30 Apr 2015

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theodora ofosuhima photography IMG_5232A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2015

AOI: Catching snowflakes on her tongue holding her favourite two things (Paw Patrol and Tusker)

TOI: His cheeky smile, that face…

AOI and TOI: Can’t believe they are mine. Thank you God for such wonderful gift. I love them so much 

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linking with Jodi

19 Apr 2015

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A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2015

AOI: She loves and takes her gardening very seriously. She is going to take care of this year’s crop so well.

AOI and TOI: As I snapped this photo I thought about how just a year ago TOI a was tiny four months old baby lying in my lap as his sister took charge of the garden, running to and from the red canon, standing on it and just enjoying the spring sun. Now he can join in the fun. Life is incredible.

TOI: He saw a plan passing over our garden, he pointed at it and said something that no-one can understand. This stage is so sweet, his words are still hard to comprehend but I can understand most of what he tries to say. For instance I know that nana means water, nanana means banana. The most beautiful sound of all is “Mumi, or maama” I melt at the sound of his sweet {which I get sad to think that it will be deep one day} voice say my favourite name.

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linking with Jodi

17 Apr 2015

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A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2015

AOI and TOI: week 14 the two are such a team. One start a mischief and the other joins in, normally is the little one to start that mischief, like pouring water all over the coffee table and then decided to drink from there.

TOI: this is the face he makes after he achieves his goal of mischief.

AOI: all dressed by herself, I love her sense of fashion.

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linking with practicing simplicity

16 Apr 2015

Today

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The house is all quiet right now at 7:48pm, the kids are in the pack with daddy and my thoughts seem to be flowing more freely. I sit in  my office with the golden sunset evading my sanctuary.

I miss blogging like I used to do in the old days. I miss going to visit my fellow bloggers on a daily basis and them coming to visit me on a daily basis, but right now I don’t seem to find the balance to achieve all. I have interesting things happening, like my novel coming out soon, my photography picking up a pace, all wonderful things that I would love to write about but I never know where to begin. That can wait because I’m cherishing the lovely little things.

Today we all had a nap around 12:50pm. After a milk spill from a toddler and a baby throwing himself on the floor I put them in the stroller for a walk. Five minutes later I got back from the walk with two sleeping children. I lay both kids in their respective bed and I laid down on my bed. As sleep pulled me into it arms, responsibility made me think I was hearing a toddler out of her room and a dog outside was barking. Still I fell asleep, because the sleep was so sweet.

I couldn’t believe how much I’ve slept when I woke up at TOI cries in his crib. I picked him up to lie him next to me for a feed. We all fell until I told sleep that I had enough of the sweet embrace. I woke at 2:30pm. I went downstairs to tidy up, then I went to pick my sleepy girl from her bed because a toddler who sleeps past two hours in the afternoon will make evening a great epic. 

Now they’re back so off to start bedtime routine.

12 Apr 2015

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A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2015

TOI: week 14 my little boy decided to start climbing all the way unto the top of the dining table.

AOI: this particular moment was capture on a Tuesday afternoon, during a lovely warm playtime in the garden she stood onto of her bicycle and called her friend to look at her. I grabbed my camera to snap a picture but it was too late. I waited until she did it again and I was quick enough to capture the moment. My brave little girl.

AOI and TOI: I haven’t shared a picture of the them sleeping in awhile, so here are their tiny toes. Toddler’s dirty feet show sign of warm weather.

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linking with practicing simplicity

7 Apr 2015

Even In Darkness – A Synopsis

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Spanning a century and three continents, Even in Darkness tells the story of Klare Kohler, whose origins in a prosperous German-Jewish family hardly anticipate the end of her long life in a loving relationship with Ansel, a German priest half her age. In between lies a harrowing saga of families, a lover, two world wars, and the Holocaust. Based on a true story, Even in Darkness highlights the intimate experience of Klare’s reinvention as she faces the destruction of life as she knew it, and traces her path not only to survival, but to wisdom, meaning and most unexpectedly, love. It reminds us that it’s never too late or too hard to find ourselves anew.   

Readers who look for depth of historical detail woven into narrative will find that this meticulously researched novel combines a fascinating view of Germany in the first half of the twentieth century, with a vivid portrait of the characters’ inner lives as they navigate the shocking realities they must face. Even in Darkness is based on 15 years of interviews, on-site investigation, and translation of letters from the people on whom the primary characters are based, in Europe, Israel and the United States. 

