Naomi Lewis will read from her memoir and speak about her experiences retracing her grandfather’s steps Nov. 14 at the Greater Vernon Museum and Archives at 7 p.m. (Submitted Photo)

Okanagan writer digs into identity as a secular Jew

Naomi Lewis reads from memoir and speaks about her experiences retracing her grandfather’s steps

When Naomi Lewis was a child, no one in her family talked about the fact that her grandfather had escaped the Nazi-occupied Europe, largely by foot and through the kindness of strangers. In fact, no one spoke much about that part of their family history, at all.

When Lewis tried to ask questions, her mother dissuaded her.

“Don’t bring it up,” she told her. “He doesn’t like to talk about it.”

When Lewis asked why, her mother answered, “Because when he went back, after the war, his mother was gone. The Germans had killed her.”

After her grandfather’s death, when her parents were moving her grandmother into an assisted living facility, they found a yellowed, type-written document: 30 foolscap pages in Dutch, and 30 pages translated into English. It recounted her grandfather’s escaped from German-occupied Europe and into southern France.

She asked her mother what they should do with it, but Lewis explains, “All her life, Mum had know, this was the box you didn’t open,”

Lewis’s grandmother was still living, and said she remembered the journal well, had even translated it herself. “But who knows,” Lewis’s mother said. Her grandmother was in the stages of dementia in which “she rearranged every story around herself as the centre.”

“She could not have borne the version in which this document sat at the bottom of a box through her entire marriage, without her knowledge,” said Lewis.

Lewis, an award-winning short story writer and novelist now living in Kelowna, transcribed her grandfather’s journal and, as she did, his voice returned to her, along with hints of his humour. Later, she traced her grandfather’s route, traveling along from Amsterdam to Lyon, discovering family secrets along the way.

The resulting memoir, Tiny Lights for Travellers, asks tough questions about identity as a secular Jew, the accuracy of family stories, and the impact of the Holocaust on subsequent generations.

Lewis will read from her memoir and speak about her experiences retracing her grandfather’s steps at the Greater Vernon Museum and Archives Thursday, Nov. 14 from, 7-8:30 p.m. As well, the museum will feature a reading from the letters of former mayor of Vernon, Stewart Fleming, written when he was a pilot and eventual prisoner of war in WW2.

If you have any of your own family’s wartime correspondence, please bring to share. Open to the public, all ages, admission is free. For more information call 250-550-3140.

READ MORE: Vernon takes flight

READ MORE: 98-year-old Armstrong woman designs clothes for Barbie


@VernonNews
newsroom@vernonmorningstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

West Kelowna RCMP searching for suspects after stolen vehicle dumped

Police found the stolen pickup truck in the backcountry

Former Kelowna football player drowns in Fraser River

Kory Nagata went missing in the middle arm of the river

Auditions begin as film starts rolling in the Okanagan

An audition call for locally-shot feature films, made-for-TV movies and commercials takes place on July 11 and 12

Kelowna’s Friends of Dorothy to host LGBT2Q+ live music acts

Matthew Presidente and Pedwell are on the bill for July 7 and 8

Security camera captures woman stealing package from Westbank doorstep

Sharon Utton posted a video of the incident to Facebook shortly after it happened on Saturday, July 4

84-year-old Okanagan resident finishes 12,000-piece puzzle

Willie Tribiger started the puzzle in 2013, completing it in six and a half years

Aces aplenty at Okanagan golf course

Vernon Golf and Country Club has 14 recorded holes-in-one since April 30

Fraser Valley woman complains of violent RCMP takedown during wellness check

Mounties respond that she was not co-operating during Mental Health Act apprehension

B.C. sees 12 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths

Three outbreaks exist in health-care settings

Lost dog swims Columbia River multiple times searching for home

The dog was missing from his Castlegar home for three days.

Booze on beach extended through summer in Penticton

Pilot project will stay in place until Oct. 15

Sad ending in case of missing Okanagan senior

Body of Vernon man Wayne Orser found floating in Okanagan Lake Tuesday, July 7

COVID-19: B.C. promotes video-activated services card

Mobile app allows easier video identity verification

ICBC to resume road tests in July with priority for rebookings, health-care workers

Tests have been on hold for four months due to COVID-19

Most Read