A Few of the Wonderful Places Writing Takes Me: My Upcoming Book Talk with Anna Ornstein in Boston

A Few of the Wonderful Places Writing Takes Me: My Upcoming Book Talk with Anna Ornstein in Boston

This past Monday, Martin Luther King Day, my publicist, Carolyn Flynn, initiated a dialogue for me with Dr. Anna Ornstein.

The connection came about through a conversation that Carolyn had with my publisher, IP Books, which suggested that I think about presenting and reading with Anna. She was not completely unknown to me through psychoanalysis and her publications on trauma, but I had no idea of the amount she has written. And I did not know about her book, My Mother’s Eyes: Holocaust Memories of a Young Girl, a collection of stories she read to her children over many years of Passover seders.

Because I have read so much Holocaust writing, I was certain that I had read her book, but when I went to my Holocaust shelves, the book was not there. IP Books kindly sent me a copy. It came several days after the book I had ordered arrived. I was happy to have two copies, so that I can give this gem of a book to someone else.

My book Myopia, a memoir is not about the Holocaust. It is concerned with the horrific pogroms my father lived through as a child in Russia and how that traumatic experience affected him. Anna lived through the Holocaust experience as a 17-year-old with her mother.

Truthfully, I did not know how this conversation would work or if it would work, but it proved to be fascinating. And it will be an honor for me to be doing a reading and discussion with her at Trident Booksellers and Café in Boston at 7 p.m. April 11.

Weaving our experiences together

This kind of experience would never have happened if not for finishing my memoir and getting it published with this particular publisher, which continues to sell Anna’s book, even though IP Books was not the original publisher. This truly is a world of “six degrees of separation,” if only we can find them.

Dr. Anna Ornstein

Dr. Anna Ornstein

Although Anna’s and my experiences were totally different, and my father’s experience was different and at a much younger age, we also have commonalities. We both grew up with strong Jewish identities. We both became psychoanalysts. And even though our identifications with both may be quite different, there is enough that is similar and enough that is different to make for compelling conversation.

If you are a writer, and you are having difficulty finishing whatever it is you are working on, consider this: it took me thirty years to write and to finish this book. Like Anna, I wrote my chapters as separate stories and did not intend them for publication. Not until I became more serious about writing and had published a short story and a novel, did I even consider sharing these stories publicly. This came about because of my editor who loved my stories and laughed that we had been “separated at birth.” It occurred to me that although this was my story and my father’s story, it also was the story of so many others just like us. It could be helpful to someone.

Repairing the world, through shared stories

This is also a period of time in our world, like many others in history, where young children are running for their lives. Anna’s story, my father’s story and my story are stories of hope. Anna became successful; my father became successful. Anna’s children became successful; I became successful. This is the reason we remember and share, for tikkun olam. In Hebrew, this means to “repair the world.” Perhaps the only way we can do this is with one small act at a time, one story at a time.

Read more about Dr. Anna Ornstein, her life and her work here:

The Voices of Auschwitz (The Washington Post, Jan. 23, 2015)

From Budapest to Brookline, a psychoanalyst looks back (The Boston Globe, Feb. 16, 2016)

Paul Ornstein, 92, Psychoanalyst and Holocaust Survivor, Dies (The New York Times, Jan. 31, 2017)

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