Tuesday, November 9, 2010

I Spoke Today at the San Diego Jewish Book Fair

...and had a very nice turnout. A number of my friends showed up to support me, which was wonderful, but about 2/3 of the audience were people I didn't know, many of whom had relatives who came from areas near where my grandfather was born (Vishigrod), and whose parents or grandparents had escaped to the U.S. before they could be conscripted into the Russian army. The only option that was open to my grandfather was more extreme.

As I read today from the book: "Thus, every home rang with heated family conferences, all dedicated to the search for some means by which an innocent child could be preserved from the fatal clutches of Vanya’s* army.

For the rich, there was no problem: they bought their way out. For the poor, however, there was only one avenue of escape: self-mutilation. And since there were any number of equally frightful possibilities to choose
from, long evenings of consultation took place. My Aunt Tzivia strongly recommended a man who would draw out all my teeth. Feibush, the bath attendant, held that the surest remedy would be for me to blind myself in my right eye, without which one cannot aim a rifle. And my Uncle Yonah, never at a loss, knew a man skilled in the art of severing a tendon at the knee. Had I accepted even half the suggestions offered to me, I should not only have escaped military service, but would have ended up a cripple such as the world had never seen."

* A nickname for ‘Ivan’ used as a general term referring to all Russians

It was quite a lot of fun, and afterwards a number of women from Hadassah asked, if their book club read The Accidental Anarchist, would I come and speak to them. Of course. I love speaking about the book and my grandfather's crazy ways.

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