Loyal blog readers will remember Hanna Bratman, the matriarch of the memoir-writing class I teach for Chicago senior citizens every Wednesday. Hanna grew up in Germany. Her family was Jewish, and Hanna escaped on her own before World War II. She was only 19 years old when she arrived, alone, in the United States. Others in her family didn’t make it out in time.
Francine Rich from Blue Marlin Publications read an excerpt of one of Hanna’s essays posted here on my blog and was so moved by it that she volunteered to edit and compile Hanna’s collection of essays into a readable format. When she finished, she decided to go ahead and publish them into a book for Hanna. Francine’s husband Jude got involved, going online to find images and photographs from the time periods Hanna wrote about. Their son Dominick designed the cover.
Francine titled the collection”What’s In My Head” after something Hanna’s mother had said when tensions started building in the early 1930s. “Hitler won’t last,” Hanna’s mother told her daughter back then, reassuring her that things would change soon. “You know, they can take everything away from you, except of what’s in your head.”
Hanna’s family surprised her with the book last weekend when they were all here in Chicago for Yom Kippur. The best way to describe Hanna’s reaction is to excerpt a note she sent afterwards:
When my daughter Rudy announced on Saturday night after the Holy day dinner that she had an announcement to make, she made sure that I was listening. I expected her to probably announce that my Great Grandson Eli at 4 months was now able to sit in his high chair or slept through the night. The whole family and friends had assembled around the dining room table, standing room only. Rudy was next to me and reached into the bag that was hanging on the back of the chair. “Mom, You are the author of this book.” Applause. I am looking at the book, not quite comprehending what I am looking at. The first thing I recognized was the picture of the Synagogue in Mannheim, I still don’t realize, that this is the book of my stories. I am totally speechless, I am dreaming this, it cannot be true.
Hanna said she had come to the dinner with her daughter’s family and had quite a bundle to carry when it came time for her son’s family to drive her home.
I am not only carrying some delicious leftovers but also 10 copies of my very own book. I hardly slept that night thinking of all the many people that have helped me to make this dream a very sudden reality, and all the friends and few relatives who would want to have a copy sooner rather than later. Given my age and energy level nobody ever expected that this book ever will become a reality. I, Hanna L. Bratman has reinvented herself as the author of her memoires, of a beautiful book. Francine I am adjusting to this. The word THANK YOU does not adequately describe how I feel.
I fully well appreciate the many hours you have spend with me, a total stranger, the sacrifices of your family and to see the whole thing through including the publishing and printing.
THANK YOU ALL.
Francine had dozens of copies made for Hanna. “I don’t want her reimbursing me,” Francine told me. “The book is being presented to her as a gift and should be “regifted” to others in the same fashion.”
Author Hanna Bratman will be appearing on Rick Kogan’s “Sunday Papers” radio show on WGN-Am 720 in Chicago this Sunday, October 16 at 7:00 a.m. to talk about her book and how it got published. If you’re awake that early on a Sunday morning, listen in!