Saturday, December 18, 2010

Portrait of a Holocaust Child: Memories and Reflections by Rita Kasimow Brown

Where I got the book: acquired through the LibraryThing Early Reviewer program.

Portrait of a Holocaust Child is a very personal memoir of a survivor. When she was a young child in 1942, Rita Kasimow Brown's family escaped from their Polish ghetto and spent nineteen months hiding in a tunnel dug beneath a farmhouse, unable to stand, living on scraps and crawling with lice.

Then they escaped. And Brown eventually moved to Israel. Where, in 2001, she processes the emotions still left over from her childhood experiences through writing about them and dialoguing with an imaginary character named Jay.

And that, really, is that. This is a very fragmentary memoir, made up as it is of the relived past, snippets of the present, and the dialogue with Jay, who talks a bit like a therapist. Which is not surprising because Brown is a therapist.

I'm left with the impression of a psyche caught in the past, unable to get free of the memories and move on to any kind of resolution. Brown's artwork, on color plates in the middle of the book, reinforces that impression: while the abstracts have an adult feel to them, the people in her paintings are childishly represented.

I found Portrait slightly annoying and somewhat disturbing. If you are studying severe, lifelong post-traumatic stress disorder, it might be interesting. If you're a Holocaust junkie, you might like it. Otherwise, I'd pass.

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