia, and binge-eating.
  • the creation of @GuyInYourMFA. And the story behind the profile picture:

You are definitely, and almost assuredly illegally, using his picture (you had done a Google image search for “guy in hat” and gone with the best candidate). You apologize, profusely, and that afternoon you bring a slouchy hat you own to meet your friend Simon in the library, the same library where you took your Introduction to Fiction class, and you ask him to stand there, against the shelves, and you take a hundred pictures of him with your cell phone and replace the picture of the stranger by that afternoon.

  • tinder dating while on her Eurotrip and meeting a genuinely nice guy.

You and Rory will stay in touch, and you’ll flirt and text and email your writing back and forth for months, a year, after you meet. Once, you will sing and play the guitar over Skype while he accompanies you on glockenspiel and secretly you’ll imagine a version of your story in which you and Rory end up together. You’ll imagine loving him, and you like how it fits. But you only talk in words on a screen anymore, and then, one day, both of you will meet someone else and fall in love for real and will have to tell the other person, a stranger across the ocean who you were never actually dating, that you’re actually with someone else now. Whatever flame you two had, whatever nonrelationship, will be quietly folded and put away in the linen closet.

  • celebrity sightings and her internship at The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
  • titles like, Are You an Introvert or Just a Lazy Asshole?”.

Screen Shot 2018-02-28 at 09.46.55But my reading experience encountered some minor hindrances when it came to the series of men in this book…

Firstly, I couldn’t help but hear the uncanny resemblance Dana Schwartz’s writing voice bore to Esther’s from the TV series Alone Together (probably because they’re both New York millennial Jewish girls). In particular, those moments when Dana’s hanging on to a guy who’s giving her the clear ‘He’s just not that into you’ signals (which she herself notes more than once).

I appreciated when Dana focused more on chronicling her personal life, instead of wasting time on the men in her life that ditched her or vice versa, like a broken record. (I have to admit, though, that I felt delicious victory at putting together the identity of a certain established writer she was keen on that ended up ghosting her…) It threw me off with the overtly sexual details that I truly don’t care enough to spend pages on pages. I mean, there’s this lawyer dude that I skipped reading (because he came off as the biggest creep), but he was still written about for over twenty pages…

If nothing else, the aforementioned made for a comical line in her acknowledgments:

To all of the men I’ve slept with, thank you for giving me what I needed in that moment, for making me feel special or wanted or loved. And if you hurt me, thank you for helping me to learn while I was young. Hope you bought this book full price just to see if I wrote about you.

Oh, what last lines…

On another note: I couldn’t shake off my annoyance when it came to the constant excuses for her bad calls by comparing herself to problematic fictional women. It just brings home the point that fiction shapes your viewpoint, in particular, when she tries to brush off flirting and sleeping with a married man by using these women from TV shows that cheated (Carrie Bradshaw, Rory Gilmore, Olivia Pope). Everything about this screams midlife-crisis-with-precocious-college-kid.

If I’d gotten a more individual take on Dana Schwartz as a person – not Dana Schwartz in a relationship – I would’ve grown to appreciate this memorable take on memoirs that more.

ARC kindly provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Expected publication: June 19th, 2018

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Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying Choose Your Own Disasterjust click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!