Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Off Topic

On Sunday, my youngest son, Jesse, left on a European tour with his band. 21 cities in 23 days. This is what a rock band looks like before they leave for Europe (many of them for the first time):

Those of you who notice my name on the vertical between Jesse (3rd from left) and Chris (right), that's because Jesse dedicated his guitar case to me (Aww!) and to his friend, Henry's (left) mother, but some of the letters of her name fell off.

So the boys are off on their European adventure, and as I was looking for his tour dates, I came across a video of their show last night in Dresden at:

I don't know anything about music, but I'm told that their Math Rock is incredibly complex; it's music for musicians (and Europeans, who seem to be more progressive in their tastes than Americans).

If you happen to be in Europe, you can find their tour dates here:!/pages/Witt/11512449775
(And listen to some of their music in the left hand column).

I'm just a proud Mama!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Mystery Solved!

As I started hearing from relatives whom I had never known about, a mystery arose. I was eager to find the descendants of Mordechai and Avrohom, who featured prominently in my grandfather's life, and in the book. I was excited when I spoke to the first 'new' cousin, Dr. Sam Marateck, a professor of computer science and winner of multiple best teacher awards at NYU.  his grandfather had been Chayim, the Talmudic scholar whom Jacob followed to the yeshiva (and from which he ran away in under a week). The next time we saw Chayim was after Jacob returned from the war and visited him in Lodz. Chayim became a shochet (a kosher butcher) in Shenandoah, PA once he moved to the U.S.

I confess to being a little disappointed, though, when I learned Sam's grandfather had been Chayim because I was eager to share the book, and their grandfather's roles in it, with Avrohom and Mordechai's descendants.

Then I heard from another relative I hadn't know about either. Now, at last, I had surely found one of Avrohom or Mordechai's descendants. But I became confused when I talked to David Marateck, a lawyer in Coal, PA (which I assume is in the general vicinity of Shenandoah) and his father, Sanford, a retired lawyer. Sanford's grandfather had been Berel Marateck. Berel? I had never heard of Berel, although he was mentioned in the earlier book, The Samurai of Vishigrod. And neither David, nor Sanford, nor Sam, before them, had ever heard of Mordechai, or my grandfather's sister, Malkah. All that anyone was certain about was that there had been 4 Marateck boys. I was now more confused.

While still trying to figure this out, David was kind enough to send me two family photos, which are pasted below. The first is of Berel and Avrohom -- yes, that Avrohom, on the left -- standing in front of  "B. Marateck Haberdashery" in Shenandoah, PA (which you can faintly see on the window of the store). What I realized, from seeing this picture, is that Berel must have been the oldest in the family, and had already left home and established his own life by the time about which my grandfather wrote. Jacob must not have grown up with him. (In fact, checking death records, I learned that Berel, or 'Barney,' as he was known in the U.S., had been born in 1866 whereas Jacob had been born in 1883. I deeply apologize to David and Sanford, et al., for not having known about Berel, but I will update the book to include him.)

This photo is Berel, his wife Dora, and their children, George and Abraham, in a family portrait.

But why had no one ever heard of Mordechai? I asked my mother, and my Aunt, Rose, if they knew of an uncle named Berel, or anything about Mordechai or Avrohom. My mother then told me stories about Avrohom visiting her family in th Bronx, and how her father and uncle would laugh together. In particular, she remembered giving up her room whenever Avrohom and his wife came to visit, which she didn't resent even a bit because it was so much fun to have him around. But once again, neither my mother nor my aunt remembered Berel and couldn't remember ever hearing the name Mordechai. I couldn't imagine that my grandfather would not have remained close to Mordechai, who had saved his life so many times in the book. But this is what I think I have figured out, though it may take looking through more graveyard records to come to a definitive conclusion.

