Sunday, July 22, 2012

Early Response – Interesting Phenomena

Friends keep asking me how well Memories from Cherry Harvest is selling. Because it was only officially released a few weeks ago, it’s much too early to say. The exciting thing for me is that some of my friends who received advance copies have had a chance to read it and respond. This past week brought me a couple of noteworthy communications.

On Monday I received a phone call from Joan and Henry Stone, now in their 80s, friends of my parents. I grew up with their children. Their family joined with ours and two other families every year for a joint Passover Seder. We called ourselves the “seder family.” Joan and Henry are Holocaust survivors. Each of them fled as teenagers from Germany with their immediate families and witnessed the disintegration of their larger families and communities. Joan still has the yellow star she was forced to wear pinned to her coat before her family fled Europe. They called to tell me how much the book means to them. It preserved and portrayed many of the experiences of themselves and others they knew during the war. As they said, it encompassed the Jewish experience on many levels and in many places, America, Israel, Eastern Europe. Since our conversation, Joan has been sending me the names and contact information for Holocaust survivor organizations throughout the country. What an amazing resource she is! As I recall, I inscribed the copy of the book that I sent to them with the words “we will always remember.”  

On Tuesday I began corresponding via email with my friend Rajni who lives in Glasgow, Scotland. She had just completed the book. She read it while vacationing in France, which she swiftly realized was particularly apropos since much of the first section of the book takes place in France. She wanted to tell me that the book had prompted her to phone her father to ask for more information about her own family history. Rajni is my age, in fact we have the same birthday. She was born in Nakodar (in the Punjab) the day I was born in Schenectady. Her family emigrated to Scotland when she was about four years old. Her father is probably close to 90, and still has all his wits about him. Rajni said that in the course of their conversation (prompted by the book) she discovered for the first time that her great-great grandmother was from Afghanistan. One of the things that I strive to do as a writer is to make a difference in people’s lives with my writing, so I’m gratified that the book opened a conversation for Rajni with her father that provided revelations about her ancestry.

On Wednesday I checked on Goodreads to see if anyone had posted a new review of the book. I have received wonderful positive reviews from complete strangers writing on Goodreads. Sure enough, more reviews had appeared, all of them good, all of them written by women, and a pattern was emerging. Women are reading the book and then passing it along to their daughters or mothers, granddaughters or grandmothers. Women are discussing the book across generations. The book lends itself well to discussion. I hope the reader often wants to jump into the conversation with the characters and make a contribution. That seems true of the book. So it’s a good book for people to read together, excellent for book groups. I love this phenomenon of people sharing the book across generations. And also that the book serves as a doorway to valuable, often revelatory conversations about family.

I look forward to hearing more in the future about how Memories from Cherry Harvest has touched people’s lives.

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