Monday, August 29, 2022

Emma Donoghue's Haven, set in early 7th-century Ireland, explores the demands of faith and obedience

Skellig Michael, a steep, rocky island off the southwestern Irish coast, is the setting for this atmospheric work, an imagined story about its early human inhabitants.

In the seventh century, Artt, a scholar-priest guided by a dream, asks two monks to join him on a pilgrimage to an empty isle “less tainted by the world’s breath.” Excited at achieving a greater life purpose, the elderly Cormac, a talented storyteller and mason, agrees to go, as does Trian, a lanky, adventurous younger man.

From the days-long boat journey through their mission to establish an island settlement and worship God appropriately, their work is arduous. Donoghue’s (The Pull of the Stars, 2020) prose glimmers with images of the pristine natural world, including many varieties of sea birds, but as Artt’s sanctimonious piety increasingly challenges common sense, Cormac and Trian wonder if their vows of obedience will doom them.

As always, Donoghue extracts realistic emotions from characters interacting within close quarters and delicately explores the demands of faith. This evocative historical novel also works as a cautionary tale about the dangers of religious control.

I wrote this review for the June 1st issue of BooklistHaven was published by Little, Brown (US) last Tuesday, August 23rd.  Isn't the cover art gorgeous?  I'm a fan of Emma Donoghue's work, and my favorites are Frog Music and The Wonder, the latter of which is soon to be available as a Netflix film starring Florence Pugh

For additional perspectives (which are also positive recommendations), please check out Kristen McDermott's review of Haven for the Historical Novels Review as well as Ron Charles's review for the Washington Post.  I always enjoy seeing other reviewers' takes on novels I've read myself.  Charles's description of Haven as "Room with a view" is an inspired, smart observation that's remarkably accurate!  

Emma Donoghue was also interviewed by Margaret Skea for the Historical Novels Review's August issue, and you can read that piece here.

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Ten more recent and upcoming historical novels set before the 20th century

Here's the second part of my focus on historical novels with pre-20th century settings.  If you missed part 1 or want to get back to it, you can find it here.  The following ten novels all have 2022 publication dates. Some are already out, and others are forthcoming this fall. They're in reverse alphabetical order because Blogger uploaded them that way, and changing them while leaving the images centered proved to be complicated.  Besides, it seemed fair to list authors with surnames toward the end of the alphabet first for a change.  Hope you enjoy browsing through these!

Dark Earth by Rebecca Stott

Rebecca Stott's latest novel Dark Earth, a fantasy-tinged story, focuses on two sisters living in early 6th-century (post-Roman) Britain struggling to survive and escape possible enslavement by a local lord after their father's death. Random House, July 2022.  [see on Goodreads]

Moonlight and the Pearler's Daughter by Lizzie Pook

An Englishwoman who had relocated to Australia in the late 19th century with her family goes in search of her father a decade later, after an accident at sea during which he, the captain of the pearl-diving boat, had mysteriously disappeared. What really happened?  A friend recommended this to me, and I can't wait to read it. Simon & Schuster, June. [see on Goodreads]

The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O'Farrell

In this suspenseful literary novel, Lucrezia de' Medici, 16th-century Duchess of Ferrara and the tragic subject of a haunting poem by Robert Browning centuries later, is aware that the husband she recently married will try to kill her.  What will she do next?  Look out for my review soon.  Knopf, Sept. 2022.  [see on Goodreads]

Ithaca by Claire North

Tapping into the current reading craze featuring women from classical mythology, North homes in on Penelope and other women left behind in Ithaca after King Odysseus sailed away to the Trojan War.  First in a series.  Redhook, Sept. 2022. [see on Goodreads]

Bronze Drum by Phong Nguyen

Phong Nguyen, in Bronze Drum, presents the story of the legendary Trưng sisters, daughters of a Vietnamese lord, who rose up against the oppressive Han Chinese rulers of the land in the first century CE.  I'm reading this one now (review up soon).  Grand Central, Aug. 2022. [see on Goodreads]

Benevolence by Julie Janson

An Australian Aboriginal author from the Darug nation tells a story of her own people from the early 19th century: a tale of first contact with British settlers, colonialism, and endurance as seen from the viewpoint of a girl, Muraging, just ten years old as the novel begins. HarperVia, Aug. 2022. [see on Goodreads]

