Friday, March 06, 2015
Women's History Month 2015: On the Bookshelf - Paper Love
I love this book so much that it was soaking wet when delivered to me from an online retailer. Because I didn't want to wait to receive a new one, I used my hair dryer to dry the book out. It was worth it.*
I guess the reason that I love Paper Love by Sarah Wildman is that it starts off with her finding photographs and letters to her grandfather from an unknown woman. A woman she later finds out was her grandfather's lover in pre-World War II Vienna. She is told that this woman, Valerie Scheftel, was her grandfather's "true love." While Sarah's grandfather escaped to the United States she wonders what happened to Valerie Scheftel.
Sarah's website provides this teaser:
She was your grandfather’s true love, was the only answer given when Sarah Wildman presented her grandmother with a dozen photographs of a dark-haired, smiling young woman she had stumbled upon in her grandfather’s old office. “True love”? It was stated as fact, and with no further information. Who was this woman? And what was her relationship to her grandfather? When pressed, her grandfather’s sister offered a bit more: “She was brilliant! And so in love with your grandfather.” It was tantalizing, but agonizingly open-ended.
I LOVE the research in this book. I guess one of the reasons that I love this book is it reminds me of my own passion when it comes to research. Her passion for telling Valerie's story is infectious. Some might say, "who cares about some girlfriend of your grandfather's?" But Sarah makes it her goal to find out what happened. That research includes all types of repositories in various countries. And what seems impossible is eventually answered. (But of course the researcher in me wants to know even more.) Sarah Wildman is a journalist and I've noticed in other similar books by journalists (Annie's Ghosts by Steve Luxenberg) they have lessons to teach us genealogists about finding information.
So why is this a Women's History Month resource? Read this book for methodology. Read it to see how you research in cases where there are missing records. Yes, this is a great example of Jewish genealogy but it's a fabulous example of trying to recover the story of a woman for whom few records exist. I love this book because it takes a clue and develops a story that would otherwise be lost to time.
Follow the author, Sarah Wildman on her website and via Twitter (@SarahAWildman ).
*Yes, the story of how I received a book delivered during the pouring rain has nothing to do with this blog post but it illustrates how great this book is. And yes, I still have my water damaged copy. If I had a nearby independent bookstore I would have gone that route and would have a non-damaged copy.