Jewish Book: Saving Myself, a Los Angeles Childhood
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Jewish Childhood Blog

"This blog carries the voice of my memoir, past and present, into the future. Feel free to fill out the form with a question or comment. I look forward to a dialog with you."

  —L'chaim, to life, Jeanne

A Los Angeles Childhood - Q and A with Author Jeanne Simonoff Part III
Monday, 01 August 2011 16:24

8. Do you think your book will turn into a great film?

It’s a small, quiet book with great visuals. It could happen. Look at Little Miss Sunshine and Avalon. A dream world emerges on the screen. A story once flat becomes alive, three-dimensional. A screen-writer, a producer and director, with the help of a sensitive cast, brings such stories alive on the screen. I could envision all of this for SAVING MYSELF: A LOS ANGELES CHILDHOOD.

9. Are you looking for a producer or film agent now?

People who have read the memoir tell me the book comes alive for them. They see it as a film. I need someone as excited about it as I am. People inhabit words and phrases. We all imagine, especially those who used to listen to the radio. We “picture” characters. It’s the next evolutionary step. Yes, and anyone who sees or hears this interview, and is interested can contact me on my website, I look forward to opening a dialog with them.

10. How can your book help educators and students?

I will have study questions and modules with topics and issues for educators to discuss with their classes using the book as a guide, such as how to learn by example, how to deal with early childhood loss, how to silence the bully.

11. What is your next project?

I am working on a second memoir called JUST NOW: THE ALZHEIMER’S JOURNAL, about living with my family’s Alzheimer’s and dementia and relating it to the now because there is nowhere else for them to go. It will be a mosaic, with poems, a two-page play, and stories. The second project is a psychological thriller about a performance artist called CENTURY, another memoir forming called VENICE BEACH DAYS, about growing up and coming out in the late 50’s and early 60’s in Venice Beach, California, and lastly, a performance piece based on the Queens of France in Luxenbourg Gadens in Paris, France.

Thank you for reading Not Just A Jewish Book Blog.


A Los Angeles Childhood - Q and A with Author Jeanne Simonoff Part II
Saturday, 30 July 2011 10:13

5. I‘ve heard people say that your book is important for our times… Could you elaborate on that?

One Sunday morning this spring, there was a program on early childhood loss. It stated that it is something a person never recovers from. And the numbers are rising because of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Children are calling each other names and causing physical and emotional harm in the name of differences and diversity instead of letting those diversities become something to enrich each other. My book can teach children to bear witness to the inequalities that they experience with racism and bigotry by helping each other understand loss, whether it be the death of a parent or the death of their identity because they are different. Workshops will be structured to help children learn to tell their own stories of loss and inequality and learn from each other’s experiences.

6. How has this book saved you?

By writing the memoir, l learned that I did, in fact learn how to save myself. It has brought up to a conscious level that I did find ways to cope, ways to get away from the enemy, run faster, stand up and defend myself. I learned to be myself and be in the world, a world that is cruel and unjust, but a world in which a young child can survive and live to tell the story.

7. How did you remember all those details from 50 years ago?

Mind categorizes and files itself away. A word, a phrase, a sound, a smell can release a long held memory. The sound of a fountain pen-- (I write with an old fashioned pen which I fill with ink, the old fashioned away, on unlined white journal/sketchbook paper), releases memory from bondage and frees it onto the page, one grain, one word at a time. It’s a magical process that I never would have believed existed if I hadn’t experienced it for myself. It’s a practice Natalie Goldberg calls writing practice and like any other practice, the more I did it, the better I got at bringing my childhood experiences forward.

Return to this page to find more answers to readers questions.

Thank you for reading Not-Just-a-Jewish-Book BLOG!

A Los Angeles Childhood - Q & A with Author Jeanne Simonoff Part I
Thursday, 28 July 2011 15:37

I have been asked many questions after I give readings and in discussing the memoir. I made a list of some of the questions people have presented. I've decided to post answers, both with Jan Marquart, and now here in the blog. Let me know if you have others that have not been answered. The questions and answers are mostly about process. Over the next three postings I will share these with you.

1.  Why did you write this book?

To reform and remember that part of my life pushed down and repressed from fear after the death of my birth mother; to bring my story out from the caves into the light to heal. There is much more, but that is the most succinct answer.

2. Tell us about a few experiences you had in writing this book for the last 13 years.

Writing, for me, is a practice of bearing witness--that my story was real, that it did happen-that it is possible to bring back one’s life and fill in the holes, the gaps, to transform who I was and create a positive life. Each time I formed words on a blank page, I was amazed that the story was calling itself forth, one experience at a time, in random order, not like linear time. Mind tells stories the way each individual remembers them. It is like Gertrude Stein’s poem, “A rose is a rose is a rose,” and each time I wrote, the story changed slightly, became fuller, more complete. Poems became prose. Images sang out in different forms. My dreams were filled with memories where there were none as I dreamed the memoir into the world over time.

A Los Angeles Childhood - Bully For Us. Help End the Epidemic! Part II
Tuesday, 26 July 2011 10:16

There are certain rights to become a member of the elite group of bullies. It used to be a silent killer because it was subterranean, swept under the carpet, not talked about, not reported. It was just something that kids did to each other.

I sometimes imagine that parents and friends might think, "He'll grow out of it. She'll grow out of it." After all your mother and father might have had these experiences. You might consider asking them if they are still alive. They might want to keep it close to their hearts because they won't want to feel weak.

Tell your parents, your friends, your teachers. Think back to when it happened to you. When someone may have said something to you that sent you off in tears; when your friends didn't stand up for you because you were/are different. Maybe you were the one telling the stories.

