Mendel's Daughter: A Memoir by Martin Lemelman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Mendel’s Daughter: A Memoir is cinematic in its scope, visuals and voice. It is the story of ghosts who speak through dreams, and angles that intervene to save a life.
The author recreates in graphic novel form, an interview he had with his mother about her experiences during World War II. She was born in a Polish-Ukrainian Jewish shtetl and in the book she tells her son about their family’s history, its personage, and what happened to them when the Russians and Germans invaded. Mendel's Daughters also includes a context for the horrors to come: village markets, sharing a water well with neighbours, dressing up in friends' Polish costumes, school, suitors, and bike riding.
The accompanying visuals convey the emotional impact of the story just as much as the old woman’s voice does. There has been some criticism about the mother’s accent being recreated in the text, but being true to the documentary feel of the graphic novel, the voice must be true and unedited.
The visuals are a combination of drawings, photographs and real documents. The son has created a scrapbook from his mother’s memories. As she tells him: Sometimes your memories are not your own.
Now the reader of Mendel’s Daughter also has a part of those memories. This book is important because it lives longer than the witness of horrifying times. Already the impact and implications of the Holocaust are already being forgotten.
Man’s origin is dust and his end is dust. He spends his life earning bread. He is like a clay vessel, easily broken, like withering grass, a fading flower, a fugitive cloud, a fleeting breeze, scattering dust, a vanishing dream.
Man plans, and God laughs. –Yiddish saying
Mendel’s Daughter is a loving tribute a son has created for his mother.
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