Gusta's story opens with a portrait of shtetl life, filled with homey images that evoke the richness of food and flowers, of family and friends and of Jewish tradition. Soon, however, Gusta's girlhood is cut short as her family experiences Hitler's rise, rumors of war, invasion, occupation, round-ups and pogroms, forcing Gusta into flight and hiding.
Mendel's Daughter is Martin Lemelman's solemn and stirring testament to his mother's bravery and a celebration of her perseverance. The devastatingly simple power of a mother's words and a son's illustrations combine to create a work that is both intensely personal and universally resonant. Mendel's Daughter combines an unforgettable true story with elegant, haunting illustrations to shed new light on one of history's darkest periods.
- Free Press |
- 240 pages |
- ISBN 9781416552215 |
- October 2007
Reading Group Guide
by Martin Lemelman
Mendel's Daughter is a powerful true story of hope and survival in the darkest of times. Told from the perspective of the author's mother, Gusta, Mendel's Daughter details the experiences of growing up as a Jewish child in 1930's Poland. It opens with a picture of shtetl (village) life, filled with homey images that bring to life the richness of foods and flowers, of family and friends and Jewish tradition.
The book then transitions into darker times as Gusta and her family are witness to the rise of Hitler, instability in Europe, rumors of war, invasion, occupation, roundups and pogroms. When the Nazis come to round up her family, Gusta and two of her brothers, and later a younger sister, are already hiding in a forest in Poland. Her parents and her other siblings perish, but for two years Gusta and her remaining siblings hide in grave-like trenches in the forest and thereby survive.
Martin Lemelman employs video testimony that his mother recorded in 1989 as the basis for writing his family memoir. Thus, Gusta's harrowing tale is told in her own voice, while her son's beautiful drawings serve as illustrations. Interspersed with the drawings are actual photos of people, documents, and other relics of this unsettled time. The result is a wholly original, authentic, and moving account of heroism and endurance in t see more