This is where I will share stories about my continuing research and writing process for Eva and Eve, to be published by Atria/Simon& Schuster. I know a lot of people who have contacted me on Facebook are also writers interested in how books come to be, so now that my book has found such an excellent home I will unpack what has been a long writing journey.
When my mother Eve died in 2006, I never thought I’d ever write about her or her family. My mother had only told a few stories about her childhood in Vienna and her family’s escape from Nazi Europe in 1940. She told the same set of stories, always the same way. I thought I’d heard everything there was to know, or at least what she remembered. I never thought of her as a secret keeper.
Then, shortly after she died I found a keepsake book hidden in the back of a drawer. This turned out to be a Poesie Album, something lots of girls in Europe kept. The closest thing we would have is an autograph album. Friends and relatives copied out a short poem, drew pictures, or pasted in cut out art. She had never shared this keepsake book with anyone, not even my father to whom she’d married for over fifty years. When my father and I looked through it the first time, we both knew that many of the people who signed the book, who didn’t get out of Vienna by March 1940 could not have survived the anti-Semitic genocide that was well underway. It was too late to ask my mother about this book and the childhood friends she never saw again after she left Vienna, but I couldn’t let go of the strong desire to know more. That very personal inquiry started in 2006, before publication of my first book. For months and years at a time I would turn away to focus on my family, on that first book, and the design career that had been my work for many years. In recent years I have been able to focus on this research and along with some moments of serendipity and the generosity of so many friends, colleagues, faraway academics I got closer to putting a story together.
In the inscriptions in her Poesie Album, my mother was called Eva. Her choice to subtly change her name to Eve when she became an American citizen seemed potent enough that it inspired the title of my book. For my mother there was a Before and an After: the sheltered childhood in Vienna, the savagery and terror of two years trying to escape and then the flight to America. The only way forward was to leave the child Eva behind her and make a new life as an immigrant with a new name Eve.
You can read a bit more about my new book (no spoilers!) on the Eva and Eve Book page of this site, where I will also post photos that are part of the story.