Good News Thursday!

May 12, 2011

Hi Incredible Readers! I have a treat for you today!

I’m not usually a boaster, but today I’m going to brag. My friend Linda has done something remarkable. Something I dream of doing but lack the organization and the courage to do so. Linda, who blogs at Barmitzvahzilla, has written a memoir.  And it’s out! You can actually purchase the thing!

But you know what’s even better news?  I bought two copies of Linda’s book. One for myself, and one for a very lucky reader.

I’ve already started reading my copy, and I can truly say that I’m captivated. I adore Linda’s writing style; every page is laced with honesty, insight, and wit. And although her story is somber at times–she’s the daughter of two Holocaust survivors–her voice jumps off the page and grabs you.  It’s a voice both irreverent and touching; I found myself laughing and crying at the same time.  Her memoir is an honest look into her upbringing (as one of seven girls!), loss of faith, and search to find meaning again.

I’ve included an excerpt from Linda’s book, for your reading pleasure.  If you’ll leave a comment for me, you’ll be entered to win your own copy of Linda’s book, Looking Up: A Memoir of Sisters, Survival, and Skokie. But even if you don’t win, y’all should get the book. It’s genius.

Please give Linda a warm welcome, and hey, Linda–congrats, my friend.  I feel honored to know you.

~excerpted from Looking Up: A Memoir of Sisters, Survivors and Skokie

Breaking Bread

My mother always starts with the pig’s head. Whenever she tries to cajole me into eating, she drags out her two most miserable food stories from the Holocaust, when she lived in the forest, starving and running from the Nazis. The first one is about the pig’s head.

One day during her two years in the forest, the Partisans slaughtered a pig and gave her family the head to eat. They were thrilled.

“A pig’s head?  To eat?”  I look at her like she’s joking. If someone handed me a pig’s head I’d have nightmares about it for the rest of my life.

She nods. “It was delicious. I’ll never forget it.”

I still don’t believe her. Because I’m ten and my job is to doubt everything she says, I give her a skeptical look and say, “Weren’t you kosher?”  Like I have to remind her that her family was kosher so maybe she can come up with a more believable story to get me to eat.

“Not during the war we weren’t!”

She’s a little jubilant at this point in the conversation since she’s conveying one of her core truths to me: that food is anything that doesn’t eat you first, a truth she learned at eleven that stayed with her always. But there’s also a little criticism here, of the idea that being kosher matters at all, and astonishment towards my grandparents for becoming kosher again after the war. Like once you eat a pig’s head, there’s no going back.

I try to imagine my mother, my uncle, and my aunt – all children at the time – and my grandparents, carrying around the decapitated head of a pig; and not just as food but as precious, coveted food. Not surprisingly, this image doesn’t make me hungry. It has the opposite effect. I feel ill, like maybe I’ll never eat again.

The other story my mother tells me about food is told every time she sees me trim the crusts off slices of bread. As I slice them off she looks on in horror at the horrible waste.

And then I get to hear the Crust Of Bread Story.

She says, “In the forest, one time I had to survive a whole week on a crust of bread, just like that one. A whole week I nibbled at it slowly, crumb by crumb, sitting in my pocket. It got cold and hard and tinier every day, yet still I was so happy to have that tiny crust of bread. And there you are, just throwing it away!”

She is incredulous. What’s more, each time she sees me do it she’s incredulous again like she never saw me do it before. Sometimes she grabs the crusts before I can throw them out, saving them to eat later.

I don’t know what to say to this. I never have an adequate response because no matter how much she had starved and no matter how long she had nibbled on that crust of bread in the forest, I still don’t want to eat the crust. Born in the United States, a second-generation child of Holocaust survivors, I cut off those crusts anyway.

{ 64 comments… read them below or add one }

Amy Tucker May 12, 2011 at 4:46 am

I will for sure be buying this! Thanks for showing it to me.


Amy R. May 12, 2011 at 4:50 am

Dear God! Now I am thinking back to when my Grandmother made me eat head cheese….

This book does sound amazing. Reminds me of a friend’s story about her parents who were Polish and had to live in the work camps. That is a story for another day, however.


