Title: Broken Birds, The Story of My Momila
Author: Jeannette Katzir
Publisher: PJeannette Katzir; First edition
Publication Date: April 2, 2009
Paperback: 336 pages
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir
From the Author:
World War II has long since ended, and yet Jaclyn and her brothers and sisters grow up learning to survive it. Having lived through the Holocaust on the principle of constant distrust, their mother, Channa, dutifully teaches her children to cling to one another while casting a suspicious eye to the outside world. When Channa dies, the unexpected contents of her will force her adult children to confront years of suppressed indignation. For Jaclyn and her siblings, the greatest war will not be against strangers, but against each other.
Broken Birds by Jeannette Katzir is a memoir unlike others I have read, it is almost two separate memoirs told as one. In one part, the reader is taken into the dark days of the Holocaust, which is vividly portrayed through the eyes of Channa Perschowski, and Nathan Poltzer. As one would expect, the subject matter is very bleak and grim, and yet against odds, Channa and Nathan both survive the Holocaust and eventually meet in the United States, where the second storyline comes in, one of love, hope, and a future. Channa and Nathan marry, have five children or as Channa refers to them, her five fingers. The reason I say it is a memoir in two parts is because I believe it could very easily have been two very complete memoirs as I would have very much liked to have read about the struggles Channa, a girl from Poland and Nathan from Czechoslovakia experienced leading up to the war, during Nathan’s internment and Channa’s service in the Jewish resistance and after. Following my train of thought the second memoir could then have gone further into their lives post-World War II battling their own scars and the difficulty transitioning into “regular” life after experiencing the Holocaust.
However, Katzir chose to make Broken Birds one memoir and she truly does an exceptional job in bringing into the story both WWII and after. The reader learns a lot about their family and the struggles each faced. Katzir writes a beautiful, touching and emotional memoir of Channa, Nathan, and their legacy passed down to their children. Little Birds easily pulls the reader into the story, but it is a difficult and often painful read. After surviving the camps and finding love and having a family, all is not well, the siblings bicker and fight something dreadful, and this is not a spoiler, there is oh so very much more. I went over this book twice hoping to find the answers to why the adult siblings behaved in such an appalling manner, I did not come away any more clear on that score the second go round, which again leads me to conclude this would have been quite a remarkable two part memoir, but I shall not go down that road again.
As it stands, Broken Birds is beautiful, rich in detail, meaning, and at times a rather sad and depressing memoir. I applaud Katzir for being able to put such difficult family stories together cohesively and I am very glad I read the book, yet I do not believe it is a book everyone will enjoy. I do believe those who chose to read this stunning memoir will be changed, as most Holocaust memoirs change a reader, however the book overall is dark and I want readers to know that upfront. As a whole I would recommend Little Birds to those who enjoy memoirs and think this book would make an intriguing discussion group pick.
As a child of Holocaust survivors, Jeannette Katzir’s life has been a study of the lasting effects of war. Inspired by her own family experiences, Katzir has dedicated years to in-depth research of the impact of World War II on survivors and their children. She currently resides in the Los Angeles area , not far from her two children and grandson, with her husband.
Jeannette Katzir has informed me that she has a fiction the fiction prequel is in the works.
To learn more about the book or the author please visit Jeannette Katzir’s website.
I received a complimentary copy of Broken Birds by Jeannette Katzir from the author to offer my honest review of the book. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of aforementioned book.