Painted in Words: A Memoir


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At times I found myself bursting out laughing This deeply touching work is an important contribution to Holocaust literature and art history. Samuel Bak, born in Vilna in , had the first exhibition of his drawings at the age of nine in the Vilna ghetto. Escaping after its destruction, he emigrated to Israel, where he studied at the Bezalel Art School in Jerusalem.

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In an artistic career of over forty years he has had numerous exhibitions in museums and galleries throughout Israel, Europe, and the United States. See All Customer Reviews. Shop Books. Read an excerpt of this book!


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Add to Wishlist. USD Overview At my first sight of a painting by Samuel Bak, I had the keen sense that he was telling me stories with his brush. About the Author Samuel Bak, born in Vilna in , had the first exhibition of his drawings at the age of nine in the Vilna ghetto. You could get caught up in the ruin or you could escape it. My mother bought into none of this.

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She was a straight-down-the-line realist, controlling what she could. At Bryn Mawr, she became one of the most active members of the PTA, helping raise funds for new classroom equipment, throwing appreciation dinners for the teachers, and lobbying for the creation of a special multigrade classroom that catered to higher-performing students. This last effort was the brainchild of Dr. But it was also gaining steam as a movement around the country, and for my last three years at Bryn Mawr I was a beneficiary. I joined a group of about twenty students from different grades, set off in a self-contained classroom apart from the rest of the school with our own recess, lunch, music, and gym schedules.

We were given special opportunities, including weekly trips to a community college to attend an advanced writing workshop or dissect a rat in the biology lab. Back in the classroom, we did a lot of independent work, setting our own goals and moving at whatever speed best suited us. We were given dedicated teachers, first Mr.

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Martinez and then Mr. Bennett, both gentle and good-humored African American men, both keenly focused on what their students had to say. There was a clear sense that the school had invested in us, which I think made us all try harder and feel better about ourselves. The independent learning setup only served to fuel my competitive streak. I tore through the lessons, quietly keeping tabs on where I stood among my peers as we charted our progress from long division to pre-algebra, from writing single paragraphs to turning in full research papers. For me, it was like a game.

And as with any game, like most any kid, I was happiest when I was ahead. I told my mother everything that happened at school. I knew that when my class was going on an excursion, my mother would almost always volunteer to chaperone, arriving in a nice dress and dark lipstick to ride the bus with us to the community college or the zoo.

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My mom found ways to compensate. She did her own nails, dyed her own hair one time accidentally turning it green , and got new clothes only when my dad bought them for her as a birthday gift. When we were young, she magically turned old socks into puppets that looked exactly like the Muppets.

She crocheted doilies to cover our tabletops. She sewed a lot of my clothes, at least until middle school, when suddenly it meant everything to have a Gloria Vanderbilt swan label on the front pocket of your jeans, and I insisted she stop.


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When the weather turned warm, she did a ritualistic spring cleaning, attacking on all fronts—vacuuming furniture, laundering curtains, and removing every storm window so she could Windex the glass and wipe down the sills before replacing them with screens to allow the spring air into our tiny, stuffy apartment. At Christmastime, she got especially creative. Happy MothersDay to my mom.

I strive to be the kind of mother to my girls that you have always been to me. My mother maintained the sort of parental mind-set that I now recognize as brilliant and nearly impossible to emulate—a kind of unflappable Zen neutrality. I had friends whose mothers rode their highs and lows as if they were their own, and I knew plenty of other kids whose parents were too overwhelmed by their own challenges to be much of a presence at all.

My mom was simply even-keeled.

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Instead, she monitored our moods and bore benevolent witness to whatever travails or triumphs a day might bring. When things were bad, she gave us only a small amount of pity. Advice, when she offered it, tended to be of the hard-boiled and pragmatic variety. Focus on that and ignore the rest. She loved us consistently, Craig and me, but we were not overmanaged. Her goal was to push us out into the world. My brother had privately agonized over whether to go or not—titillated by the opportunity but knowing it was sneaky and dishonorable, the sort of behavior my parents would never condone.

Happy Birthday Mom!

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Your unconditional love has made me who I am today. You are my rock. I'll always be your Miche. I love you.

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Painted in Words: A Memoir Painted in Words: A Memoir
Painted in Words: A Memoir Painted in Words: A Memoir
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