In this absorbing sequel to The Takeaway Men, the story of Bronka and JoJo Lubinski continues, fraternal twins born in a displaced persons camp in Germany before immigrating to America who are coming of age and finding their own way in the 1960s and 1970s amid social and political upheaval. They will have to navigate sexism in school and the workplace, the challenges of balancing motherhood and a career, and living with the specter of the Holocaust and the effects it has on their family.
Relevant and timely, Shadows We Carry explores issues of reproductive rights, antisemitism, sexism, how our family ancestries affect us throughout our lives, and how some Nazis were brought to a delayed justice following World War II. As antisemitism is on the rise, this new release highlights not just how awful the Holocaust was, but the way it has continued to affect people long after its end and the importance of never forgetting it.
If you’d like to feature Shadows We Carry at your next gathering, feel free to use these BOOK CLUB QUESTIONS as a discussion guide:
- Shadows We Carry explores the issues of gender identity, historical upheaval, and family relationships. Which is most important to you and how are these issues relevant today?
- How did the times in which JoJo lived impact her decisions? Do you think she should have married Bruce? How might her decision be different today and why?
- What would happen nowadays if the Dean had spoken to Bronka the way he did during her interview for Journalism School? How were Bronka’s perceptions about her personal and professional choices shaped by the times in which she lived?
- Describe the twins’ relationship. How did it change over time? How were they alike and how were they different?
- How were each of the twins a product both of their times and of the impact of the Holocaust? Explain.
- What do you think motivated Ned in pursuing Bronka? Why do you believe Bronka allowed the relationship to continue for years? Was she/should she have been suspicious? What would their connection look like today?
- What is your opinion of Mindy? Was her reaction to the news about the identity of her father justified? What do you think about her mother’s decision to hide this from her for so many years?
- Bronka asks Father Stan,“Do you think the children and grandchildren of Nazis and their sympathizers bear any responsibility for what their relatives did during the war?” How would you answer this question?
- Do you think it was necessary for the federal government to track down former Nazis who had slipped into the U.S. after having committed war crimes?
- Do you feel it was important for Brian to learn about his father’s Nazi past? Do you believe his mother was hiding the truth or was she really ignorant of her husband’s actions at Auschwitz?
- Bronka writes in her op-ed about her reactions to the NBC miniseries, Holocaust: “If we learned anything from the Holocaust, it is that it took place in incremental steps while average people let it happen.” Do you agree that this is the most important lesson of the Holocaust? If so, why? If not, what is?
- Why was Bronka so attracted to Father Stan? What do you think was his interest in her?
- Is the religion into which a person is born or the one in which an individual is raised more important? Do you believe it’s possible to practice two religions at once?
- Do you think JoJo should have forgiven Bruce? Did your opinion of her mother- in-law, Doris, change after this incident?
- Do you agree with Doris that JoJo grew up in a house where feelings were not discussed? If so, why do you think this was the case?
- Do you think Faye was correct in telling Bronka to move out of the house? Why do you believe Aron was so opposed to the idea?
- What did the conversion to Judaism do for Bronka? Do you think JoJo should have converted too?
- Why was Oren the right person for Bronka?
- Why was it so important for Aron to have grandchildren?
- Many people today have their DNA tested. How important are family bloodlines in the life of an individual?
- The characters in the book are products of their time. Give a few examples of this.
- How are the choices we make influenced by the time and place in which we live? Which do you think is/was a better time to come of age—the present or the ’60s or ’70s? Compare the societal opportunities, constraints, and pressures then and now.
Meryl Ain is a writer, author, podcaster, and career educator. The Takeaway Men, her award-winning post-Holocaust debut novel, was published in 2020. Her articles and essays have appeared in numerous publications and she is the author of two nonfiction books. A member of The International Advisory Board for Holocaust Survivor Day, she is the host of the podcast People of the Book, and the founder of the Facebook group “Jews Love To Read!” She holds a BA from Queens College, an MA from Columbia University, and a doctorate in education from Hofstra University. She and her husband, Stewart, a journalist, live in New York. They have three married sons and six grandchildren. www.merylain.com