A Los Angeles Childhood - Bully For Us. Help End the Epidemic! Part I
Monday, 25 July 2011 12:05

Many of you have read my memoir, Saving Myself: A Los Angeles Childhood. You know how the memoir got its title. For those of you who don't, the title was derived from the experience of having a small neighbor boy named Donavan shout at me as I was walking to and from school, "You killed Christ," many times adding, "you dirty Jew!"

As a small child who was persecuted for being Jewish in a small Los Angeles enclave in the early 40s and 50s, I find that, although we are so advanced and knowing, it still happens, continuing through my adult life.

Facebook/Time Warner has taken on bullying. Michelle Obama took it on in March with a conference to Stop Bullying.

Dr. Dan Olweus gives a succinct definition of bullying in his book Social Bullying at School. "A person is bullied when he or she is exposed repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more other persons, and he or she has difficulty defending him self or her self."

Fear heats up my ears, my whole head beginning to sweat, imagining the sounds of his breathing in my ears even though Donavan was down the block and years and years away. My response never leaves. It happens today and tomorrow. It happens in school. It causes people to take their own lives.

Return again to read more details about Bullying.

Thank you for reading Not-Just-a-Jewish-Book BLOG!

A Los Angeles Childhood - I Look At Clouds Part II
Wednesday, 20 July 2011 19:35

Pat and I return to the Art Institute. I walk beneath the large painting of the clouds seen as if from an airplane. I wonder about where Georgia O’Keefe was when she saw this scene? I had seen this show in New York in December 1986 with my friend Marie, but not this painting. I saw it again in Los Angeles having it almost all to myself when most people rushed off to get hors d'oeuvres before actually venturing into the exhibit, which each time displayed different paintings owned by that museum or people in that area.

In Chicago Pat said to me, "Remind me next time not to visit O'Keeffe with you because it felt as if you were only there with her. Now, as many of you know, her museum, Georgia O'Keeffe's Museum is here in Santa Fe where I am a member and visit as often as I wish.

This morning at 6:00 AM shows itself with clouds sitting on top of the foothills of the Sangre de Cristos. A slightly dusty smoky gray showing me that the Las Conchas/Los Alamos fire still plumes on either side of the mountains by Los Alamos. I begin to think of clouds in the same way I did in Los Angeles before I left there in 1993 laced with smoke and fog, what they call smog. I'll wait for the afternoon to dissipate the smoke from the clouds in the north and become a promise of rain again.

A Los Angeles Childhood - I Look At Clouds
Tuesday, 19 July 2011 09:08

Each day my heart sister, Pat, and I talk about clouds. The southwest conjures up Georgia O'Keefe and her paintings. In 1987, the Chicago Art Institute did a retrospective after her death. I went there for two purposes. The first was to view the retrospective but equally as important was to try to find a sense, a remnant, perhaps one artifact of my birth mother by walking the streets of Evanston, and visiting where she grew up. Her name was Alice Welcher Simonoff. Pat and I made a pilgrimage to Northwestern University where Alice graduated in 1934 with a double major in political science and French. I have her sheepskin on my studio wall awarded to Alice Esther Welcher. I thought perhaps I could find matriculation records, awards, something of a sense of her.

A Los Angeles Childhood – “Home-Lands: How Women Made The West" Part II
Saturday, 16 July 2011 10:38

I lived in Los Angeles for 53 years. When I first moved to Santa Fe in 1993, to 1 and ½ acres of land, into a house that I designed, I told my friends I lived in the wilderness.

As I walked along the railroad tracks with my heart sister Pat and said the same thing, she laughed at me. "Wilderness, you say? You haven't got a clue," and the reality was that she was right. The country is one thing, the wilderness, quite another.

Another one of my friends asked me if I had a gun, and I told her, "Why?" "Because you live in the country." At the time she lived in San Francisco and we had both come from Los Angeles. "That's a different story. My home..." There I said it for the first time..."My home is safe. Who will I shoot, the rabbits, the coyotes?"

"You're not afraid of the people? What about snakes coming in?" "No. Why would I get a gun when my neighbors are classical musicians and a lawyer, and when I lived in Los Angeles two blocks from drug dealers, I left my doors unlocked?"

A Los Angeles Childhood – “Home-Lands: How Women Made The West" Part I
Thursday, 14 July 2011 15:40

I have always been intrigued with the concept of home. Is it moveable or stationary? Is it structure or a geographical location? Is it a feeling, a sense of belonging, a safe haven, a nurturing place? Does it involve others--family, friends, pets or companions? What happens when we leave our place of birth, become our own pioneer, strike out on our own, across an ocean or a country or a city?

I wondered how I would relate to this Santa Fe exhibit at the NM History Museum put together by the Autry National Center in Los Angeles. I remember seeing an opening exhibit there back in the 80s all about rodeo cowgirls. And now, here in my new home, I was excited to see what had been brought together.

A Los Angeles Childhood - On The Road Again! Part II
Tuesday, 12 July 2011 21:43

We reach Highway 25 and drive parallel to Elephant Butte. We are on our way to Socorro. Just a couple hours more of driving and we will arrive in Santa Fe. We talk about our time together in Silver City and our long journey and 40 year friendship since the early 70s in Los Angeles when we were youngish hippies enjoying all that those year gave to us.

For me it was a journey of freedom, experiencing life through an entirely different lens when I was completing undergraduate school and my college degree. From there another life would take me to graduate school. For Martha, there was a move to San Francisco, and some years later my move to Santa Fe and hers several years after that to Silver City, NM.

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