We Should Not Be Afraid of the Sky by Emma Hooper

The story of five young women who push back against the restrictions of era: Portugal during the time of the Roman Empire. From the epigraphs in the beginning, it looks to dramatize the lives of early Christian saints. Penguin Canada, Aug. 2022. [see on Goodreads]

The Fire and the Ore by Olivia Hawker

Hawker (who has also written as Libbie Hawker and Libbie Grant) has turned to writing historical fiction about her pioneer ancestors. The Fire and the Ore takes place in mid-19th century Utah Territory and follows three women - each with her own individual story - who become sister-wives to the same Mormon settler. Lake Union, Oct. 2022. [see on Goodreads]

The House with the Golden Door by Elodie Harper

The first book in Elodie Harper's trilogy about the enslaved women in a Pompeii brothel in the first century, The Wolf Den, was a terrific read, so I'm looking forward to this sequel, which follows her heroine Amara as she navigates her way in her new life. The UK edition was published in May. Union Square, Sept. 2022. [see on Goodreads]

The Thread Collectors by Shaunna J. Edwards and Alyson Richman

A growing number of historical novels are co-written by two or more authors. A multilayered story about love and liberty, The Thread Collectors, set in New York and New Orleans during the US Civil War, focuses on two women (one Black, one Jewish) as their paths intertwine. Graydon House, Aug. 2022 [see on Goodreads].

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Beginning Research for Historical Fiction, an essay by Adele Holmes, author of Winter's Reckoning

Please help me welcome debut novelist Adele Holmes, who has a guest post about the steps she took in getting started with research for Winter's Reckoning (She Writes Press, Aug. 9).  There are many good tips and recommended sites included here!


Beginning Research for Historical Fiction
Adele Holmes, M.D.

There is so much to consider when writing historical fiction. Where is one to begin with the research? In this post, I will share how I gleaned historical information for my debut novel, Winter’s Reckoning, set in the Southern Appalachians in 1917.

The key takeaway from the first paragraph might be the word “debut.” I’d never written a novel before, so I’d never had to figure how to gather the historical facts. Like most of us, I turned to reading a textbook about it and also taking an online course. The course was through Writers Digest University, and the instructor was Donna Russo Morin. The textbook, recommended by Ms. Morin, was How to Write and Sell Historical Fiction, by Persia Woolley. These were valuable in my process, and I strongly recommend this as a minimum base for other newbies in the field.

The next step I took was to prepare a skeleton outline of the historical information I would need. My novel was set in the rural Appalachians, but it also referred to Boston quite a bit. These are both places I’d visited frequently, so I knew what they were like now—but what about in 1917? I did elaborate web searches on roads, railroads, housing, schools, etc. There’s so much information here that it is not able to be covered adequately in a short writing, but the reader will be familiar with the rabbit holes internet searches can take them into. Remember to leave a trail of breadcrumbs and also use only trusted, well-vetted sites.

After much consideration of my skeletal outline, these were the areas I decided I needed to look into, in no specific order:

1) Utilities. Turns out that electricity was in fact in place in Boston, but not in the rural South. After scrolling through several sites, I decided that this one was best for all things electrical I’ve bookmarked it for future use. And so my stockpile of reliable information was begun. Likewise, for most of my scenes, plumbing was unheard of—though in the cities it was commonplace.

2) Clothing. This is a very easy on-line find, and searching old catalog pictures can get the creative juices flowing. In fact, perusing old photos of-the-time caused me to turn one of my characters into a classic Gibson girl. It will be up to the author to make sure the trend is appropriate for the setting, i.e., country mouse vs city slicker.

3) Literature. As novels are frequently referenced in Winter’s Reckoning, I turned to an old favorite of mine, Here I was able to see the covers of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and the very first set of World Books. I even found a copy of the page on Pasteur that I needed to tell about in the story, and used the page number in dialogue in the novel. That’s pretty authentic!

4) Medicine. Being a physician, I was well linked-in to research sites for medicine, including medicine from that era. But I had to refresh myself on things such as when antibiotics were first used, etc. A quick google search of trusted medical sites gave straightforward answers. But finding the herbal substitute for medical treatment was a whole different ballgame. I spent days and weeks reading modern and old books on herbalism, and purchased a book that was very useful to show what plants grow in what areas of the US.

