“Mama’s is sobbing over a photograph… [Her] shoulders are rounded, as if something is broken somewhere in the middle of her body, her straight grey-brown hair falls over her face, covering it so I cannot see her well. I wait for one second, but she doesn’t look up, so I leave feeling that I was intruding.”
Accomplished author and associate professor of Hispanic studies at Vassar, Mihai Grünfeld will read from his critically acclaimed memoir of a post-Holocaust childhood, Leaving – Memories of Romania, on Saturday, December 6. The reading, to be followed by a reception, will begin at 4:00 pm in the Aula in Ely Hall. Both are free and open to the public. Books will be available for purchase at the reception.
Set in Cluj, the third largest city of Romania, where Grünfeld was born in 1951, Leaving recounts the author’s childhood as the son of impoverished Holocaust survivors.
As he grows up the narrator becomes increasingly aware of his parents’ isolation and untold histories. Gradually the story of an innocent child’s loving relationship with his parents evolves into a powerful tale of complex family dynamics shaped by dreams of escaping the debilitating poverty and repression in Communist Romania.
“In his touching memoir, Mihai Grünfeld takes us by the hand on a remarkable pilgrimage of survival, love, sadness, yearning, oppression and escape . . . It is a powerful narrative in its own right, but it is the sweet, unadorned, authentic voice of the writer that makes this book utterly unforgettable,” said Steven Lewis, bestselling author of Zen and the Art of Fatherhood.
Gerald Sorin, Distinguished Teaching Professor and director of Jewish Studies at SUNY New Paltz, similarly praised the memoir as “. . . comparable in richness to the writings of Eva Hoffman, Art Spiegelman, and Melvin Jules Bukiet.”
Grünfeld left Romania in January 1969 and began a search for a new home that took him to Czechoslovakia, Israel, Italy, Sweden, and Canada. While in Canada, he obtained a BA degree in Spanish and French at the University of Toronto.
The author eventually settled in the United States and obtained a doctorate in Latin American literature from the University of California at Berkeley.
At Vassar, Grünfeld researches modern Latin American poetry and the intersection between literature and the arts in between teaching in the Department of Hispanic Studies.
People with disabilities requiring accommodations should contact the Office of Campus Activities at (845) 437-5370. Directions to the Vassar campus are available at www.vassar.edu/directions.