Sunday, May 3, 2009

Author Lev Raphael on his book "My Germany" describes a journey begun in pain and grief that transforms into healing and forgiveness

On our May 3, 2009 show: Lev Raphael, author of "My Germany," joins us live on the phone from his home in central Michigan.

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We'll be spending the full hour with Lev, and invite you to join in on our conversation by calling us at 321-1670. "My Germany" describes Lev's journey in coming to know Germany, a place he initially knew only as the source of profound pain and grief for his family. As described in the book review excerpted below, it is a journey that forces him to confront many painful truths, but ultimately one filled with healing and forgiveness as well.

"As the New York-born son of eastern European Jews who barely survived the Holocaust, Lev Raphael grew up in a world haunted by secrets and ghosts. Having spent years fleeing from his parents’ past, he decided to confront that past and, in the process, to come to grips with Germany, the country he blamed for the horrors visited on his parents and, indirectly, on himself. My Germany is part travelogue and part detective story, as Raphael sets out to trace what happened to his parents and their families during the war. Above all, it is a wholly enthralling, beautifully written story of healing and forgiveness, in which Raphael not only sheds his hatred and fear of Germany but comes to a deeper, richer understanding of his parents and Jewish heritage—and, above all, of himself."
—Lynne Olson, Author of Troublesome Young Men

Lev Raphael was in Madison this past December to deliver a memorable closing address for the visiting exhibit, "Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals,1933-1945" which had been on loan from the National Holocaust Museum, and on display at the UW's Memorial Library for two months. Lev, a Jewish gay man, spoke movingly about the intersection of those two identities. The son of Holocaust survivors, he also shared special insights into the commonalities and differences of the Nazi persecution against Jewish people and homosexuals. The exhibit was part of an extensive series of special presentations and film showings that offered transformative insights into the contemporary meanings behind this experience, against the backdrop of historical insights into the status of gay people in Germany throughout the twentieth century. It was brought to Madison as part of the public education efforts of the Gay Straight Alliance for Safe Schools. Special note: Please support GSA for Safe Schools "Celebration of Leadership" event, coming on Saturday, May 16th. Follow link above for more info.

The book also has a Madison connection, with its publication by the UW Press, one of the many outstanding examples of storytelling and memoirs that they bring to the world. (Look for a future show about featured new and upcoming books, later this summer.)

About Lev Raphael

As the son of Holocaust survivors, Lev Raphael is a pioneer in writing fiction about America's Second Generation, publishing his first short story about children of survivors in 1978. Many of his early stories on this theme were collected in his award-winning book, Dancing on Tisha B'Av, while the best of those and newer ones appear in his second collection Secret Anniversaries of the Heart.

Raphael is the author of 17 other books including two novels about survivors, Winter Eyes and The German Money, and two memoirs, Journeys & Arrivals and Writing a Jewish Life. Raphael's fiction has been widely anthologized in the U.S. and Britain, most recently in the anthology Criminal Kabbalah, which contains Lev's latest story featuring a child of survivors: "Your Papers, Please."

Along with hundreds of reviews in papers from The Washington Post to The Detroit Free Press, Raphael has published dozens of essays, articles, and stories in a wide range of Jewish publications: Midstream, Hadassah, Psychology and Judaism, The Forward, Reform Judaism, Reconstructionist, Agada, Commentary, The Baltimore Jewish Times, The Detroit Jewish News, Inside, The Jewish Exponent, Jewish Currents, Tikkun, Jerusalem Report, and Slate.

Raphael has keynoted three international Holocaust conferences where he received standing ovations, as well as appearing at hundreds of invited lectures and readings in Israel, North America, and Europe at Jewish Book Fairs, Jewish Community Centers, synagogues and universities. Featured in two documentaries, he has been a panelist at London's Jewish Film festival. His stories and essays are on university syllabi around the U.S. and in Canada; his fiction has been analyzed in books, scholarly journals and at scholarly conferences, including MLA.

Born and raised in New York City, he received his MFA in Creative Writing and English at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst where he won the Harvey Swados Fiction Prize, awarded by renowned editor Martha Foley for a Holocaust-themed story later published in Redbook. Winner of the Reed Smith Fiction Prize and International Quarterly's Prize for Innovative Prose (judged by D. M. Thomas), Raphael holds a Ph.D. in American Studies from Michigan State University. Raphael taught at the university level in New York, Massachusetts and Michigan for 13 years and the first course he designed was a multi-disciplinary study of the Holocaust. He left teaching in 1988 to write and review full- time.

Lev has also been an outspoken advocate on behalf of LGBT youth, and has written several books seeking to support them in their journeys of self-discovery.

Please join us for a very special conversation this Sunday at 2pm on Forward Forum (WTDY 1670 am and