5) Legal issues/amendments to the constitution/laws. led me to all the information I needed. I read, printed, reviewed several articles regarding not only the passage of the pertinent amendments to my novel (13th, 15th, 19th), but also the Jim Crow Laws.

6) Transportation. I like to visit the Smithsonian Museums in D.C. whenever possible. Their historical information for the US is phenomenal, and you get to see so much, making your prose so much more genuine. Most of my transportation research for this novel was gathered at a visit to the National Museum of American History. When a visit is not possible, there is a ton of information shared online through their links at Often world information outside of the US is also available. For example there is currently a Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room Exhibit that is completely viewable online.

The above list is the overarching information I needed to gather to begin to write my historical novel—yours will be quite different, depending on the setting of your book. I give this as an example only. The point is that I felt I must find out a lot about a few things, then I could fill in the remainder of the research needed as I came across it. For instance, I didn’t even know I was going to have a newspaper as a focus of my book. When one jumped right onto the page, I took a couple of days off to learn about newspaper history, linotype machines, etc. You’ll find areas to stop and research, too.

But don’t get lost in the rabbit holes! And remember: leave a trail of breadcrumbs and visit only trusted, well-vetted sites. After your first novel, you’ll have your own collection to go back to.

About the novel:

In the 1917 Southern Appalachians, Maddie’s herbal healing is welcome, though people disagree with her belief in equal rights for all. Then a new preacher arrives, igniting racial tensions and accusing her of witchcraft. Threatened and knowing others are at risk, Maddie hesitates. What does she risk in taking a stand? What does she risk if she doesn’t? 

About the author:

Adele Holmes author photo
Adele Holmes, M.D.
(credit: Lori Sparkman Photography)
Adele Holmes graduated from medical school in 1993. After twenty-plus years in private practice pediatrics, her unquenchable desire to wander the world, write, and give back to the community led her to retire from medicine. Her fun-loving family includes a rollicking crew of her husband Chris, two adult children and their spouses, five grandchildren of diverse ages and talents, a horse, and a Bernedoodle. Winter’s Reckoning, Adele’s debut novel, won Honorable Mention in the 2021 William Faulkner Literary Competition. She is currently at work on her second novel in her resident town of Little Rock, Arkansas.

Find her online at the following:
Instagram: Adele Holmes, MD 

Sunday, August 21, 2022

French Braid by Anne Tyler evokes the ties and idiosyncrasies in a 20th-century Baltimore family

Anne Tyler knows families: the ebb and flow of relationships across decades, the strengths and foibles of individual members, and the ties connecting them even if they don’t particularly like each other. The chance meeting of two cousins in the Philadelphia train station in 2010 invigorates this smoothly paced, emotionally piercing saga of a Baltimore family over three generations. “Even when the Garretts did get together, it never seemed to take, so to speak,” reflects one granddaughter early on, wondering “what makes a family not work.”

The year 1959 marks the first group vacation for parents Robin and Mercy Garrett and their three children, who spend a week together at a cabin on Deep Creek Lake. Reliable Alice, just seventeen, isn’t thrilled about the trip. Lily, two years younger, has a summer romance with a college guy, which her parents are surprisingly blasé about; and David is a sharp-eyed seven-year-old. Mercy’s attitude toward her children and husband is one of distant fondness. After her children grow up and pursue their own lives, she relocates full-time into her art studio, acknowledging only to herself (not to her adoring husband) that the move isn’t temporary.

The Garretts’ actions range from quirkily amusing (Alice’s talent for cooking meals out of random odds and ends) to scandalous to sad and upsetting. Mercy is ironically named, since readers—animal lovers especially—may feel that she deserves very little of it, given her self-centeredness. It’s also fair to recognize that she fulfills the era’s expectations of marriage and motherhood despite being cut out for neither role.

In her wryly observant way, Tyler grants Greta, the older, foreign-born divorcee David marries, to his family’s befuddlement, the wisdom to see her in-laws’ hopes and fears more clearly than anyone. This story shines with grace and compassion as it reflects oft-unspoken truths about human nature.

French Braid was published by Knopf in May, and I reviewed it for August's Historical Novels Review. In the UK, it's published by Chatto & Windus. Most of Anne Tyler's novels are contemporary literary fiction, but some others have historical elements, like The Amateur Marriage (which starts during WWII) and A Spool of Blue Thread (1920s-present).

