Archive for 2022


The True Adventures of Gidon Lev by Julie Gray

May 14th, 2022 — 12:16pm

The True Adventures of Gidon Lev by Julie Gray

Gidon Lev is one of a small number of children who survived the Nazi concentration camp of Theresienstadt. He went on to travel through Europe and then spent time in Canada and the United States before settling on a kibbutz in Israel. He has led a full fascinating and complicated life including two marriages and several children. Gidon met Ms. Gray who is 30 years his junior and is an experienced and accomplished memoir writer. They collaborated for what must have been several years traveling together throughout the world tracing Gidon Lev’s fascinating life, which included many tragedies, complications, and great joys. She put together a memoir that is written by her but interspersed and weaved together with Gidon’s first person account.

It happens that I read this book while the world was witnessing the tragic war in Ukraine. The television news is filled with videos and stories of the killing of innocent civilians and refugees including children who witnessed these tragic killings, now traveling to new countries. I could not help to conflate these tragic accounts with Gidon’s description of his own refugee days with these present experiences.

There was one time period in the 1960s when Gidon lived outside of Jerusalem and described in detail the growth of the young Jewish state and the atmosphere that he experienced. It just so happened that my wife and I as students spent the summer in that time period, working at Hadassah Hospital and then we were a given a fascinating tour throughout Israel. This experience made Gidon’s description of the spirit of the people of Israel something that we could relate to and had some firsthand understanding about.

Then of course, when Gidon wrote about his experience during the Yom Kippur War of 1973, and Israel being attacked by hostile Arab countries, once again our daily TV stories of the Russian invasion of Ukraine made a realistic visual impact for the words I was reading in Gidon’s description.

This book is not just a firsthand historical journey, it is also a very personal story of Gidon’s life including his reconnection with his children after his first wife unexpectedly took them to the United States with little clue to Gidon where they might be living.This is an unusual collaboration between an accomplished memoir writer and the subject who spent significant time together retracing and reexamining Gidon’s life. The book is a worthwhile experience and an insight into history as well as the study of the character of a remarkable man.

Comment » | AM - Autobiography or Memoir, B - Biography

Where I Was From by Joan Didion

March 16th, 2022 — 10:26pm

Where I Was From by Joan Didion

This a very pleasant personal memoir of both the talented author and also a memoir of State of California through the eyes of Ms. Didion. She pulls no punches as she described the unethical behavior of large agricultural companies, the defense contractors, the land speculators, the prison builders, many others who exploited the land and the riches of the Golden State. She also provides an insight into the soul of the people of California particularly when she talks about her own family over many generations. I am sure her writing will live on for future generations and can be a humanizing adjunct to the life and times about which she has written.

Comment » | AM - Autobiography or Memoir, HI - History

Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion

March 4th, 2022 — 6:25pm

Slouching Towards Bethlehem
By Joan Didion

Ms. Didion has a style and skill to bring out the essence and feelings of various characters as they deal with the major events of a lifetime. The book consists of 20 essays and is apparently her first non-fiction book. It mostly addresses personalities and events of the 1960s on the West Coast in California where she grew up. She did delve into the life of John Wayne, Joan Baez and Howard Hughes and touches upon what it was to live in Haight-Ashbury during the 1960s. Ms. Didion takes the reader into a deep dive into various characters as well as a particular time period. I did get the feeling that she truly captured each person and their life setting. As I read each essay, it seemed quite real and genuine. She provides a brief visit with an interesting person. However, as honest and is true as the encounter may be, the essay was not particularly memorable. I did not find myself engrossed in each essay nor reminiscing over the literary experience. No doubt she is a great photographer with her words. I had the thought that I would treasure one of her essays, if she were writing about a time and place of people with whom I had interacted and lived. For example, I would really enjoy reading her insight into Brooklyn during the years that I lived there in my youth. Also, I should add that I have not the slightest idea what the title has to do with the contents of her book.

Comment » | O - Other - Specify

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