Elizabeth Rosner on her story & new book: Survivor Cafe
In her profound and poetically written non-fiction book Survivor Cafe, Elizabeth Rosner explores intergenerational atrocity, trauma and memory, linking both the personal experience and the collective responsibility. In this conversation she reveals how directly and indirectly her parent’s (Holocaust survivors) trauma shaped the human being she became; physically, emotionally and psychologically; how she came to understand that she always did and always will carry the aftermath of their trauma within her; that it wasn’t as simple as her often given explanation when she was a child of being “too sensitive.” She asks “How does atrocity defy memory and simultaneously demand to be remembered?” She explores how sense memory is carried forward - especially in where and how we feel safe - pointing out places, among trees in a woods for instance, where some feel safe and at peace while others feel afraid and unsafe. Her book is ultimately a call to action, weaving atrocities from the enslavement of Africans, to the genocide of Native Americans, from the Holocaust, to the dropping of the atom bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. She is asking us “to step up and be responsible, to actively own up to the darkness of the past and say we are committed to do this differently now” - in the hopes that our capacity for empathy will grow from acknowledging, remembering and connecting with others as we circumnavigate this sea of suffering.
Meet This Episode's Guest
Elizabeth Rosner is the author of three novels and a poetry collection. The Speed of Light was translated into nine languages and won several awards in the US and in Europe, including being shortlisted for the prestigious Prix Femina. Blue Nude was named among the best books of 2006 by the San Francisco Chronicle. Electric City was named among the best books of 2014 by NPR. Her essays and reviews have appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Elle, the San Francisco Chronicle, and others. She lives in Berkeley.
Learn more at elizabethrosner.com.
Buy Survivor Cafe: The Legacy of Trauma and the Labryrinth of Memory here.