Cutting Across Lines: Teaching Holocaust Literature in Arkansas

My personal essay on teaching Holocaust literature in the South has appeared in the Fall 2021 issue of The Oxford American.

Regular readers of this blog know how much I love Ruth Kluger’s memoir Still Alive: A Holocaust Girlhood Remembered. In the essay, I begin by describing how differently Kluger’s shocked response to segregation in 1950s Texas registered for me once I started teaching her work in a classroom filled with students from Texas and across the South.

Vienna, 1938

“Cutting across Lines,” as the essay is titled, is about belonging. I consider three times and places that have shaped me–the Canada of my childhood, the Eastern and Central Europe before, during, and immediately after the Holocaust, and the South today. I reflect on how each of these worlds shapes my understanding of the others. I worked hard on the essay, helped by stellar editing from the folks at the OA and my wife, who helped me see what the essay was really about.

You can read it here, but I encourage you to subscribe to support this valuable magazine.

Gordon Parks’ “Department Store, Mobile, Alabama” (1956). Credit for all images must say: Photograph by Gordon Parks, Copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation, Courtesy Jenkins Johnson Gallery.

One thought on “Cutting Across Lines: Teaching Holocaust Literature in Arkansas

  1. It’s a wonderful essay. I loved how you intertwined Holocaust writings/experience with our Canadian tragedy and the American South. (Smug no more should be our new motto, or humbled).

    But my favourite bit, for obvious reasons, is: “Teachers, good ones anyway, the ones you learn from in ways that stick, love the objects of their study. We are not, however, encouraged to talk about that love, neither to our students nor to ourselves. Instead we cloak love in disinterestedness, rigor, and the production of knowledge.” I love every bit of what I teach.

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