TKW May 12, 2011 at 8:27 am


Head cheese is soooo wrong.


Wendi @ Bon Appetit Hon May 12, 2011 at 5:32 am

Thanks for introducing us to Linda. If she’s a friend of TKW’s, she must be good people.


Phoo-d May 12, 2011 at 5:41 am

Have you seen the movie “Defiance”? It is an incredible movie about Jews surviving in the forest during World War 2.

This sounds like a fun and interesting read. What a big accomplishment to publish a memoir!


Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday May 12, 2011 at 5:47 am

One day I will publish my own memoir about all the amazing things that I have done in my life. As of yet, I have nothing to write about.

That could be my new mantra though: to live my life as if I were going to write a memoir about it. If I thought about that before every decision I made then I think my life would be on a completely different trajectory.


TKW May 12, 2011 at 8:27 am


That’s a genius idea!


Lindsay May 12, 2011 at 6:03 am

I really enjoy reading about this era in history. I hope I win!


Meister @ The Nervous Cook May 12, 2011 at 6:42 am

How lovely of you to pass on this info about the memoir — it sounds fantastic, and a million congratulations to Linda!

I might actually go buy my mother a copy right now; it sounds up her alley for sure. Thanks again, TKW!


Erica@PLRH May 12, 2011 at 6:51 am

Thanks for sharing the good news. I’ll have to add this to my reading list. The excerpt above proves that Catholic, Great Depression Era Guilt doesn’t hold a candle to Jewish Mother Guilt.


Becky May 12, 2011 at 7:48 am

This books sounds amazing, I’ve got to get my hands on a copy.


Privilege of Parenting May 12, 2011 at 8:04 am

Hey KW and Linda—we shall see if it’s my karma to win or to buy… but having grown up in Lincolnwood (right next to Skokie, and having many ancestors killed in the camps) perhaps I am allowed to ask of the pig’s head, “What, no apple?”

Strangely enough, this also made me think about a NY Times journalist who dreamed of attempting to cook an elephant’s head when she was in Zurich trying to cover the story about Jung’s Red Book being published (and Jung, the holocaust, the Shadow and the evolution of our collective consciousness all comprise one whole, albeit strangely wrinkled and twisted, fabric).

Here’s to writing, cooking, eating, loving and laughing our way to each other, to the consciousness where the terrible and the wonderful meet up as one… and then simply have a good time.


Amber May 12, 2011 at 8:38 am

I plan on buying this book as soon as we move–I just don’t have room for any more books in my house right now! I did read the excerpts on and fell in love. I sure love that Linda.


Jenna May 12, 2011 at 8:48 am

1) Congrats to your friend! What an achievement–sounds like a great book.
2) You LACK THE COURAGE??? That I can’t believe. You have the courage of a lion based on what you talk about on your space here. You should totally do it. DO IT. DO IT. WRITE YOUR MEMOIR. I would buy it immediately. =)


Ink May 12, 2011 at 8:55 am

Congrats and best wishes to your friend Linda!


Dianna May 12, 2011 at 8:59 am

Thanks for sharing that we all of us. I’m definitely going to add that book to my wish list.


Katybeth May 12, 2011 at 9:48 am

I have always wondered why we insist on trimming the crust off bread. I have to agree with Linda’s mother and I have never been hungry a day in my life–not really.
Love Jewish mothers–have been raised by many of them over the years and Cole is lucky enough to have an Oma–who insisted that his 8th grade teacher was wrong for taking the children to the Chicago holocaust museum. When Cole told her about it–she just patted his head and told him most people were kind and good but not all of them and then pulled out the cookies and cream soda. Cole wonders why the Catholics never have Dr. Browns cream soda on hand!
Congratulations to Linda. Thank you for the shout out!


BigLittleWolf May 12, 2011 at 9:51 am

Fantastic! And so glad you put up the link to get the book! And KUDOS to Linda!!!


jc May 12, 2011 at 11:46 am

Awesome job on the book! The name change story is hilarious. Congrats:)


Sam G. May 12, 2011 at 11:56 am

Hey Kitch!
Thanks for sharing this! I am so anxious to read it, I just started my 8 days off but I may have to plan a trip out of Mayberry to buy it! ;)


Michele May 12, 2011 at 12:02 pm

You can always pull me in with talk of pig :) Congrats Linda!


