What They Saved is the winner of the first Jewish Journal book prize

In my new memoir, What They Saved, I reconstruct my family’s missing past from a handful of mysterious objects passed down from my father. The strange collection — locks of hair, a postcard from Argentina, a cemetery receipt, letters written in Yiddish — moved me to search for the people who had left these traces of their lives and to understand what had happened to them. As I slowly pieced together my family portrait and assembled a genealogical tree, I felt connected in unexpected ways to an immigrant narrative that began in Eastern Europe at the turn of the twentieth century, when my ancestors headed for the Lower East Side of Manhattan. At the end of my decade-long quest, I started to imagine the life I might have had with the missing side of my family. Suspended between what had been lost and what I found, I finally began to come to terms with the bittersweet legacy of the third generation — faced with tantalizing fragments of disappeared worlds.