There must have been 5 Marateck boys, born in this order: Berel, Mordechai, Chayim, Jacob and Avrohom. I don't know where in the birth order Malkah had been born, though I know she was older than Jacob. Berel moved to the U.S., first, where he set up a successful haberdashery (at least it was successful until the Depression). Some time later, Chayim followed Berel to the U.S., and Jacob and Avrohom did, too, though I don't know at what time. We can only conclude that neither Mordechai.nor Malkah left Poland,and must not have survived the Holocaust. Alas, the database of Polish Jewry is no longer online, and I don't know if there is any way to access it short of going to Poland. But you can bet I'm going to keep looking for information about each of these family members. Now I'm just waiting for one of Avrohom's grandchildren to get in touch with me... In the meantime, I am enjoying discovering family members that I never knew about.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Latest Endorsement

"A splendid, highly-recommended companion piece for secondary- and college-level students confronting the late-19th and early-20th century pivotal point in modern world history.  This book will captivate students, drawing them well away from their ordinary preoccupations, and the fluff of comfortable living.   It is an extension of the heart of ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT, the soul of searing Gulag writings, and the pathos and futility of CATCH-22--suffused at every turn with the grit and wit of mendicant Judaism."
Herman Mast III, Emeritus, Department of History, University of Connecticut

Friday, December 10, 2010

Hollywood, Are You Listening?

Check out the latest reviews for the book on Amazon:

5.0 out of 5 stars The Accidental Anarchist, December 10, 2010
ESTHER S. (Beverly Hills) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Accidental Anarchist (Paperback)
The Accidental Anarchist
Bryna Kranzler

"The Accidental Anarchist" reads like a house-a-fire, full of everything that makes a great book-truth, passion, wit, optimism as well as the absolutely incredible adventures of a most remarkable man. It feels like a classic already, a book to be read and reread and shared with others. Television should be looking to do a mini-series here-an eloquent and spellbinding testament of the power of faith in the Jewish people.

Richard and Esther Shapiro
Creators of "Dynasty"
And former senior vice president mini-series ABC (Esther)

A riveting read about one of the truly unique characters and stories of history, December 3, 2010
This review is from: The Accidental Anarchist (Paperback)
In a time between many wars and the falls of empires, "The Accidental Anarchist" tells the story of Jacob Marateck, an unusual rogue Jew who found himself leading Russian armies that hated him, into failed coups against the Czar, and taking long trips home. A story of the chaotic times of Eastern Europe in the early 1900s, "The Accidental Anarchist" is a riveting read about one of the truly unique characters and stories of history that is not often heard about.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


The Accidental Anarchist has hit the big time

As of 11:00 last night,
Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #80,625 (out of 8 million, or 
top 1%) in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Just Back from New York

...where I had several interviews with a wide range of publications. There were some interesting highlights to the trip, which I plan to do every few months to increase awareness of and enthusiasm for the book.

1) At one interview, which took place in a Starbucks during one of those east coast rainstorms in which it rains sideways (so that there's no way to dress or hold an umbrella to avoid getting soaked) , a gentleman gave up his comfy chair so that three of us could sit together and talk more easily. He stood nearby, which I didn't realize until he asked, "What book are you talking about?" I told him, and he said, "I've heard of that." (I gave him a promotional postcard I had printed up and he promised to order it on Amazon.) That was the second time that I or someone else mentioned the name of the book and someone else had heard of it, which is pretty cool considering that it's been out for less than 6 weeks. (If any of you have had the experience of someone recognizing the name of the book when you've talked about it, let me know! I love this kind of thing.

2) At another interview, a suggestion that I hadn't heard before came up: It was to create an edited version of the book (minus the provocative scenes) so that the text could be used in Middle Schools. I definitely have plans to propose the use of the book as supplementary material for course on Asian History, Russian History, Jewish History, Military History, etc., but I had never thought about Middle School or High School as an audience.

3) I saw a Concert Reading (though I don't know how this differs from a Stage Reading), of a play by Colin Greer: "Imagining Heschel." It was about Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, a prominent Jewish theologian and human rights activist (he marched in Selma with Dr. Martin Luther King), who, in 1968, had been invited to 'educate' the Pope and the Vatican Council so that it would stop blaming the Jews for killing Christ, which is at the heart of antisemitism. I found a number of similarities between Rabbi Heschel's goals and those of my grandfather, who held the same attitude and pursued some of the same objectives through less ... 'proper,' shall we say, means. The play provoked thoughtful meditation on the nature of beliefs and the ability to forgive. I hope the brief run that the play had at the Cherry Lane Theater will return in a more expanded, theatrical form so that more people will have the opportunity to see it and begin thinking about some of the issues it raises. (I will have a lot more to say about this play, and the experience of watching it, in an upcoming blog entry).

4)  I learned from my experience talking with reporters that I need to narrow down how I talk about my book because there are so many themes that it makes it difficult for reporters to decide which angle to pursue. It's my job to make their job easier, which I'm working on, but then it's only experiences like these that teach me what I still need to learn.