Even in Darkness – Blog Tour

After I finished reading The Diary of a Young Girl I wanted to read more about life of German-Jewish families, I wanted to know more about how others survived during the dangerous years of the 1930s in Germany. Then I was approached by @prbythebook to review Barbara Stark-Nemon debut novel. I was thrilled from page one. The author throws the read straight into the heart of the main character and the unfolds slowly from “… the comforts of pre-war Germany through the turbulent years of the First World War, the Weimar republic and the Third Reich, from living in fear to brute survival in the camps to the rebuilding under American occupation and the new West German regime…” Based on the life of the author’s great-aunt, Even in Darkness is a compelling beautifully written story of a German-Jewish woman whose formidable life takes her through the years of the Holocaust in Germany to the present.

To get to know more about what inspired her to write the story Stark-Nemon was kind to answer some question. 

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1. 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.

2. 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 grand

father 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.

3. What was one of your favorite stories that your grandfather told you about his life in Germany?

My favorite story is one that’s actually in Even in Darkness and describes how, when all hope appeared to be lost for getting a visa to leave Germany, my grandfather chose to try one last time at the bidding of my 12-year-old mother who pestered him that she wanted to go to the U.S. to join her best friend who had already emigrated. My grandfather didn’t want to frighten my mother by telling her that he’d tried repeatedly to see the American consul and been denied an appointment. My mother begged him to go that day; it was her birthday. When he said he might not be able to get in, she told him to tell the diplomat it was his daughter’s birthday. My grandfather stayed all day in line at the consulate, and as he was about to be turned away yet again, he pleaded that it was his daughter’s birthday and he just felt it was a lucky day. The official let him in, and an hour later he had the necessary visa. That was in May of 1938, and they were finally able to leave in October, just a few weeks before Kristallnacht.

4. Where did you begin your research and where did it lead you?

I travelled 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.

5. How did you feel reading letters written by your ancestors? What did you learn from these letters?

This was one of the most thrilling and challenging aspects of writing Even in Darkness. To translate these sixty-five-year-old letters and hear the voice of my mother’s cousin as a 19-year-old pioneer in Palestine with his description of his escape from Germany and the early years of his life half a world away was both fascinating and did more than anything else to make that time and his character live for me. The exhaustion, desperation and heartache of his parents, having just survived years of persecution under the Nazis, and then three years in a concentration camp and displaced person camp, can be heard in his youthful assurances that one day it would be safe for his mother to visit, brushing off the dangers he faced, and his exuberance for all that he was training to accomplish on the kibbutz he and other young pioneers were starting.

6. What kinds of considerations were there in incorporating real letters into your novel?

The biggest challenge was to capture the voice, the history and the language of the letters and still work within the story structure of the novel. It was the most poignant and concrete example of the constant balance I had to maintain as I was writing Even in Darkness between what really happened to the people on whom the book is based, and what worked for purposes of writing a good novel.

7. 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 behaviours that were both courageous and painful.

8. 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.

9. How did your research expand your understanding of living life as a Jewish woman in the twentieth century in Germany?

I got to ask my great aunt the hard questions about what it was like to watch her whole family leave, and then have to send her children out of the country. I got to hear her nieces tell me how hard their mother begged my aunt to leave, and I got to feel the agony of her decision not to leave without her husband who was ill and had refused to believe the Nazi menace was serious until it was too late, and her mother who was too old to get a visa and refused to go as well. As a mother of three sons, right around the ages of the children Klare sent out, I read the letters she received from her sons and ached for what it meant, for what she lost. I grew to understand that she had to take charge of their lives and save them as best she could; a role that her traditional upbringing couldn’t have prepared her to take on.

10. 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.

11. Were there any unexpected obstacles you encountered when you began writing Even in Darkness?

I thought I could work full time, finish raising three boys, do volunteer work and write a novel. I had no idea how much I would love the research and the writing, and how much I wanted to devote ALL my time to it!

12. 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.

13. Who’s a character from a book you wish you could meet?

Bernhardt Steinmann, the publisher that courts Klare in Even in Darkness!

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#evenindarkness, @bstarknemon, @prbythebook

1 Apr 2015

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A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2015

AOI: My beautiful, clever and witty little girl. I love her complete concentration as she watches her favourite show {this it was Richard Scarry’s cartoons}. I was feeding TOI in the other room and I heard some noises of feet pacing in her room, then silence. I went to see what was happening and found her sitting in the little toy cot I bought for her elephant {and my newborn photo-sessions haha}. She was so adorable. I quickly went to grab my camera and unbeknown to her took a series of portraits.

AOI and TOI: He likes jumping and she likes jumping too so anywhere they are allowed to jump they jump together.

TOI: My handsome, musical and soulful baby boy. In this photo we’re at my friend’s house for a playdate/photo session. When we arrived he was sleeping and my friend asked me what he is into. I answered he seems to be drawn to music. The first thing he did when he woke up was giving me a cuddle and then he found his way to the piano at the bottom of the stairs. The nanny helped him unto the piano chair and his fingers started to key away.

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linking with practicing simplicity

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