The Year of Goodbyes


    🕮    I still have a number of interviews from Book Expo America 2010 in the queue, but I decided to post the interview with Debbie Levy today because it is her birthday! Thanks to Facebook for letting me know. Happy Birthday, Debbie!

I met Debbie Levy and her mother Jutta at Book Expo America 2010, where we sat down in the cafe for an interview. Debbie is the author and Jutta is the subject of The Year of Goodbyes: A True Story of Friendship, Family and Farewells, based on Jutta's poesiealbum from the 1940's. A poesiealbum is a poetry album or autograph album, in which friends write each other little notes and poems. Debbie was touched by the writings of her mother as a young girl, and her mother's friends. To encourage readers to experience the poesiealbum tradition, she has created a participatory blog where people can submit their own entries to an online poesiealbum at

The Year of Goodbyes was named a 2011 Notable Book of Jewish Content in the Older Readers Category by the Sydney Taylor Book Award committee of the Association of Jewish Libraries.


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Susan Meyer said…
Thank you for this lovely interview with Debbie Levy and her mother Jutta. I was particularly interested when Debbie commented that people ask, "Why didn't the Jews leave Germany?" as if anyone could have foreseen what was coming, but also, Debbie says, as if their lives there were "inconsequential." That point really resonated with me. Of course their lives were as deeply important and beautiful and meaningful and rooted in place as anyone's now--and in fact, no doubt much more rooted in place and culture than we younger people can really understand. I was very moved by this observation.

I've actually just finished reading a novel by Sydney Taylor (thank you, Sydney Taylor!) that I never came across as a child called A Papa Like Everyone Else. It is an account of Jewish farming life in Czech Hungary in the early 20th century told from the point of view of a little girl. It is very like The Little House on the Prairie in its loving observation and recording of details of rural daily life. At the end the two girls and their mother join their father in the US, very much against the inclination of the point-of-view character, who loves her little village. It is quite startling to read this book with an adult's knowledge of history, with an adult's knowledge of what is coming for Jews in such little villages. A few tiny details in the novel hint at the tensions between populations in the area, but surely wouldn't convey much to a child. But as an adult, you desperately want this family to get out, while also, with the author, lamenting the beauty of the life they are leading there, a way of life that will soon be completely destroyed. Anyway, I thought about this novel when I heard Debbie Levy say, about A Year of Goodbyes, that the lives Jews were leading in Europe were hardly inconsequential, were not easy to leave.

Thank you for this terrific interview.
Rayna Eliana said…
What a wonderful interview. Thank you!
Sheryl said…
Great interview Heidi! the book sounds fascinating - I just wish you had read some of the poems.