RTW: An Optimistic Holocaust Memoir?

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway’s contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s unique take on the topic.

We’d love for you to participate! Just answer the prompt on your own blog and leave a link — or, if you prefer, you can include your answer in the comments.

This Week’s Topic:

What was the best book you read in September?

That question is actually easy for me this month! During the semester, I don’t have a lot of opportunities for “fun reading.” But I recently started a book club with a friend, which always gives me that one non-school book to read. The book this month was The Seamstress by Sara Tuvel Bernstein. And let me tell you: It. Is. Amazing.

So, I obviously cried as I read this book. How can you not? It’s a Holocaust memoir. But I didn’t cry until Seren was rescued. The byline says, “A Memoir of Survival.” So accurate. Throughout her horrific experiences, Seren took the opportunity to laugh. She was a true survivor, and I think she endured her hardships because of her optimistic mentality. So many Holocaust memoirs I have read in the past left me feeling like I could have never survived the labor and concentration camps. This book actually inspired me to be a survivor like Seren, to find that inner strength, to look at every hardship with the idea that I will get through this.

Add to that lovely writing. Seren grew up in Transylvania. I never knew anything about that area of Romania (or any area of Romania), or Budapest, where she spent her young adulthood. But the writing captured the Carpathian mountains and beautiful capital of Hungary so well, I felt like I could see them. And the craziest part is, Seren had a ghost writer (Louise Loots Thornton, a distant relation by marriage). Thornton did an astounding job of capturing the beauty, heartache, joy, and incredible sorrow of Seren’s life. The story of how the book came to be written and published alone is enough to earn your attention.

So read it.

Posted by

I write speculative fiction inspired by mythos from around the world, complex family dynamics, and my own experiences living with mental illness. After earning my BA in Linguistics from Brigham Young University in 2008, I received my MFA in Creative Writing from Converse College in 2012. I live in Denver, where my husband and I spend countless hours chasing our three young sons (and sometimes catching them!). I collect tarot decks, dye my hair mermaid colors, and procrastinate by decorating my home. My debut novel, Feathers Sharp as Knives, releases on May 2, 2023.

11 thoughts on “RTW: An Optimistic Holocaust Memoir?

  1. Sounds like such an excellent choice, I shall make it my next read based on your recommendation alone. Interesting, that you ‘stumble’ upon this book at this time. I am currently co-editing a memoir of an ethnic German, Czechoslovakian citizen and the mostly-unknown story of the backlash against anything German following the War. Indeed, there were mysterious disappearances, camps, forced labor and forced marches, rape, battery and death among those who had been citizens in good standing of those countries that felt the Nazi sting, but because their ancestry was German, they were guilty, too.

  2. I’m definitely going to have to check this book out. We had to read Elie Wiesel’s NIGHT for high school one year, and I felt like you did–like I’d never be able to survive the camps. But I love reading and learning about the Holocaust and its survivors.

    BTW–I checked out Darling Thieves, like you suggested. LOVE THEM. Why did I know about this before?!

    1. I’m so glad you liked them! The whole time I was listening to Pendulum (who are awesome), I was like, “They remind me of Darling Thieves!”
      THE SEAMSTRESS was so interesting because I learned about a lot of “alternate” history of the Jews and WWII. What I mean by that is, the stuff you don’t learn about in high school history classes. In this case, what happened to the Jews in Romania and Hungary. And I had NO idea that Transylvania was a part of Romania. My Eastern Europe knowledge is very sad and small.

    1. How cool! I know so little about that area of the world. This book was an eye-opener (well, more like a brain-opener) to how beautiful it must be. It’s on my one-day-travel-list.

  3. Sounds interesting! I actually find THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK somewhat inspiring, due to Anne’s spirit, but it’s good to be able to add to that canon. Books like NIGHT are important, but they leave you feeling desolate, and it’s crucial too to have books that show human perseverance, hope, and so on.

    1. Strangely, I’ve never read THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK. A gap in my education, I guess. I have read NIGHT twice, and while I loved it, like you said, it leaves you feeling desolate.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s