Woman Discovers Holocaust-Era Paintings With “Chasing Portraits” Book.
Listen to the interview on Capital Public Radio’s website.
Official book reviews that say fabulous things are truly a wonderful gift to an author. But emails from readers are personally profound and meaningful. This one was sent to my Dad from a friend of his.
“Alex – I was able to finish your daughter’s book while visiting family in DC and am pleased to report how much I enjoyed it. Perhaps I enjoyed it so much because I have the pleasure of hearing what you have to say at our Friday lunches and thus being able to mentally match up what Elizabeth has to say about you with what I know of your deep knowledge of all things and your way of speaking. Or it might be that her conversation with Professor Buxbaum brought back to me fond memories of my days in his class and of my research project under his tutelage. That your father lived in one of my favorite locations,the Eureka area, was also surprising to me; who would have thought that a displaced Polish survivor would be earning his livelihood in such a remote location? That our respective daughters attended UCD was a plus, and I could envision where she gave her talk that led her on such an interesting adventure. And from my knowledge of other Polish/Jewish survivors, I could better empathize with her – and your father’s – description of pre-War and WW II Poland. Your father’s efforts to write down his family history is to be commended and emulated by us all. That Elizabeth has had the gumption to flesh out that history and bring together the missing art to the benefit of not simply the Ryneckis but all of us, and the ability to put together a compelling novel as well, is remarkable.
Mazel Tov – B”
Read the interview I did with Laurel Zuckerman on her Paris Writers News blog about Chasing Portraits in which I answer questions like: “Can you talk about the challenges of interviewing your own family – in particular your father – for information?” and “You’ve done an outstanding job articulating not just the beauty and power of your great-grandfather’s art, but also the emotional toll of searching for it. The grief, the obsessive desire to learn more, the doubt. Yet Chasing Portraits feels very even handed and fair. Was the original text like this or did you have to go through many drafts to attain this result?”
This morning I filmed a show on the KPIX set for MOSAIC. MOSAIC interviews explore how Bay Area people’s lives are enriched by diversity of cultural and faith perspectives. The show, “Book Chat,” was hosted by Rabbi Eric Weiss. Guests included myself, Howard Freedman (Director, Jewish Community Library) and Michael David Lukas (Author, The Oracle of Stamboul). The episode will air Sunday October 9th at 5am. The show is divided into four segments. I am in the final two segments. The show is unlikely to be archived online, so if you want to watch it, and don’t plan to be up that early, you can certainly record it!
The Chasing Portraits documentary film is in post-production editing (and we are awfully close to a first generation rough cut!!). To complete the film we need additional funding for an original score, color correction, graphics, and sound mixing, all so that watching it on the big screen is a rewarding experience! An incredibly generous and anonymous donor recently pledged to match funds up to $25,000. We’ve secured
$10,000 $15,000 $15,250 $17,250 $17,995 in pledges and now need to raise an additional $7,005 [updated four times, most recently 10/18/2016]. Can you help us out? All amounts help!
You can donate online [via PayPal, by check, or by phone].
I did a Q&A with Deborah Kalb. My favorite question? How was the book’s title chosen, and what does it signify for you? Read the answer here.
Library Journal. September.
Rynecki, Elizabeth. Chasing Portraits:
A Great-Granddaughter’s Quest for Her Lost Art Legacy. NAL: Penguin. Sept. 2016. 400p. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9781101987667. $28; ebk. ISBN 9781101987681. MEMOIR
This debut by Rynecki is simultaneously a family history, an exploration of Jewish art destroyed by the Holocaust, and one woman’s struggle to understand and redefine her place among family and the world around her. In prose that reads like a novel, the author draws readers into her journey to locate and engage with as much of her great-grandfather’s art as possible. Although primarily focused on Rynecki’s great-grandfather, a Polish artist who disappeared during the Holocaust, the book is set against the larger backdrop of artists whose work and lives were stolen by the horrific events of World War II, and how their output must endure in order to have a chance at being restored and recognized. Rynecki also reveals how, through the tangible connection of art, the descendants of Holocaust victims and survivors discover their role in family stories and world history. VERDICT This personal and impassioned account will appeal to anyone interested in creativity, art history, the impact of World War II and the Holocaust on modern life, as well as readers curious about genealogy and the power of family stories.—Elizabeth Zeitz, Otterbein Univ. Lib., Westerville, OH
Last night was the official book launch of Chasing Portraits at Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon. It was an in-conversation even with Judy Margles (Director of the Oregon Jewish Museum and the Center for Holocaust Education). The questions were great and the audience was delightful! My next event is Monday night at the JCCSF.
Today I woke up to some really lovely press about Chasing Portraits. Reading Group Choices placed it on their Featured Books list. Bustle posted “9 New Memoirs for your Next Book Club Pick,” and Chasing Portraits topped the list at #1! And last, but not least, New York’s, The Jewish Week, included Chasing Portraits in its list of non-fiction picks.
Elizabeth is Moshe Rynecki's great-granddaughter. She has a BA in Rhetoric from Bates College ('91) and an MA in Rhetoric and Speech Communication from UC Davis ('94). Her Master's thesis focused on children of Holocaust survivors. Chasing Portraits is the story of one woman’s emotional quest to find the art of her Polish-Jewish great-grandfather, lost during World War II. There is a Penguin Random House book (September 2016) and a documentary film, currently in post-production.