- Four years spent researching and writing Tutti’s Promise
- One year spent editing and preparing the book for publication
- Two minutes to pitch it to the Jewish Book Council
Yesterday afternoon I left my house and took a plane to Westchester, NY. It was one of Cape Air’s cozy Cessna 402s with room for nine passengers and I was lucky enough to be seated in the copilot’s spot. No, I don’t know how to fly a plane. I was simply the shortest person on the flight and they needed someone who wouldn’t be cramped by the controls they weren’t supposed to touch.
I thoroughly enjoyed my front row seat. The flight was smooth as I watched out the window for familiar landmarks. The only time the flight was even slightly bouncy was the few seconds when the pilot took the controls off of autopilot.
From Westchester I took the Cape Air shuttle to my hotel in the East Village. A quick dinner of blintzes at a NYC landmark, Katz’s Deli, and then back to my hotel. I practiced my pitch several times and then tried to sleep.
How could I possibly sum up this journey in two minutes? All my research — hours on the internet searching through archives and genealogy websites; weeks at the USHMM in Washington, DC; trips to Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Westerbork, Terezin, and Wickrath; tracking down survivors who might have known my mother or were on transport lists I wanted to publish; developing my website complete with discussion questions, testimonials, and reviews; and of course, this blog — PopjeAndMe. Did my two minutes do it justice? I finally fell asleep but was up before my alarm.
This morning I presented the pitch in front of a full house in the beautiful Hebrew Union College sanctuary. I was number 16 out of approximately 45 authors. There were over 100 JCCs, temples, and other organizations represented by at least 200 people. The reps listened intently while scribbling notes. Soon they will decide which authors they want to invite to their various programs.
The waiting was difficult. I tried to focus on everyone else and forget I would be up on the Bema soon. Watching numbers 13 through 15 was the worst for my anxiety, but I kept taking deep breaths and telling myself this audience was far more sympathetic than an auditorium of middle-schoolers, and that audience I had already conquered.
When it was my turn I stood tall, adjusted the mic, and proceeded to speak — on autopilot — occasionally checking my notes for familiar landmarks to keep me on track. And then it was over. I could swear my two minutes were shorter than everyone else’s. I hope I impressed a few people in the audience. Time will tell if I get some invitations to speak around the country. I’ll let you know if I’m coming to a town near you.
Here is the transcript of my pitch:
What’s your promise? What will you do to make the world a better place? Tutti’s Promise is about hope, perseverance, helping others, and resistance. I would love to talk to your community about these themes.
I’ll tell middle-school students about my family’s remarkable story to give them a better understanding of the Holocaust.
I’ll meet with adults to discuss the research behind the book – such as how I found out that my grandfather was helping to sabotage scrap metal and that Adolf Eichmann and the Minister of Armaments were arguing over his fate. Or how I learned what motivated a Theresienstadt guard to help my grandfather steal vegetables from the camp root cellar.
I wrote this story so it could be used to teach future generations, who won’t have the honor of meeting survivors like my mother. But Tutti’s Promise is so much more than a Holocaust story. It reminds the reader of the need for tolerance and acceptance. It reminds the reader of the importance of stepping up when they see discrimination. And it reminds all of us about the need to help and protect refugees.
My mother, Tutti, was five years old when the Nazis invaded the Netherlands. Tutti’s Promise tells the story of how she and her family survived the occupation and two concentration camps, Westerbork and Thereisenstadt. The fact that three generations survived together when 75 percent of the Dutch Jews were murdered is unbelievable, and yet, it happened.
Stephen Smith, the Director of the Shoah Foundation, writes that “Tutti’s Promise is an engrossing story of hope, family, survival, and identity… inspiring the engaged reader to seek answers through a palpable emotional connection to the past.”