Good Neighbors, Bad Times:
Echoes of My Father’s German Village
Mimi Schwartz grew up on hamburgers and French fries—and her father’s boyhood stories. She rarely took them seriously. What was a modern American teenager supposed to make of a German village where, according to her father, “everyone got along” before Hitler? It was only years later, when she heard the story of the Torah’s rescue in 1938 by Christians in the village, that Schwartz became interested in her father’s old world. And so began a twelve-year quest that covered three continents as she sought answers to how good neighbors, on the sidelines of history, managed during Nazi times. How, this book asks, do people maintain a modicum of decency when fear and hatred strain the bonds of loyalty and neighborly compassion?
Q&A about Good Neighbors, Bad Times
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Thoughts from a Queen-Sized Bed
In this startlingly funny and honest book, Mimi Schwartz describes what it means to be married for almost forty years. She writes with a keen and amused eye about growing up in an immigrant family, coming of age in New York in the 1950’s, marrying her high school beau, and then arriving at feminist consciousness in the 1970’s like so many others of her generation. But unlike many of her contemporaries who left first marriages for independence, Schwartz stayed loyal to her marriage. Schwartz’s essays are wise and warm without being sentimental, and the characters in her world are quirky, charming, well rounded, and complex. Read more...
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The Art and Craft of Creative Nonfiction
A guide to those who want to write about the real world with voice, passion, and the power of story-telling. Filled with strategies, exercises, and wonderful anthology of contemporary creative nonfiction, it offers writers of all levels fresh options for writing memoir, personal essays, profiles, family history, and literary journalism. Co-authored with Sondra Perl. Read more...
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adapted from Good Neighbors, Bad Times
In 1938, while synagogues burned all over Nazi Germany, a Torah was saved in my father’s German village. Not by the Jews, but by Christians. I saw it almost fifty years later in a Memorial Room in Israel, built by Jews who fled after that night, Kristallnacht, and started again a continent away. I can still hear the old man in a kibbutz cap, saying: “Ja, Nazi hoodlums from outside, from Sulz, came to destroy the synagogue, but the Christians decided to save what they could for the Jews. And so we have this still!” Read the entire essay.
The Power of the Cap
--from Thoughts from a Queen-Sized Bed (first appeared in Brevity)
I used to drive defensively through thirty miles of back roads on my way to work. In a land of pick-up trucks and long-finned, rusty Cadillacs, if I overtook, or tailgated, or flicked my brights too often, I could get the finger. Or an angry male might speed up, so I couldn't pass in time to avoid an oncoming car without braking hard into retreat--or heading for the graveled shoulder. Read the entire essay.
Telling the Truth that Matters
from Arts & Letters, Journal of Contemporary Culture
When creative nonfiction writers tell a story more than one way, readers get suspicious. “Well, which is true?” they ask, as if you’ve betrayed nonfiction and “creative” really means fiction. Not so if you are Edouard Manet, I decided at the Museum of Modern Art, standing before his three giant paintings of the execution of the Emperor Maximilian of Mexico in 1867. Each canvas included a firing squad, rifles taking aim, and one man looking away, but other “facts” and the mood they evoked kept changing. Read the entire essay