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Ten recent and upcoming historical novels set before the 20th century

While the 20th century gets the most attention in historical fiction circles lately, and has for a while, many avid readers of the genre remain hungry for earlier settings. The following ten titles take place much further back in the past.  This is the first of two posts.  The books are in alphabetical order by author surname.

Hester by Laurie Lico Albanese

What, or who, inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne to create his iconic character, Hester Prynne, the protagonist of The Scarlet Letter?  In Albanese's imagined tale, a Scottish immigrant seamstress forms an indelible emotional bond with the young writer in a place haunted by the legacy of slavery and the Salem witch trials. St. Martin's, October 2022. [see on Goodreads]

Prize for the Fire by Rilla Askew

This biographical novel by critically acclaimed author Rilla Askew takes as its focus Anne Askew, a woman who defies political and religious convention in Henry VIII's England and pays a terrible price. Univ. of Oklahoma Press, Oct. 2022. [see on Goodreads]

An Indiscreet Princess by Georgie Blalock

The "indiscreet princess" of the title is Louise, fourth daughter of Queen Victoria, trapped between royal duty and her desire to create art... and live life (and find love) on her own terms.  William Morrow, Sept. 2022. (Louise lived well into the 20th century, though her story begins in the mid-19th century.)  [see on Goodreads]

Set in Stone by Stela Brinzeanu

For readers enamored by unique historical fiction locales, how about medieval Moldova? Brinzeanu's latest novel reveals the love story between two women and the difficult challenges they face; it's based on local folklore. Legend Press, Aug. 2022.  [see on Goodreads]

The Hemlock Cure by Joanne Burn

You may recognize the name of Eyam, the Derbyshire village which self-contained against the plague in the mid-17th century, from Geraldine Brooks'  Year of Wonders. For her second novel, Joanne Burn incorporates the same dark setting, but shifting her lens to Eyam's women and the secrets they hold. Pegasus Crime, June 2022.  [see on Goodreads]

The House of Fortune by Jessie Burton

Burton's sequel to her bestselling The Miniaturist, set in the early 18th century, can also be read on its own; it follows the members of a Dutch family, especially a mixed-race young woman and her aunt-by-marriage, in their search for love, belonging, and money to keep themselves afloat. Bloomsbury USA, July 2022. [see on Goodreads | read my review]

Joan by Katherine J. Chen

Joan of Arc is hardly new as a historical fiction subject, but Chen, in her new novel, aims for a different, secular view of the young woman who became a renowned military leader and saint. Hilary Mantel blurbed the book. Random House, July 2022.  [see on Goodreads]

The Color Storm by Damian Dibben

Renaissance-era Venice takes the stage in Dibben's tale of artistic rivalry, marital drama, and a transformative new color.  If you're in the UK, the title is The Colour Storm.  Hanover Square, Sept. 2022. [see on Goodreads]

The Last Queen by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Divakaruni travels to 19th-century India in her fictional portrait of Maharani Jindan Kaur, who rose to become regent of the Sikh Empire -- and who put up a strong resistance to the British. William Morrow, July 2022. [see on Goodreads]

The Portraitist by Susanne Dunlap

Historical novelist Dunlap, who has written many other well-received novels about women and the arts, pens a new work of fiction about Adélaïde Labille-Guiard and her determination to forge a career in 18th-century Paris, amid fierce competition and the coming of the French Revolution.  She Writes, Aug. 2022. [see on Goodreads]

Saturday, August 13, 2022

The Librarian Spy depicts two brave women finding their purpose during WWII

Like her first mainstream historical novel, Madeline Martin’s The Librarian Spy (a title designed to catch attention) is set during WWII. While continuing with her theme of the power of the written word, she moves her locale from London to Lisbon and Lyon, France, in her portrait of two women battling Nazi oppression, as well as the invisible thread that connects them.

In 1943, Ava Harper, though content in her plum job as a rare book librarian at the Library of Congress, finds herself recruited into a higher purpose due to her work ethic and facility with languages. In Lisbon, in neutral Portugal, she becomes responsible for acquiring and microfilming international news sources for shipment back home. As a librarian, it was cool to read a novel in which microfilm (which is becoming an outdated technology) was in such high demand!

While eager to help the Allies, Ava’s used to a more sedate lifestyle and is somewhat unworldly. She gets nervous when her neighbor is arrested and dragged away in the middle of the night; did a careless statement of hers get him in trouble?