Rudri Bhatt Patel @ Being Rudri May 12, 2011 at 1:26 pm

Congrats to Linda! And how great, KW, that you are sharing her work with us. I’d love to read this memoir.


Maria May 12, 2011 at 2:36 pm

Yay! Congrats to Linda for her hard work to begin, finish and see it through…As for you, I am more than sure you have what it takes. Your stories here have a life of their own. Whether you admit it or not, you have a gift!

I can’t wait to read it!


Klz May 12, 2011 at 4:20 pm

Oh, what an interesting sounding book! Skokie isn’t far from us either so I’m totally entranced!


Alexandra May 12, 2011 at 5:18 pm

memoirs by smart women?

count me in.


Anne Keo May 12, 2011 at 5:39 pm

Reminds me of stories my husband’s parents tell about escaping the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia – hiding in the woods, stealing food, eating what they could, why we should be better than we are. Though my husband will eat a pig’s head. He’s trying to find one as a father’s day present. Yep.
If I don’t win this book. I’m gonna have to get it myself.


TKW May 13, 2011 at 4:41 am


A pig’s head for Father’s Day? Eeek! I guess I’m not going to complain about my husband’s wish for a steak and a baseball game!


lifeintheboomerlane May 12, 2011 at 6:14 pm

Many thanks for introducing us to Linda’s book. Although my parents came here before the Holocaust, atrocities in Eastern Europe had been going on for many years. By the time he was 13, my father had seen enough violence and death to last a lifetime. Still, of course, they were the lucky ones. The members of my family who stayed, didn’t survive. I’m thinking there are some similarities between the way Linda and I were raised.


TKW May 14, 2011 at 2:50 pm


I hope you’ll consider sharing those stories? As hard as it might be, I think there’s a lot of us who seriously have no idea about that kind of hardship.


Heather May 12, 2011 at 7:29 pm

Thank you so very much for sharing this! I will be certain to check out this book. She is an amazing writer. It made me think of how crazy my step-dad used to get when I drained “the good juices” off of the canned veggies. Telling him it was just salt and water wasn’t going anywhere. It’s amazing what each generation brings with them to share with the next.


TKW May 13, 2011 at 4:42 am


The “good juices?” That’s hysterical!


Linda at Bar Mitzvahzilla May 12, 2011 at 7:46 pm

Thank you for this, TKW, I am humbled! And I, like your other friends, know you are organized enough to write a book! You just have to give up cooking… :)

Anyway, thank you again!


TKW May 14, 2011 at 2:51 pm


I’m 2/3 of the way through and my husband keeps asking me what I’m laughing/crying about. It is SOOOO good!


Tammy Kelley May 13, 2011 at 5:59 am

Thank you for sharing this…looks like an incredible book. I’ll be sure to order it.


Justine May 13, 2011 at 7:34 am

Congrats to Linda! She doesn’t live too far from me either – wish I knew her in person. She sounds like a hoot.

Also, a restaurant in Chicago, The Girl & the Goat (owned by Top Chef winner, Stephanie Izard) serves pig face (apparently best part of the head), which I am dying to try. I’m also a fan of headcheese. What can I tell ya? I’m weird like that. Oh, and also half Chinese, which probably says it all…


Stacia May 13, 2011 at 9:26 pm

I don’t know what headcheese is, and I think I prefer it that way. And pig face? I think my nose is now permanently squinched up. But Linda’s book? Can’t wait to read it! Kitch, tell her she needs to make it available on Kindle. That’s the only way I can read books for the next year! Unless, ahem, I win this little drawing, ahem …


TKW May 14, 2011 at 9:40 am


It became available for Kindle yesterday! Hooray!


TKW May 14, 2011 at 2:54 pm

You know I love you, right? But eww…I mean, I’ve eaten Halibut cheeks (if fish actually have cheeks?) and they were delicious, but me not so sure about pig face. :) xo


rebecca @ altared spaces May 13, 2011 at 7:35 am

There is cool tension just in this little portion of the story. A mother with so little and so much hurt. A daughter who didn’t go hungry. Why does this mother refuse her daughter’s abundance? What? Is mom still wanting to nibble on crusts of bread? Is mom’s pain invisible? There are many questions there.

