Thursday, March 1, 2012

A Review of Looking Up

Looking Up: A Memoir of Sisters, Survivors and Skokie

Almost a year ago, my dear friend Linda published a beautiful book.  In the description of Looking Up: A Memoir of Sisters, Survivors, and Skokie, it says,
"Written by a child of two Holocaust Survivors, Looking Up: A Memoir of Sisters, Survivors and Skokie, tells the story of growing up with parents who have survived the unsurvivable, who land in an idyllic northern suburb of Chicago, Skokie, where they're suddenly free to live their lives, yet find their past has arrived with them. In a book that's both funny and somber, and a story universal in its scope, Linda Pressman creates an unforgettable world of adolescent angst and traumatized parents amid the suburban world of the 60s and 70s, ultimately finding that her parents' stories are her own." (Emphasis my own.)

While reading this book, I found that her parents' stories, and her stories, could also be my stories.

For example, she talks of her grandma who had multiple children born without rectums and passing away.  I read this with tears pouring down my face as I thought of my own children who didn't survive the embryonic stage.

Linda, the 6th of 7 sisters, also talks of she and her sisters trying to find their place in their family.  Some have an easier time of it and others may never find it.  As the second of ten, I understand the difficulties of figuring out who you are and where you belong in your family.  Yet, like Linda, I have deep love and respect for all my siblings.

Expertly and artistically tying in her parents' and grandparents' Holocaust stories to her own growing up experiences, Linda made me feel like I was in her house as her mother chastised them for complaining about food and clothes by comparing her meager existence in the forest to their current living situations.  I was a guest at the many family functions, listening with growing boredom to my the stories of my grandparents and thinking that every family had Holocaust stories.  And I was with her as they moved away from the Skokie home.

Through it all, many of her family left their religion.  Linda, on the other hand, found strength and courage in her Jewish faith and continues to talk about her rich heritage and traditions on her blog, Barmitzvahzilla.   She gives me hope as I figure out my own spiritual journey while I consider how my grandparents'  and parents' stories impacted how I live.

Linda's book is available at bookstores - on-line and otherwise - and I promise it will be an excellent addition to your library.

As a special treat, I am giving away a free copy. Just leave a comment telling me how your parents and/or grandparents shaped your upbringing and I will randomly select the winner.  If you would like additional entries, "like" Linda's page and my blog's page on Facebook.  Entries will close on Mar. 9 at 12 pm.  Until then, happy reading!

*I was given a free copy of this book but did the review because I loved it so very much.  I know you will too.


  1. I read this a while back upon your suggestion and was hooked by Linda's description of her childhood and how her parents' stories informed every aspect of her life. It was mesmerizing!

  2. While my family is not Jewish, my family grew up in Holland and my grandmother's farm was taken over by Nazi soldiers during the war - her and her family were forced to live in their barn. Hearing stories about this makes me so grateful for everything that people have done for us to have freedom, and so unbelieveabley sad and what people, especially Jewish people, were forced to endure during the war. I visited a Jewish concentration camp in Holland last summer, and am so interested in learning everything I can about it - this book would be a welcome addition :)

  3. Thank you, Amber, for this lovely review! I'm so happy that you could relate to the book on so many levels!

  4. I haven't read this yet, but will certainly add it to the list of reads.

    My grandmother is responsible for the rock solid work ethic that I have. My mother was a first generation immigrant who started working when she was 8. She used to get 10 cents an hour doing factory work. Unbelievable. She did whatever she needed to do to take care of her family. What's even more incredible is that she never complained about how hard she worked or how much. She did all of it with a smile on her face. She passed this on to my father who subsequently passed this on to me. I hope to pass it on to my son. I may be alot of things, but no one will ever call me lazy. Thanks, grandma!

  5. My father grew up on a farm and has always been an extremely hard worker. So when I was growing up, I didn't get allowance - I was paid small amounts (like $.50 or $1) for doing big chores like mowing our lawn or washing the car. Made me appreciate money early on.

    I would love a copy of the book!! :)

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  7. That sounds lovely, Amber! I'm the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors myself. None of my grandparents have been in my life as much as I've wanted them to be; my mom's side of the family lives in Israel, and my dad's side lives in another state (plus I have so many cousins that my grandmother has never been able to keep up with us all). It's interesting, though, how much their experiences have defined my family... Which is something I'd never really thought about, so thanks for bringing it to my attention. :) I'm adding the book to Goodreads list now so I don't forget about it.

  8. My mother's parents were the rock of our world. Not just for their kids and grandkids, they took in my grandmother's sisters kids, they took care of my great-grandfather as he got older. Whomever needed love and a home, they were there.

  9. Don't you think it's the coolest thing that your friend wrote a book?? This sounds like a super cool story.

  10. Thanks for your thoughts on the book. I have read it a while ago and I can see we can both relate :)

  11. Amber, thanks for the recommendation. I will definitely add it to my reading list.


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