One day, while browsing one of the papers she obtains, Ava notices an apparent encoded message that turns out to be a cry for assistance, though few details are given. This note forms the link between Ava and Elaine Rousseau – not her birth name – a Frenchwoman living under the Vichy regime in Lyon who joins the resistance. Through Elaine’s story, which is the more suspenseful of the two, readers view the courage and altruism that drives Elaine and her fellow resistance members to risk their lives. Secrets are prevalent, even amongst couples and families, and the deep love between Elaine and her husband Joseph, who has gone missing, is sensitively revealed.

There are many new novels focusing on resistance activities during WWII, and on this topic, The Librarian Spy didn’t stand out from the pack for me. That said, I appreciated the angle on covert publishing and information transmission during the war and the focus on day-to-day life in the less familiar setting of wartime Lisbon.

I read this from a NetGalley copy. The Librarian Spy was published last month by Hanover Square/HarperCollins.

Monday, August 08, 2022

Review of Trust by Hernan Diaz, an intricate literary puzzle-box set in early 20th-century New York

Pulitzer finalist Diaz’s brilliantly layered epic unfolds through a quartet of accounts, each of which adds new meaning to the ones that have gone before—much in the vein of Iain Pears’ An Instance of the Fingerpost, but set in the world of early 20th-century corporate finance. The authors of the four tales are given up front, but the less said about how they relate to one another, the better. Readers will derive the greatest pleasure if they uncover the revelations themselves.

First is a short novel called Bonds by Harold Vanner, a pointed morality tale about New York stock market whiz Benjamin Rask, who accumulates great wealth while remaining isolated from its impact on others. Rask’s marriage to wife Helen, an intellectual from an old Albany family, is an agreeable if emotionally distant union, and they both like it that way. In a style reminiscent of Edith Wharton, Vanner draws readers into Rask’s money-making ventures and the scandal that befell the couple after the 1929 crash.

Next comes the incomplete autobiography of financier Andrew Bevel, who puts pen to paper—with eye-opening pomposity—to counter rumors about his investments and to honor his late wife, Mildred. Paired with Vanner’s novel, Bevel appears to cover similar ground, which may cause some confusion—but keep reading.

Up third, the memoir of Ida Partenza, an Italian anarchist’s daughter, is hugely satisfying as it brings the first two accounts into focus while leaving some mysteries for the last section to reveal (which it definitely does). Each part feels smoothly calibrated to its author’s personality and historical setting as the story continues to provoke questions about which person’s truth can be relied upon. Not only a powerful commentary on the effects of unfettered capitalism, Trust also exposes the complex art of mythmaking engineered by the rich and powerful, and those erased in the process.

Trust was published by Riverhead in the US in May; the UK publisher is Picador. I read it from a NetGalley copy for August's Historical Novels Review.  I'll just add that corporate finance hasn't ever been a particular fascination of mine, but the story was riveting.  I've seen numerous spoilers in other reviews, so be aware!

Thursday, August 04, 2022

Reading the Past in a Single Document, an essay by Judith Berlowitz, author of Home So Far Away

Historical documents may be inanimate objects, yet they can still speak to us, revealing vital information to novelists writing about their subjects decades later. In the following essay, author Judith Berlowitz (Home So Far Away) explores how she gleaned details about the life of her protagonist, Clara Philipsborn, through a single document from a Spanish archive.


Reading the Past in a Single Document
Judith Berlowitz

By the time I retired – as a PhD teaching Spanish language and world cultures – I welcomed the opportunity to concentrate on other interests. Search for my ancestral origins had widened, and tools learned in academic research had led to some dizzying discoveries. At the same time, I was noticing that the standard canon of utilizing sources was also widening, shifting, fluid.

Searching the Internet for my Philipsborn relatives, I came upon an article that mentioned Clara Philipsborn, an anti-fascist volunteer translator in the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). I completed the Philipsborn project, keeping in mind the compelling need to find Clara. I soon contacted people via Facebook who followed various aspects of the Spanish Civil War and was introduced to the concept of Historical Memory, a movement that arose in reaction to the Pacto del Olvido – the Pact to Forget – imposed on the people of Spain at the death of the dictator Franco in 1975.

