Writ­ing River

It’s not always easy to iden­ti­fy the ori­gin of a book, but I can pre­cise­ly locate the birth of my forth­com­ing nov­el Riv­er.

I was sit­ting with my ten-year-old daugh­ter in the kitchen of our Brook­lyn apart­ment, watch­ing her draw. Her lips were pursed with con­cen­tra­tion as she arced her pen­cil over the page. The late after­noon sun broke through the cloud just as a gen­tle rain start­ed to fall; sud­den­ly, around my daughter’s blonde hair, I saw a puls­ing of col­or — faint pink and then around that, yel­low, and then, pale blue. The rip­ples of col­or pro­lif­er­at­ed out into the room; time slowed and seemed almost to come to a stand­still. It is the past—the words came to me, almost as a voice—she has no idea of all the women who have come before her, who are pour­ing into her right here, right now, who make her who she is. I held my breath; I didn’t want the moment to end. The sun slid back behind the cloud, and the col­ors that had mys­ti­cal­ly touched my daughter’s face fad­ed to noth­ing. Some­thing, though, had changed.

That night, lying in bed, a rush of words came at me. I reached for my note­book as images flashed — a pic­ture first of me, aged about four­teen. Then of my moth­er, same age, from one of the few pho­tos she has from her child­hood in a dusty, South African coun­try town; she was the last of ten chil­dren born to Jew­ish par­ents who had fled the per­se­cu­tion of East­ern Europe in the ear­ly years of the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry. Behind these, oth­er images flashed but would not come into focus — oth­er girls, also aged four­teen, stretch­ing back through the ages; my grand­moth­er, my great-grand­moth­er, and pic­tures that didn’t exist, faces I could nev­er know. And yet, that after­noon, the res­o­nances of all these young girls had some­how been here in my own kitchen, I was sure of it, alive in the rip­ples of col­or­ful aura around my daughter.

Read full post: Writing River at the Jewish Book Council


Posted on

September 10, 2021

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