Or am I reading too much into these few words? Perhaps that just shows I’m eager to read more!


TKW May 13, 2011 at 8:11 am


It’s a great read!


Jane May 13, 2011 at 7:56 am

This so reminded me of my Grandparents. They didn’t waste anything. My Grandfather would have kleenex hanging all over the house to dry… so he could reuse them!


TKW May 13, 2011 at 8:11 am


Now that is hard-core, girlfriend. I thought my mom was bad with her compulsion to wash out and re-use Ziploc bags. Your grandparents put us to shame.


Belinda May 13, 2011 at 10:21 am

My visit to the Holocaust museum in Israel was a profound experience for me so I bet Linda’s book would captivate me as well. Also, I’ve always been fascinated with varying attitudes toward food shaped by cultural/historical influences so the excerpt you posted really intrigued me. Thanks for featuring her here.

As for the thoughts this post has incited in the comments section, from headcheese consumption to kleenex reuse — wow!


TKW May 14, 2011 at 2:55 pm


Isn’t that the best thing? When the comments are more entertaining than the post? That’s why I have the most amazing readers (you included) in the world.


Barbara May 13, 2011 at 1:04 pm

This sounds amazing, Dana. I’ll wait to see if I’m one of the lucky ones. If not, I will be ordering it.
Linda sounds like a wonderful friend. Off to see her blog.


Salad in a Jar May 13, 2011 at 2:19 pm

I love Samantha’s idea. I know it’s not the same thing but I think some of us with parents who grew up in the depression can relate to the whole “wasteful” issue. Sounds like a great book.


Cheryl @ Mommypants May 13, 2011 at 3:01 pm

The psyche of holocaust survivors.. it’s a miracle anyone made it out a whole person. Sounds like a great memoir!


bryan May 13, 2011 at 5:16 pm

You are right even the little excerpt grabbed me.

You were wrong you could get your work published.

I so enjoy the time and space you share on your blog, you have great taste in friends.


camilla May 13, 2011 at 8:19 pm

Congratulations to Linda, what a fantastic achievement! I am also excited because I know where Skokie is and I’ve probably bumped into her mom at the veggie market!
Well done for letting us all know x


Kelly May 13, 2011 at 11:13 pm

Wow – this story is a gutpunch of goodness. I’ll be purchasing the book! (Book club selection?)


TKW May 14, 2011 at 9:41 am


It would be perfect for a book club!


Liz May 14, 2011 at 4:27 am

I used to teach a unit on the holocaust in my class every year. I thought because I had done the research, read the literature, and then taught it to my fourth-graders, I understood it. Then, I met the friend who has changed my life and myself more than anyone else…people questioned all the time how a 25 year old Hispanic girl could be BFFs with a 55 year old Jew. I still can’t quite believe some of the insults people throw around at “the Jews”…as if it’s okay to do so with that demographic but would never do so (aloud, anyways) with blacks, or … or… She’s told me many stories and through her, I’ve understood more the magnitude, although I know we could never really EVER get it, even a little bit. I read “Sarah’s Key” recently with her, in our book club. I will definitely buy the book if I don’t win it. And maybe I will recommend it for our book club too….Congrats to your friend.


TKW May 14, 2011 at 3:01 pm


My mother’s first love was a beautiful Jewish man. She was devastated when her parents didn’t approve. And yet, she gave him up. I hope my kids won’t face that kind of thing, but alas, they already have had racial prejudice look them in the eye.

Linda’s book is great! I am now 2/3 of the way through and I think it is perfect for a book club–she takes a somber subject, gives it respect, and then turns it on its ear, so we can find a shard of funny in it. Irreverent, witty, poignant stuff.


Amy R. May 14, 2011 at 3:31 pm

Just ordered the book, Missus!


Liz @ PeaceLoveGuac May 16, 2011 at 12:18 pm

Sounds like a great rec! “Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion…” (Name that movie!)


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