Recently I have posted review of A Smile in One Eye: A Tear in the Other, which became one of my favorite books of 2016. Ralph Webster, the author, kindly accepted my guest post request and today is sharing with us what inspired him to write his father’s memoir. Enjoy reading!
This winter Ralph has met with nearly a dozen book clubs who have chosen A Smile in One Eye: a Tear in the Other for their monthly discussions. His book tells the story of his father’s Holocaust journey. Here is the answer to one question that is always asked and several quotes from the book. Should you wish to arrange for Ralph to participate in your book club, either in person or via Skype, feel free to write him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. He wants to connect with readers throughout the world.
What inspired you to write A Smile in One Eye: a Tear in the Other?
During the fall of 2015 my wife and I spent 8 weeks in Europe. This was a pleasure trip – lots of hiking and biking. Our trip took us from Croatia to Sweden and all parts in-between. Often we travelled by train. This was same period of time when the international news was flooded with images of the refugee crisis.
Thousands of refugees were fleeing their homes – primarily from Syria. Most were headed to Germany. They were searching for safety, security, employment and opportunity. And, the EU countries were struggling with border issues. We saw this firsthand. We watched police remove people from our trains. We never saw danger. All the interactions were civil. We saw no disturbance – just a procession of people trying to find a new life. We watched people trying to communicate through the medium of different languages. We saw mothers, fathers, children, and groups of young men. This was happening right before our eyes.
Though it was a different era, my father was a refugee. He fled Germany at the beginning of World War II. Although his family was Lutheran their ancestry was Jewish. And, in Nazi Germany, they had the wrong blood. It was about race – not only religion. Not everyone could leave. Family members left behind perished during the Holocaust. These were unimaginable times.
“I thought those were others. Soon, I was to learn that they were us.”
I have great compassion for those forced to leave their homelands and wonder why this terrible history of ethnic cleansing keeps repeating in our world. I wonder whose God gives the right for one to treat another in such horrific ways. How can it be, in this day and age, that people are forced to leave the homes of their mothers and fathers, are terrorized or murdered, because one wants to impose his will over others? Who allows some to be so cruel and intolerant?
Yes, it was another time. But, for those affected, I imagine the feelings of helplessness and loss are much the same. Just imagine. During World War II and the Holocaust more than fifty million people lost their lives. Six million Jews were murdered. Lives everywhere were shattered and disrupted. Those left alive were forced to cope and persevere.
“I can tell you that events were incremental, that the unbelievable became the believable and, ultimately, the normal.”
Using my father’s voice to narrate the story, I have tried to convey that sense of helplessness – what it is like to be hated – what it is like to have to run for your life – what it is like to leave the country where your family has always lived – what it is like to leave family behind – what it is like to be totally disconnected and not know who has survived and who has not – what it is like to try to survive in a place with a different language and culture. And, I wanted to convey that sense of determination, of going forward with one’s life, and of keeping one’s perspective and outlook.
I have no desire to compare the suffering of one tragic period with another. Whether then or now, the entire world suffers when any group suffers. Tragedy for one is tragedy for all. Regardless of when, brutal acts of hatred and violence against others never make any moral sense. They can never be tolerated. We must always be aware.
“Nothing about these times makes any sense. Nothing. Putting it to words only makes it sound too simple.”
Somehow, in today’s era of terror, we too often forget that the refugees of the world are not the enemy. They are the victims. They are the innocent. They are the survivors and many have endured unimaginable loss. They are the bystanders. They are people like you and me – and too many are leaving with only the clothes on their backs – and often, with their loved ones left behind.
Although my father’s journey took place 75 years ago, the parallels with today’s world are clear. I was inspired to write this book so I could shine a light on my father’s journey. I want the reader to see the world through my father’s eyes. His was a journey of survival and grim determination – a reminder that we must always remain vigilant to the realities of our world – and a lesson that we must endure.
Despite the atrocities of the Holocaust, A Smile in One Eye: a Tear in the Other is really about survival, hope, expectation, and perseverance. It is the timeless story about going forward one step at a time regardless of the circumstance. It is about compassion for one another. Sometimes, no matter what, fate will take you to where you are going.
“Life does find a way to create a balance somewhere between smiles and tears.”
If you wish to learn more about the book please visit https://smileinoneeye.com/