Okay, okay, I'll admit it -- I didn't really GO to Texas. Not in the flesh anyway. But I did get to do two wonderful Skype visits with students at Dumas Intermediate School.
The students have been doing a six-week unit on the Holocaust and were familiar with my novel, What World Is Left. So I had the pleasure of talking to them about this book, which is so very close to my heart since it is based on my mum's experience during the Holocaust.
The students were terrific. Both groups listened carefully and sensitively, and the students had terrific smart questions.
I did the first Skype session from my home, but I did the afternoon session from my parents' house -- which meant the students got to meet today's real star: my mum!
I tried to explain to the students why stories mean so much to me and how, even though I am a bit of a speed demon, I slow down for stories -- especially ones that make my arms tingle! I also talked about the power of secrets and encouraged those students who have grandparents to get their grandparents' stories. (Sometimes, grandparents are more open with their grandkids than they are with their own kids.)
Two students this morning asked questions I was unable to answer -- but I told them I'd ask their questions to my mum and report back on what she had to say. So, here goes! Liliana asked, "Did your mother ever come close to losing hope?" I would have predicted my mother would have said yes to that question, but when I asked her, her immediate response was, "No! Never!" Daniela had another tough question. She asked, "Did your mother ever regret being a Jew?" My mother answered yes to that question. As I explained to the students, she was only a couple of years older than them when she was first sent to a Nazi concentration camp. She once told me that she was called "dirty Jew" so many times that she really thought she was a "dirty Jew"! Even writing that makes me sad -- but I think it's important to know these things. If we know them, perhaps we can help prevent them from ever happening again.
Just seeing the students' open, kind faces moved me. I read from the book to both groups, and I noticed how still the audience was, how hard they were concentrating. I know the kids clapped for me at the end of my presentations, but really, they deserved the applause.
I feel a little bad that the morning group didn't get to say hello to my mum, so I'll do my best to arrange another quick visit one of these days from my parents' house. I think it meant a lot to my mum to know that the next generation is interested in the experience of those who survived the Holocaust. Remember what she told you: that you must never give up hope. And remember what I told you: that life requires courage, and that a sense of humour -- even in difficult times -- can be a sign of courage.
Thanks to Rhonda Artho and Cathy Craigmiles and everyone else who helped organize today's Skype visits. Now I need to find myself a way to come and meet you all in person!!!
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Thank you so much for joining us at Dumas Intermediate today! I enjoyed your stories about your family history so much. Your Mom is blessed to have an author for a daughter to put her secrets and memories into a book to be shared by many people. Awesome interview!
Thank you so much for your time and for sharing your family with us. The Holocaust is such a painful topic, but one which needs to be studied, understood, and felt as much as possible so we can avoid the kinds of feelings, actions, and words that lead to such atrocities. The students and I were moved by your words, and we appreciate you allowing us to be a part of your life for a day. We will all remember this for the rest of our lives, and are very grateful. Thanks again to you and your "mum" and dad!! Really, really, really, good job!
Our students had such a memorable experience with you and your family today! Thank you ever so much for sharing your wonderfully written book, your time, and your parents with us. This was extremely humbling and an once and a lifetime chance for our students, and I whole heartedly thank you for providing them with this opportunity.
Thank you from us all,
Thank you so much for your time and sharing your family with us. Your mum is truly an amazing woman. I want to thank her and thank you for sharing her story. Our students can learns I much from the experiences of others. Thank you for encouraging them to write and to dream. Today was a very humbling and special experience.
...that can truly convey how honored I felt today to see the faces of your mom and dad; people who survived the hate.
I have been reading about The Holocaust for a few years now, and the stories I have read touched the very depths of my spirit. The words you spoke to us today about courage really impacted me. Life certainly requires courage, and laughter.
Someone suggested your book What World Is Left a few months ago, and I was so pulled in by it that I read it within one evening. I try to always be compassionate and the sense of overwhelming hurt in your novel brought me to tears more times that I can count. Hearing about the woman who gave your mom her "ugly man" pendant was amazing; I felt so glad that even in the darkness of those days, someone chose to be a light to your mum!
This afternoon when you and your mom spoke about her being called bad things (I can't bring myself to type it) over and over until she began to believe it broke my heart. However, I know that it is a needed message for the kids to hear that words truly do carry an amazing amount of power; that negative words can stay with people for life. There aren't just hurt feelings and that's it...words impact self-worth, decisions, and many other things for the rest of our lives.
Please tell your mom and dad thank you from my heart for visiting us today. It was so lovely to hear how they met, and to see them together still.
Thank you for sharing your book, and your family's story with us. It is a day I will not forget about the life of a woman I will not forget during a war I will never forget. It is only through education of the past that we can avoid such tragedies in our future.
Again, thank you so much.
Thank You so much for the presentation. My students really enjoyed hearing your presentation yesterday. I really loved reading your book What World is Left? and I am looking forward to checking out more of your books.
Hi I am one of the kids in both of the Skype because I was in 6-2 while it was time for the Skype and I think your mum is beautiful well I want to ask a question did your mum ever think everyday something would go to we're she would want to work and work and work some that she wouldn't get close to dying.
Ohh and if you look me up on Facebook my profile pick is a bunny;D
Hi... I was in the Skype on Friday in Dumas Texas. I hope we get to talk to you and your mother and father also you. Maybe we will read one of your books and we'll get to do it again. Have a great day!
this is hayle gipson and i did reserch on the holocaust in the 6th grade how cool hope yall have fun