The award-winning New York Times columnist and former foreign correspondent turns a compassionate yet discerning eye on the legacy of his own family—most notably his mother’s—in order to understand more profoundly the nature of modern Jewish experience. Through his emotionally lucid prose, we relive the anomie of European Jews after the Holocaust, following them from Lithuania to South Africa, England, the United States, and Israel.
Cohen illuminates the uneasy resonance of the racism his family witnessed living in apartheid-era South Africa and the ambivalence felt by his Israeli cousin when tasked with policing the occupied West Bank. He explores the pervasive Jewish sense of “otherness” and finds it has been a significant factor in his family’s history of manic depression. This tale of remembrance and repression, suicide and resilience, moral ambivalence and uneasily evolving loyalties (religious, ethnic, national) both tells an unflinching personal story and contributes an important chapter to the ongoing narrative of Jewish life.