Even in Darkness
written by Barbara Stark-Nemon
published by She Writes Press
About the book – from Goodreads: Spanning one century and three continents, Even in Darkness tells the story of Kläre Kohler, whose early years as beloved daughter of a prosperous German-Jewish family hardly anticipate the often harrowing life she faces as an adult—a long saga of family, lovers, two world wars, concentration camps, and sacrifice. As the world changes around her, Kläre is forced to make a number of seemingly impossible choices in order to protect the people she loves—and to save herself.
Based on a true story, Even in Darkness highlights the intimate experience of Kläre’s reinvention as she faces the destruction of life as she knew it, and traces her path beyond survival to wisdom, meaning, and—most unexpectedly—love.
“Barbara Stark-Nemon’s Even In Darkness makes personal the German Jewish experience of the twentieth century. Stark-Nemon offers an important corrective to more standard Jewish narratives, painting a picture of complex German Jews who navigated their way through prejudice and privilege and struggled to find a place for themselves in the various Germanys of the last century. Crossing religious and geographic boundaries, this is a story about family, commitment, loss and love, sacrifice and survival. Ultimately, we learn how humanity triumphs Even In Darkness.” —David J Fine, Ph.D., author of Jewish Integration in the German Army in the First World War
“Even in darkness there can be renewal, trust, love. This is the message of Barbara Stark-Nemon’s unforgettable book Even in Darkness. She brings the past century alive through recreating the story of her German-Jewish family, with all of its hopes and fears, losses and survivals—and, above all, the continuity of connections and of values, transcending religion, language, and country. The story is a remarkable and honest portrayal of unexpected paths, told with moving depth and literary skill.” —Dan Isaac Slobin, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Linguistics, University of California, Berkeley
“You will be enriched and inspired by Barbara Stark-Nemon’s Even in Darkness, a beautifully crafted, compelling novel, based on events in the life of the author’s own family, in which love triumphs over unspeakable horror. The author paints a vivid picture of her upper-middle-class German-Jewish characters and weaves their inner thoughts and feelings into the shocking reality of the historical events of the day. I recommend this book to readers of history and to all those moved by the strength and courage of the human spirit.” —Margaret Fuchs Singer, author of Legacy of a False Promise: A Daughter’s Reckoning
(Q&A provided by PR by the Book)
What inspired you to write Even in Darkness? Even in Darkness is based on the life of my great aunt, who alone among her siblings did not escape Germany during the Holocaust. Her story of survival—the courage and strength she had to remake herself and her life in the face of unspeakable loss—has been an inspiration to me throughout my adult life. Hers is a beautiful story and having come to know it in depth I wanted to share it and create a legacy for her.
You researched the book thoroughly. Did you know from the beginning how extensive your research would become? Yes and no. I’ve known since one of the visits I made to my great aunt in Germany many years ago, that I wanted to write her story, so I started interviewing her (she was already over 90 years old) and the priest, who is the other main character in this story. I also interviewed my parents and grandparents. I already knew a lot about my grandfather and great aunt’s family from Sunday nights around the dinner table. Then my aunt died, and the priest sent me all her personal papers, including over 50 letters that her son had written to her during and after the war from Palestine, where he had been sent at the age of 12. Those letters deepened and changed what I understood about all their lives in a way I couldn’t have predicted.
Where did you begin your research and where did it lead you? I traveled to Germany, Belgium, the Czech Republic, and to Israel to trace all the histories and see all the places I learned about in my grandfather’s stories and later, in the trove of personal papers my great aunt left to me. I was able to interview even more people related to this story, walk the streets, photograph the homes, take trains over the same routes to the concentration camp, look out over the hills surrounding the kibbutz where all my characters lived out their lives. In archives and museums I learned details of births, deaths, marriages, businesses, deportations, displacements, escapes and emigrations. All this knowledge fed my imagination for the parts of the story I didn’t and couldn’t know.
What was the most surprising part about your research? Did you uncover any family secrets? There were some surprises. Through interviews with cousins in Europe I learned a different perspective about other members of my grandfather’s family, whom I knew only though his stories. I learned about my mother’s cousins who were hidden in a convent by nuns. I learned about the personal decisions about faith and influence in the Catholic Church at that time that had enormous impact on my family. I learned that another great aunt was a beautiful singer and evaded arrest by singing for a German officer. And I learned that what people had to do to maintain their safety and their sanity during the dangerous years of the 1930s in Germany resulted in boundary crossing behaviors that were both courageous and painful.
What was the hardest part about writing fiction around events and people that really happened and really existed? As I’ve said elsewhere, Even in Darkness is not just my first novel. It is a story of my heart and the finest tribute I can craft to two remarkable people and to other Holocaust survivors everywhere. To separate my personal attachment to the real people and events behind the book enough to insure a tight, compelling novel was a really interesting challenge for me as a writer. I also felt very sensitive to and responsible for the privacy and the legacy of other family members. Finally, this is not your typical Holocaust survival story, and the very things that make it unusual might be painful to people who would have a hard time with some of the decisions my characters made.
Why did you decide to write a novel rather than a biography or memoir? The simple answer is, there were too many missing pieces in the story. I didn’t know all the facts, but felt I understood from the point of view of the characters. It was a way to use all the compelling reality of the family story with the immediacy that fiction allows us to maintain. In the first year that I worked on the book, I participated in a wonderful workshop with the author Elizabeth Kostova. I had recently come back from a research/interview trip to Germany with much new information. We worked the story out both ways: as a memoir and as a novel. In the end, I realized I wanted to write a novel, this novel.
What advice would you give to authors conducting research for their book? Do as much as you can; use your network to help you, invest in it. The work you do to inform yourself will exponentially inform your story.
About the author: Sue has been writing since high school but never became serious about it until a skiing accident laid her up for an entire summer and she turned on the word processor to combat the boredom. A couple years later, her first urban fantasy novel, Fade to Black, was a finalist in the RMFW Colorado Gold Writing Contest. By day, she’s a dedicated speech-language therapist in an inner city school district to pay the bills but her life as a writer is her true passion and the creative outlet keeps her sane.
Sue is a member of the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and The Pikes Peak Writers. Her creativity extends into her garden and the culinary arts. She is the second oldest of six girls with an avid reader mom and her dad, the family’s single drop of testosterone in a sea of estrogen. Fate thought it hilarious to give her a son but maternal instincts swing both ways and she didn’t break the little bugger. She lives in Colorado with her miniature dachshund, Snickers and hears from her son, Jonathan whenever he needs something.
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