JTA calls Paper Love a "Post-survivor" memoir

t “Paper Love” branches out at every turn — enfolding into its net more historical details, more stories, more locations, more human lives that vanished into World War II, never to be heard of again until now.

The book weaves together the historical with the intensely personal, redefining what counts as appropriate archival material and elevating intimate aspects from Valy’s life, and Wildman’s own, to new importance.

In the six years it took to complete “Paper Love,” Wildman, a journalist, gave birth to two daughters. The transition into new motherhood accompanied the one from consumer of Holocaust history to producer of it.

Read more: Voice from beyond the grave heard in new post-survivor memoir | The Times of Israel http://www.timesofisrael.com/voice-from-beyond-the-grave-heard-in-new-post-survivor-memoir/#ixzz3K8vsBDsG 
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Book launch!

So book launch happened this week at the amazing Museum of Jewish Heritage with the 92 ST Y on Wednsday the 29th - and the real first day on shelves - the 30th - was in Maplewood NJ at the Maplewood Public Library. Two great, different crowds.  amazing to see Paper Love finally in hands...

Reviews: Kirkus

A journalist's account of how her attempts to learn about her grandfather's lost "true love" turned into a quest to understand the place of the Holocaust in her life and the lives of other young Jews. Former New Republic staffer Wildman grew up surrounded by stories about her grandfather Karl's charmed existence. He had been one of the lucky Jews able to escape Vienna with both his life and professional credentials intact not long after Hitler annexed Austria in 1938. But when the author found photos of an unknown woman in a family album, her grandmother revealed that Karl had once been profoundly in love with a girl named Valy, whom he'd reluctantly had to leave behind. Many years later, after stumbling across letters that her grandmother had somehow overlooked in her destructive mission to preserve the myth of Karl's "spotless escape," Wildman began to put together the story behind Karl and Valy's relationship. Hungry for details, she traveled to Vienna and, later, Germany and the Czech Republic, where she researched Valy's life and visited the places that bore her imprint. The author concluded that both Karl and his lover had borne burdens of sorrow, guilt and loneliness far greater than anyone had known. At the same time, she also uncovered a worldwide network of people outside her family whose lives had been touched by not only Valy and Karl, but by Nazi terrorism. Wildman realized that history had been served to her, and the members of her generation, in ways that were far too "sanitized" and "clean." This profound book derives its power not so much from the love story at its heart, but from the historical urgency with which Wildman infuses it. The author makes clear that only by engaging with inherited past trauma deeply and fully can individuals and communities begin the long and difficult process of looking for ways to regain wholeness. A poignant and humane memoir.


Reviews: Publishers Weekly

Wildman’s childhood image of the world was built on a family narrative filled with danger, good luck, and success. That story included her escape from Nazi-occupied Vienna and the successful life he created in America. However, a few years after her grandfather’s death, a conversation with her grandmother shattered the “myth of a spotless escape; and, in part, a carefully curated history.” After finding a trove of letters from Valy, her grandfather’s true love,” tucked away in a file drawer, Wildman, a former New York Times reporter, begins a journey, hoping to uncover what became of the young woman whose letters stopped in 19412. “I wanted to use these small clues, these pieces of paper to rescue Valy’s memory—retrace her steps from birth through school through the years she wrote her letters and, perhaps, even find her again.” Wildman reveals the complicated story behind her grandfather’s and Valy’s lives once the war shattered their youthful, innocent world. She visited Trebic, one of the most well-preserved Jewish ghettos in the world, the Czech countryside, Lodnon, Vienna, Berlin, the secretive International Tracing Service archives in the German village of Arolsen, and the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Wildman’s intimate and mesmerizing biography blends her family history into the larger framework of World War II and the Holocaust.

Reviews: Library Journal

The family myth about the author’s grandfather was that he was lucky to have escaped persecution in Europe prior to World War II and that his flight to the United States was part and parcel of a fairly charmed life. Wildman’s discovery of a trove of records and letters in her grandparents’ home led the journalist to some unsettling facts about the actual difficulties her grandfather had experienced throughout the war years and thereafter. The most startling revelation: her grandfather had left behind a young woman, Valy, with whom he had an intense and long-term love affair. Wildman’s efforts to discover the truth about her grandfather’s life and any facts at all about what became of Valy form the backbone of this exemplar of investigative reporting.

VERDICT Wildman’s extensive investigation into her grandfather’s history is well documented and analyzed, but it is her determination to find out what happened to Valy, a woman at the periphery of the family circle, that distinguishes this family history. The author’s gradual realization that others cared about Valy’s fate, too, led her to a larger understanding of the unbearable circumstances and decisions faced by everyone involved, even those lucky enough to establish new lives elsewhere.

Read the Review Here

Traveling for Paper Love

Interested in talking to me in person? I'll set out on the road to talk to your community. I'm interested in telling the story of looking for Valy—to your book club, Jewish Community Center, local indie bookstore, Hadassah chapter, women's group—whatever! email me - swildman [at] gmail - and tell me what type of event you'd like to host. We'll take it from there.