Clara, 1910 Wildbad
(credit: Gene Dannen,
originally posted
on his website 
These friends assisted me in locating documents about Clara in Soviet archives, which were conflicting, as were stories from other relatives I was able to reach. There were grave accusations against which she could not defend herself. I had to give her a voice that would break through the Pacto del Olvido. I would write her diary, as an homage to historical memory. The result is my first novel, Home So Far Away, published by She Writes Press, June 2022.

An institution in Spain called the Centro Documental de la Memoria Histórica found and sent me a precious document, Clara’s identity card from the Fifth Regiment of Popular Militias. Each of the static images on the document served as doors that opened to yet more sources, more material for Clara’s story:

• Clara’s typed name – her surname in all caps, is spelled correctly, in contrast to many other documents about her. This fact adds credibility to the source.
• The number at the top shows me that there were 6835 volunteers to the Fifth Regiment who applied ahead of Clara.
• Clara’s photograph reveals her attention to her appearance. The pressed hair, the tweezed eyebrows: a major departure from the wild look shown in photos from her youth. Clara’s hair plays a significant role in my novel as it connects her to her Jewish identity.
• Clara’s address as typed detracts from the credibility. There is no “Dionisio Cortes” Street in Madrid. But a search revealed the correct name, “Donoso Cortés,” and I was able to visit the location at number eight.
• Clara’s marital status is listed as single. Correct.
• But her age? She was born in Kiel in 1890, according to all German records. Other records from Spain show wildly varying dates, definitely material for my novel!
• Clara’s profession is first typed (with carbon paper) as a registered nurse, with the later addition – entered twice – of her title or degree of practicante, practitioner or PA, rare for women of this time and representing more prestige and more advanced duties.
• The space for the organization Clara belonged to is left blank and replaced by the inserted fragment of the colored stamp of the elite Fifth Regiment. This item opened up hours of research on this renowned unit.
• The date of Clara’s enrollment in the Regiment is added: just three days after the uprising against the elected government of the Spanish Republic. Essential proof of Clara’s eagerness to dedicate her skills to defend her new homeland. And the August date marks the beginning of Clara’s duties.
• Clara’s assignment to La Cabrera opened up research on a tiny town in Madrid’s Sierra Norte. The wartime field hospital was created in a monastery taken over by the Loyalists. Contact with the local high school history teacher informed me that the famed Rosario “la Dinamitera” had been treated there, leading to my placing her under Clara’s care during the necessary amputation. And a Facebook friend provided me with a copy of the surgeon’s report, providing me with that important name and with Rosario’s political affiliation.
• Clara’s clear signature completes the card, as if authorizing me to venture through all the doors it has opened.


About the novel:

A fictional diary set in interwar Germany and Spain allows us to peek into the life of Klara Philipsborn, the only Communist in her merchant-class, German-Jewish family.

Klara’s first visit to Seville in 1925 opens her eyes and her spirit to an era in which Spain’s major religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, shared deep cultural connections. At the same time, she is made aware of the harsh injustices that persist in Spanish society. By 1930, she has landed a position with the medical school in Madrid. Though she feels compelled to hide her Jewish identity in her predominantly Christian new home, she finds that she feels less “different” in Spain than she did in Germany, especially as she learns new ways of expressing her opinions and desires. And when the Spanish Civil War erupts in 1936, Klara (now “Clara”) enlists in the Fifth Regiment, a step that transports her across the geography of the embattled peninsula and ultimately endangers a promising relationship and even Clara’s life itself.

A blending of thoroughly researched history and engrossing fiction, Home So Far Away is an epic tale that will sweep readers away.

About the author:

Author Judith Berlowitz at Clara's Madrid home. 
Photo by Armando Mauleón, 2018, with his permission.
Los Angeles–born author Judith Berlowitz had just retired from her Spanish-teaching position at Oakland’s Mills College when her genealogical research uncovered a Gestapo record mentioning a relative, Clara Philipsborn, who was the only woman anti-fascist volunteer in the Spanish Civil War from the German state of Schleswig-Holstein. The few details of the report led to more research, which led to Home So Far Away. In addition to her career teaching Spanish and world cultures, and a stint as a tour guide, Judith is a card-carrying translator and has published in the field of ethnomusicology (Sephardic balladry) and Jewish identity. She sang for years with the Oakland Symphony Chorus and is now a member of the San Francisco Bach Choir. She lives in San Francisco with her husband, not far from her three daughters and three grandsons.