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Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently asked questions

A: Whoops! Speak softly on your cell phone. Or, I might hear you and weave three or four of your words into a story. Usually I get my book ideas from watching what is happening around me.

"How My Parents Learned to Eat" was born as I was eating lunch at the home of a Japanese friend in Chillicothe, Ohio. Her three-year-old picked up her chopsticks and not a grain of rice fell as she neatly cleaned her plate. Then she used a spoon to eat her jello. Wouldn’t it be fun, I wondered, to write about grown-ups from different cultures having to learn to use each other’s eating utensils?

"Escape or Die" grew out of the sand and water at Rehobeth Beach, Delaware. It was a hot day in early June, and two of my friends dashed into the water. They ran out as quickly as they had jumped in.
“Brr, it’s cold,” one said.
“Yes,” the other agreed. “Just like the North Sea in Germany.”
And suddenly they started to talk about their terrifying experiences in escaping from the Nazis. I realized that while people knew about the 6 million Jews who were killed by the Germans during World War II, there was very little written about Jews who had taken every risk to escape from Hitler.

"The Other Victims: First Person Stories of non-Jews Persecuted by the Nazis" was a natural successor to "Escape or Die." When I researched the history of the Holocaust and World War II, I discovered that Jews were not the only victims of the Nazis. Many other people were hunted down as “racially impure,” including blacks, gypsies, and Slavic people. Five million Christians were deliberately murdered by the Nazis as persons considered not worthy to live. Hitler wanted to sterilize or exterminate the physically and mentally disabled of any ethnicity and he targeted homosexuals for persecution. Eventually Hitler intended to wipe out Christianity during his dream of a 1000-year-long "Third Reich." He would replace Christianity with the worship of Adolf Hitler and the ancient Germanic pagan gods. Jehovah’s Witnesses and Christian clergy who objected to Hitler's policies were persecuted. Political opponents who opposed the Nazis' government quickly became targets for extermination, as were the artists, musicians, and writers whose works Hitler banned and burned.

"Flying Against the Wind: The Story of a Young Woman Who Defied the Nazis" came through a personal introduction to the family of Cato Bontjes van Beek. Originally, I planned Cato's real-life story as part of "The Other Victims." But when I heard Cato's courageous and daring tale from her relatives and realized how few non-Jewish Germans risked their lives to oppose the Nazis, I knew that Cato’s story had to be a book in itself.

When I started writing I went to libraries, to archives, and to museums. Now I first check the web and look for additional references. The library is the next stop, then museums, and the original site of the story if possible. I also interview eyewitnesses, my subject's friends and family, other people who knew my subject.

Exploring new ideas, seeing what doors the research opens to the background and history of the subject, and the characters who wake me up in the middle of the night insisting I should tell their stories their way. Or is that only a dream?

Two of my works-in-progress are currently under submission.
• "A Dangerous Game: Hiding Chaya," YA fiction based on Nazi-occupied Polish history featuring an 8-year-old girl from a Jewish family hidden by non-Jewish Poles during the length of the war. In the 1970's, I was seeking a special menorah for a wedding present. My son, who is a rabbi, suggested I visit an ironworker's shop in Silver Spring, Maryland. On a table crowded with brass carriage lamps and gleaming copper pots stood several black menorahs welded out of nails. "These are copies of the secret menorah I made and lighted in a concentration camp," the proprietor told me. I asked for more details. "Come to my house, and my wife and I will tell you our story. Not too many people are willing to listen."

• "How My Parents Learned to Name Me," picturebook featuring my much-acclaimed "How My Parents Learned to Eat" characters, John and Aiko and their narrator daughter.

Copyright © 2009 Ina R. Friedman: All rights reserved.