Lithuanian Holocaust Heritage: We Are Here by Ellen Cassedy (Audio) @ellencassedy

cover imageLet me start with an apology to author Ellen Cassedy for taking so long to review the Audible audiobook edition of her memoir We Are Here: Memories of the Lithuanian Holocaust (published in print by the University of Nebraska Press) which she sent me many months ago.

We Are Here is a beautifully written memoir about learning to speak and write Yiddish as an adult.  Signing up for an intensive summer Yiddish language course and traveling to Lithuania to explore her Lithuanian Jewish roots leads the author into a deeper understanding of the history of the Holocaust in Lithuania under the Nazi regime, when over 200,000 Jewish citizens of Lithuania (94% of the Jewish population of the country) were killed. The Soviet occupation of the country after World War II led to more mass deportation and murder of Lithuanian citizens. This “second genocide” receives more attention in the history books and museums in Lithuania than the decimation of the Jewish population, suggests the author, perhaps because the Soviets are a simpler villain than the Nazis, who were aided by Lithuanian citizens in the killing of other Lithuanians.

This Audible audiobook is narrated by Suzanne Toren. I highly recommend it! In addition to We Are Here’s being a very well produced audiobook with an excellent narrator, it was great to hear how all of the Yiddish words in the book actually sound.

Here is an excerpt from the beginning of the book. (Read the full excerpt on the author’s Web site.)

A soft summer rain was falling as a white-haired woman made her way to the microphone. “Tayere talmidim!” she began. “Dear students!”  Through the pattering of drops on my umbrella, I leaned forward to catch her words. The old woman’s name was Bluma, a flowery name that matched her flowered dress. She was a member of the all-but-vanished Jewish community in Vilnius, Lithuania, the city once known as the Jerusalem of the North. “How fortunate I am,” she said in a quavering voice. “I have lived long enough to see people coming back to Vilnius to study Yiddish.”
Seventy-five of us – students of all ages from all over the globe huddled on the wooden benches that were clustered together on wet cobblestones. Around us, the damp walls of Vilnius
University rose into the heavens. As the rain continued to fall, I shivered. It was a complicated place, this land of my ancestors
– a place where Jewish culture had once flourished, and a place where Jews had been annihilated on a massive scale.
My reasons for being here were not simple. I had come to learn Yiddish and to connect myself with my roots – the Jewish ones, that is, on my mother’s side. (On my father’s side, my non-Jewish forebears hailed from Ireland, England, and Bavaria – hence my name, Cassedy, and my blue eyes and freckles.) But I had other goals,
too. I wanted to investigate a troubling family story I’d stumbled upon in preparing for my trip. I had agreed to meet a haunted old man in my ancestral town. And I planned to examine how the people of this country – Jews and non-Jews alike – were confronting their past in order to move forward into the future. What had begun as a personal journey had broadened into a larger exploration. Investigating Lithuania’s effort to exhume the past, I hoped, would help me answer some important questions.
Readers of memoirs…especially audiobook listeners, go ahead and add We Are Here to your reading list! If you have an interest in family history, languages, Yiddish, or Eastern Europe, this multi-faceted memoir will be of all the more interest to you, but the author’s compelling personal story of visiting her family’s past is enough on its own to draw you in.
We Are Here (audiobook)
Cassedy, Ellen, author
Toren, Suzanne, narrator
8 hours and 58 minutes
Disclosure: I received this Audible audiobook download free from the author for review.

#Bloggiesta Finish Line Post – Fall 2015

Bloggiesta badgeThanks to everyone who visited, especially those who took the Blogroll Overhaul Mini Challenge (here)!

Here’s my final Bloggiesta update. I didn’t end up having as much time to visit other blogs as I had hoped, so did the bulk of my visiting on Friday and Saturday with almost none on Thursday or Sunday.

Thank you to Suey and everyone who helped out with Bloggiesta organization! I had lots of fun, although not lots of time, this weekend!

*Here’s what the Better Delete Revision Manager has to say about clogging up your blog’s back-end with saved post revisions (Sorry for any visual that comes to mind there!):

Post Revisions are a feature introduced in WordPress 2.6. Whenever you or WordPress saves a post or a page, a revision is automatically created and stored in your WordPress database. Each additional revision will slowly increase the size of your database. If you save a post or page multiple times, your number of revisions will greatly increase overtime. For example, if you have 100 posts and each post has 10 revisions you could be storing up to 1,000 copies of older data!
The Better Delete Revision plugin is your #1 choice to quickly and easily removing revision from your WordPress database. Try it out today to see what a lighter and smaller WordPress database can do for you!



Presto! Pesto! #weekendcooking @BethFishReads

cover image of Best 125 Meatless Mediterranean DishesI mentioned making pesto from the recipe in The Best 125 Meatless Mediterranean Dishes by Susann Geiskopf-Hadler & Mindy Toomay a couple of years ago for Weekend Cooking, but I recently made a batch and remembered to take some photos for this post, because there can never be too many blog posts about pesto.

The recipe from this cookbook is a very basic one that starts with two packed cups of basil, but for some reason, I find the proportions always work exactly right to make my idea of pesto. It’s thick, but not drippy; it spreads easily and mixes evenly into hot or cold foods. It’s bright green (underneath the top layer in the container that always gets discolored even with a thin layer of olive oil on top) and smells divine! Basil, garlic, Parmesan, pine nuts, olive oil…mmmmmmmmm.

(Yes, I have spooned pesto straight from the container into my mouth, as some people like to do with peanut butter or Nutella. But don’t worry, I don’t dip the same spoon back in, just in case you’ve ever come to eat dinner at my house.)

To make pesto, you absolutely must have a big bunch of fresh basil that is still nice and green. (Don’t put it in the fridge! I’ve learned you can just put a big bouquet of it in a vase of water on the counter until you’re ready to use it.)

close up of basil leaves removed from stemsAnother fan of this classic basil pesto recipe at Tales of Twisty Lane blogged about it and included the recipe in a blog post here.

Basically, you grind up the basil leaves in the food processor with garlic, pine nuts, and grated Parmesan, and 1/4 cup of the 1/3-cup of olive oil you’ve measured out and then as the food processor’s still going, pour in the remainder of the oil slowly, the way you do if you’ve ever tried making homemade mayonnaise. It gets emulsified that way, I guess, so the oil doesn’t separate out from the other ingredients. You can keep it in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks or more and it’s still good.

photo of pesto just after it's madeThis pesto was made with basil fresh-picked from the garden the same day. If you don’t think that looks delicious, then I can’t help you! 😉

Pesto was a revelation to me when I tasted it for the first time at a restaurant in the mid-80s, some time after graduating from college. I don’t think I ever had a dish of pasta again that tasted so incredible! So pesto has a special place in my heart, and is going to come back into style again one of these days, I just know it.

Some ways to eat pesto other than on pasta:

  • on corn on the cob instead of butter
  • on roasted or grilled veggies
  • on a cheeseburger
  • on a tomato sandwich
  • on a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich
  • with a spoon (for fanatics only)

Happy Weekend Cooking!

Weekend Cooking badgeLinked to Weekend Cooking, a weekly feature on Beth Fish Reads. Click/tap image for Weekend Cooking posts from other bloggers.

Suggestions from a Massachusetts Librarian


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