Separate Truth (Annies Story Book 1)

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I suppose it seems obvious that secrets beget other secrets. Chalk it up to naivety. I had no idea that a family member would have such trouble seeking information about someone long dead. In a word, yes. Like any writer, I wanted to work with the complete record of her institutionalization, to spend hours interviewing a doctor who had treated her or find an attendant who had worked on her ward.

You found a lot of secrets during your research. Every generation seems to create its own taboos, although some old ones linger on.


Today, of course, revealing family secrets has become fashionable, even a staple of TV talk shows. Her book has since been published. We had a fascinating discussion about my dual role as son and journalist, which I relate in the book. At least one of your siblings had been a bit hesitant about your quest.


Do they still feel that way, now that the book is done? How do you think your family was affected by the information you uncovered? The manuscript made the rounds of the family, generating a lot of discussion—which I benefited from as I worked on the revisions. Your cousin Anna Oliwek, the Holocaust survivor who argued with your mother about her secret, is such an interesting character.

Her story of surviving the Holocaust, and how that shaped her worldview, made her even more compelling. She associated the town, and its inhabitants, with the massacres there and the murders of her mother, brother and sister. When I called her from Ukraine to tell her what we had seen, and to ask her a few questions before our return to the town the next day, she warned me several times to be careful where I went, and whom I approached. I knew of the Radziwillow where Jews had been massacred—but I had no knowledge of this other Radziwillow. The book memorializes Annie in a way that was never done in life or at her death.

As a reader, I found myself needing to believe that every day was not a living hell, that she did have some happiness. What about you—how did you cope with the knowledge of her suffering and loneliness?

Certainly not in the late s when Anna was driving my grandmother to see Annie at Eloise. Could she work? Could she live in a group home and achieve that independence she craved? This really seems like a book that tells the stories of three Jewish women during the first half of the 20th century: Annie, your mother, and Anna Oliwek. What are your thoughts on that? My goal was to wear the skins of every major character in the story, to understand how each of them saw the world, and to understand how the world saw them.

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Annie, my mom and Anna Oliwek all represent different strands of that universal longing for freedom and its benefits. That longing, as much as secrets and secrecy, permeates the book. Here is a list of suggested questions to add to your own. Steve Luxenberg has said that the book is also about freedom and identity. What do you think he meant?

See a Problem?

Why does the title refer to multiple ghosts rather than to a single ghost. He finds this hard. What importance do you place on what your parents told you of their younger selves? At the end of Chapter One, Steve describes his relationship with his mother as close. She talks in a complaining, whining voice, expressing a great amount of antagonism toward the Welfare, various hospitals, etc. Discuss how and why Tillie might have felt this way. Did her immigrant status shape her views?

If so, how? As Steve pursues the secret, he finds people are eager to tell him the hidden stories of their families. How and when do you think it is appropriate to tell a secret? Which secrets are better not revealed? How does the book differ from other memoirs you have read? He also warns Steve that digging into the past might lead to other secrets, and asks Steve whether he is prepared for what he might uncover.

Would you want to know more about a family secret if one came out?

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How would your family react? Steve sprinkles the narrative with multiple memories of his parents, always in italics.

Several themes and emotions pervade these vignettes. Discuss how these vignettes add to the portrait of Beth and Jack. How does the author try to establish the trustworthiness of his recollections?

1. Make the dramatic content of your story strong

Why does it matter in this particular story? Beth and her cousin Anna Oliwek, a Holocaust survivor, argue about the secret sometime in the early s. The nature of memory is a recurring theme in the book. What do you think he means? Why is that important? In , the state of Michigan viewed treatment as an obligation, but patients had few rights; today, patients generally cannot be forced into treatment if they object, but serious mental illness goes untreated more often.

Discuss the tension between care and civil liberties. Steve writes p. Changes in federal and state laws over the past 25 years have emphasized privacy over disclosure, in part to protect living patients from abuse and discrimination.

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Have we gone too far in protecting the privacy of patients long dead? Discuss the conflict between privacy and history. Gravesites serve as an important continuing locale in the story. Do you agree? Column after column of names from the past, from the s, from the streets that my mom called home while growing up in Depression-era Detroit.

To see what Mom saw, I had to find the people who lived in her apartment building, or went to her school, or listened to her account of what had happened. When she died in , she left behind almost nothing that hinted at the secret she kept for nearly 60 years.

The Story of Stuff

City directories yielded a list of neighbors, and school yearbooks gave me the names of classmates, but could I find them? Were any still alive? Had they talked to Mom or Annie? Would they remember what they said? Clues rarely came to light in a neat or sequential way. Slowly, however, a picture came into view, much like the paint-by-number canvasses that Mom lovingly labored over in the s.

The book tells that story.

In April , at the suggestion of a doctor at Harper Hospital in Detroit, my grandmother filed a petition in the Wayne County Probate Court, alleging that her daughter was insane.