Marion Ettlinger (Author photograph) and Roman Vis New York: Delacorte Press, 1999. First Printing [Stated]. Hardcover. , 322,  pages. Inscribed by the author on the title page. Inscription reads 2/23/99 For Claudia All best wishes! Helen Fremont. Helen Fremont is an award-winning author and essayist. She wrote the critically-acclaimed, national best-selling book, After Long Silence. Her latest book, The Escape Artist, was selected as an “Editor’s Choice” new book by The New York Times in 2020. Helen Fremont, a lawyer and writer, was raised Roman Catholic by her Eastern European émigré parents. It was not until she was thirty-five that she discovered that her parents were, in fact, Jewish Holocaust survivors. The story of her parents’ survival, as well as her own efforts to piece together her family’s hidden identity is recorded in her memoir, After Long Silence. A national bestseller and Featured Alternate of the Book of the Month Club, the book has been published in England and Germany. It was selected by The New York Times as a “New and Noteworthy” book in 2000. Her critically acclaimed memoir, The Escape Artist, was selected as a New York Times “Editor’s Choice” in 2020. It was also recommended as one of the “Best New Books” by People Magazine in 2020, and BookPage named it a “Reader’s Choice” book of 2020. Helen is a graduate of Boston University Law School, and the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers. She has been a consultant with the U.S. Justice Department. Her works of fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards, The New York Times, Ploughshares, Harvard Review, and Lilith, among other publications. Helen Fremont was raised Roman Catholic in America, only to discover in adulthood that her parents were Jews who had survived the Holocaust. Delving into the extraordinary secrets that held her family together in a bond of silence for more than forty years, she recounts with heartbreaking clarity and candor a remarkable tale of survival, as vivid as fiction but with the eloquence of truth. When Helen was small, her mother taught her the sign of the cross in six languages. Theirs was the tender conspiracy of a little girl and her mother at bedtime, protected by a God who could respond in any language. What she didn't understand was that she was being equipped with proof of her Catholicism, a hedge against persecution, real or imagined. It wasn't until adulthood that she began to comprehend the terrible irony of her mother's gesture, as she and her sister discovered their parents' remarkable, long-held secret. She knew that her father had spent six years in the Siberian Gulag, surviving nearly on will alone; that her mother's elder sister, fearless and proud, had married an Italian Fascist whose title and connections helped them to survive during the war. But their faith, their legacy as Jews, was kept hidden for decades. After Long Silence is a searching inquiry into the meaning of identity, self, and history. It's about the devastating price of hiding the truth; about the steps we take, foolish or wise, to protect ourselves and our loved ones. No one who reads this book can be left unmoved, or fail to understand the seductive, damaging power of secrets. Derived from a Kirkus review: A deeply moving family memoir largely about the author’s parents, Holocaust survivors who passed as European refugees to America and brought up their children as largely unpracticing Christians—Catholics, in this case. Fremont’s is in part the tale of two pairs of sisters: first, her aunt’s and her mother’s desperate attempts to survive the Holocaust in part by passing as Catholic Ukrainians, in part by intermarrying (to an Italian count in her aunt’s case) or converting and finally by a kind of willed amnesia in their postwar homes, in America and Italy. Secondly, there is the account of the extensive and successful detective work undertaken by Fremont and her sister to uncover the hidden past. She also explores the more difficult efforts to pierce her mother’s and aunt’s resistance to looking at the unspeakable horrors they had experienced. Equally graphic and moving is the parallel account of Fremont’s father, who miraculously survived six particularly brutal and harrowing years in the Siberian Gulag during and after the Holocaust. Finally, she writes about how her parents’ penchant for silence and secrecy lent an undertone of sadness and unreality to their and their daughters’ otherwise normal and happy lives in the US. In unearthing and reimagining her family’s history, in part through the testimony of her parents’ relatives and friends, in part through historical documents, Fremont describes herself as feeling “like an archeologist dusting layers of sand from ancient rooms.” She has a disconcerting tendency sometimes to veer too abruptly between the past and the present, though this also is understandable, for her memoir concerns how family secrets affect and distort individual lives and family dynamics. But Fremont is an immensely gifted writer who has vividly reconstructed a sensitive and memorable family saga of terror, hiding, and passing, as well as of personal imperatives over two generations around both casting off and confronting the past. Condition: Very good / Very good.
Keywords: Holocaust, Jews, Survival, Roman Catholic, Persecution, Anti-Semitism, Gulag, Identity, Refugees, Family History, Relationships