That's what a student named Shaugn told me this morning. I was back at Vanier College, again because I was participating in the Kleinmann Family Foundation 17th Annual Cegep Symposium on the Holocaust and Genocide. Today, I spoke to Marcia Goldberg's "Short Fiction by Women" class. And again, I had another terrific audience. (That's Marcia in today's pic, standing at the back on the right, with some of her students.)
Marcia had a little business to take care of with her class before I started. And so, I had a chance to watch her in action. Marcia was telling her students about all sorts of books and I have to admit I got caught up in her excitement, too, and jotted down several authors' names and titles. She mentioned a book called The Holocaust and the Literary Imagination, published in 1975 and written by L. Langer. Marcia explained how Langer has trouble with fictional accounts of the Holocaust. Which means he might not be entirely happy with my novel What World Is Left, a fictionalized account of my mum's experience in Theresienstadt, a Nazi concentration camp. Though it might sound strange to you, for me, writing fiction is a way of getting to the truth of things.
Marcia's students were focused and attentive and several stayed after class to chat with us. A student named Akeem told me he got interested in the Holocaust in Grade Ten when he did a project on Anne Frank (so he was pretty impressed when I told him my mother knew Anne Frank because they went to the same school in Amsterdam). Another student named Ronald said, "learning how people live makes me reflect on myself." You know what, Ronald? I think that's what reading literature is all about.
I'm off in a minute (literally!) to do an interview for CBC radio. For a change, I'm going to be the one who gets to answer questions instead of ask them. The interview is going to be about the Quebec Roots project, part of the Blue Metropolis Literary Foundation's educational division. Watch this spot for more news about the Blue Met Festival which starts next Wednesday (April 21) and runs until April 25.
Special thanks to my friends at Vanier for inviting me to participate in the symposium this week. To all the students I met, thanks for being so open to my story -- and my mum's story. Now get working on the stories that matter most to you!
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Hey miss Polak it`s Akeem I just wanted to thank you for coming to our class and sharing your story it was a great experience to meet you and hear your story well your family`s story thank you and I hope I get a chance to hear you speak again
best regards Akeem Hoyte-Charles
ps:Thanks for the shout-out in your blog
Hi Akeem, I know I didn't get to chat with you for long, but I must say I really felt your interest in my talk. I think you are a young man who cares about stories. I hope you hear many great ones and that you write them down! Best regards from Monique
Just a note of appreciation for your informative account of my sister's class. As a former teacher, we appreciate hearing about the good teaching that is here each day, seldom documented. I feel uplifted.
Hi Miss Polak,
I just wanted to take a moment of your time to thank you for visiting us at Vanier and telling your and your mother's story.
Rarely do people get the chance to speak to the author of a book and get the "inside scoop" on how the story came to be and what struggles the author had deal with.
I hope to be fortunate enough to meet you again!
Best wishes, always,
P.S. Like Akeem said, thanks for the mention in the entry!
Hi Sara, Hi Shaugn,
How great to get your comments. Shaugn, I'm glad you found my talk about writing helpful! And Sara, what can I say? You're the first person who ever wrote to me from HAWAII! I assume you are every bit as special as your sister!! best from me
Thank you very much for your visit. I know that reading literature is very helpfull for learning but I just prefer living it and learn more about what others lived but by being present by their side.
Hi Ron, I have to comment on your comment. I am very moved by your line about "being present by ... [others'] sides"... that is a beautiful way to describe friendship and caring and just being there for others. Thanks for posting your comment!