Title: THE SPOON FROM MINKOWITZ: A Bittersweet Roots Journey to Ancestral Lands
Author: Judith Fein with Photographs by Paul Ross
Published 2014 by GlobalAdventure.us
Author Website: Global Adventure Web Site
Available at Amazon: Amazon: The Spoon from Minkowitz
Summary : Author Judith Fein embarks on a quest to call on ancestors and urges us to do the same in The Spoon from Minkowitz: A Bittersweet Roots Journey to Ancestral Lands.
“Finding roots is the solution for a rootless life.”
I heard the Eastern European ancestors of many people like me
calling out. “Remember us. Don’t forget us. Our story needs
to be heard. Write our story. Write your story."
—Judith Fein, The Spoon from Minkowitz:
Judith Fein is a travel journalist’s travel journalist. Like a latter-day Marco Polo, she has globe-trotted without maps or preconceived notions. By her own account, she has swum with Beluga whales, consulted with a Zulu sangoma in South Africa, and eaten porcupine in Vietnam (“not with relish”). In 2011, when Fein and her photojournalist husband Paul Ross visited Tunisia during the Arab Spring, the French-speaking American Fein found herself on the radio, speaking to Tunisians about Democracy. Her popular travel memoir Life Is a Trip: The Transformative Magic of Travel conveys her need to find out where people of different cultures come from and what makes them act, think, and behave the way they do. After decades of travel, there was one frontier that still eluded the “I-live-to-leave” Fein: the mystery of her own ancestral roots.
Fein’s new book, The Spoon from Minkowitz: A Bittersweet Roots Journey to Ancestral Lands, takes us on the trip she finally made in 2012 to the shtetl her Jewish grandmother left behind in an obscure Russian (now Ukrainian) village.
The Spoon from Minkowitz has garnered stellar reviews. Catharine Hamm, travel editor of the Los Angeles Times, found The Spoon from Minkowitz “as tense as a thriller and as tender as a love story.” Zelda Shluker, editor of Hadassah Magazine, noted the book is “unlike any other back-to-roots book…driven by the author's almost mystical quest to recover the past…Her curiosity, openness and passion take us along on a journey that turns out to be ours as well.”
We had the opportunity to catch Judith Fein for a moment when she was not in perpetual motion to talk about the deeper meanings of genealogy as explored in this book:
For those who have not yet read your book, what is “the spoon from Minkowitz”?
My grandmother was from a village called Minkowitz in what was then Russia. That fact plus five others were all she would ever tell me about where she was from and why she left; she didn’t want to talk about the past. My mother told me virtually nothing.
When I met my husband Paul, we were immediately attracted. But here’s the kicker: when I asked Paul's parents about their ancestral roots, it turned out his father’s family came from…Minkowitz
Okay. So the “spoon.” When Paul told his parents we were getting married, his father offered us the only thing left from his parents’ shtetl of Minkowitz: a soup spoon they brought with them to America. I treasured that spoon because it made our ancient, ancestral connection so real and concrete. We made a place of honor for it under the chupa (Jewish wedding canopy) on a satin pillow.
You followed your intuition and things miraculously started happening—as you did in Life Is a Trip. Would you call your process “right brain”?
I explored the context my ancestors, and the ancestors of so many others, came from by just going from town to town looking and learning. Perhaps it is “right brain.” I prefer to call it “following the arrows.” It’s about keeping eyes and ears open, and following wherever the arrows point, even if you don't know where they are leading or what you will find there. If you trust you will end up in the right place, you will somehow get there.
This book is like a Jewish Roots, the Alex Haley book that traces his African American family history. And in some ways, it’s like Safran Foer’s Everything Is Illuminated. How would you pitch The Spoon from Minkowitz to a Hollywood producer?
Hmmm.. I’d say it’s a female Everything Is Illuminated meets Life Is a Trip.
If there is a link between The Spoon from Minkowitz and Life Is a Trip, what is it?
In Life Is a Trip, I take readers to l4 exotic climes where they experience new and different ways of dealing with life issues—everything from love to death to ambition to family tension. In The Spoon from Minkowitz, I take readers into the land of their ancestors, and into the depths of their own souls.
Why is connecting to our ancestors so important?
Finding your roots can be a solution to feelings of rootlessness and lack of belonging. It can give meaning to your existence to connect to those who came before you, and to honor their lives. If not for them, you would not be here.
Recent research shows that connecting to your ancestors can help with difficult problems and enhance problem-solving skills: there's an awareness that those who came before you overcame great odds, and you can too.
Roots travel is about talking to grandma and older relatives. In my book, I encourage you to dig deep into family roots to find out who you are and where you come from.
Ours is a rare culture that doesn't honor and connect to our ancestors. Everywhere I have traveled, I've experienced ancestor worship, ancestor ceremonies, ancestor altars, ancestor honorings. Other cultures call on the ancestors for guidance and help. It’s time to welcome this powerful awareness to our shores—with humor, heart, and information.
So what’s next for Judith Fein?
What’s next for me is what’s next for The Spoon from Minkowitz. The critical response to the book has been wonderful, and I am planning ancestor events and talks in various cities.
This interview by Marlan Warren was distributed originally by PR.com and found its way into Broadway World Bookshelf and the BBC Record. For more details, reviews and Discussion Guide, visit Author's website or Book Publicity by Marlan