Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay explores the Vel’ d’Hiv’ tragedy during World War II when French Jews were rounded up and ultimately sent to the death camps. It was by order of the German occupation, but carried out by French authorities.
The story is told from the perspective of a young girl rounded up with her family and also a middle age woman in 2003 researching the story as a journalist when she uncovers a personal family connection.
It’s a compelling story and engaging as the mystery unfolds, but I wasn’t completely engaged or rooting for the characters. Part of it is the intense nature of the Holocaust, but something about the disconnected French characters and the way the girl’s story eventually fell out of the narrative left me wanting something more.
But it is an educational moment, exploring the French complicity (and later guilt) and an element of the Holocaust I’d never heard about before.
One of my favorite memories from my grandpa’s funeral is sitting around his kitchen with my cousins telling stories and jokes. That little kitchen filled up with people and laughter again, which my grandpa would have enjoyed. My grandpa was old and it was his time to go, but that act of storytelling helped to heal the wound of losing him.
I finished reading Tell Me a Story by Scott McClellan this week. It’s good stuff (you can read my review for more). Something Scott talks about in the book that I resonate with is the idea that telling stories can be healing.
I’m not a particularly good storyteller—that’s probably why I’m a writer. I like to edit and rework and figure out how best to tell a story. I work better in the written word than the spoken word. But I think part of what draws me to the word is telling stories. It’s self-indulgent, but one of the things I like to write is simply telling stories about my life. In some ways, I think that’s because there’s healing happening there. The telling of stories allows me to process, to figure things out, to think things through and find meaning or comfort or grace.
That’s probably why, in my moments of greatest distress, I turn to writing. I tell the story. Some of those stories aren’t meant to be told to anyone but myself, but still I tell them.
In adoption, I think this is why it’s important that we tell the stories. It’s easy to gloss over what could be uncomfortable details and avoid those stories. But by telling those adoption stories, we give voice to them, we shine a light on any “messy” details and we find a way to embrace them. A story gives us the narrative to do that. It gives us a voice and something to cling to when we’re confused or fearful.
That’s powerful. Continue reading Stories Can Heal
Yesterday was Yom HaShoah, a day of remembrance for the Holocaust of World War II. It’s a day I knew nothing about until a friend’s Twitter post and my sister-in-law’s blog entry. It’s a somber day in Israel and a siren sounds twice during the day bringing everything to a halt for two minutes of silence. People even stop their cars and get out.
Like much of family history, Holocaust stories are important to share and remember. These stories (Holocaust and otherwise) provide a vital infusion of humanity and connection into what could otherwise be distant history. These stories are not so distant history, even if they happened hundreds of years ago. We’re still connected to them and they had an impact on our DNA.
Here’s a brief excerpt of my sister-in-law’s story:
All of the able bodied Jews were used as slave labor in various capacities, while the old, sickly, and the children were left behind in the ghetto. One day my grandparents and oldest uncle returned from their day of “work” to find that those they had left behind in the ghetto had been slaughtered. Their bodies were left in the streets. My great grandparents were amongst the dead, as well as my uncle, who had been decapitated. He was three years old. My grandfather realized that he needed to escape the ghetto or die. He somehow managed to get himself, my grandmother, and my teenage uncle out of the ghetto. They spent the next few years in the woods of Poland with Partisans. The fought the Nazis by sabotaging bridges and trains.
It’s worth reading the rest of her post (though I disagree with her political conclusions).