You are hereBack to top
Elizabeth Rosner, "Survivor Cafe: The Legacy of Trauma and the Labyrinth of Memory" in conversation with Martha Frankel
As survivors of many of 20th century’s most monumental events—the Holocaust, Hiroshima, the Killing Fields—begin to pass away, Survivor Café addresses urgent questions: How do we carry those stories forward? How do we, collectively, ensure that the horrors of the past are not forgotten?
Rosner organizes her book around three trips with her father to Buchenwald concentration camp, from 1983 to 1995 to 2015; each journey an experience in which personal history confronts both commemoration and memorialization. She explores the echoes of similar legacies among descendants of African American slaves; descendants of Cambodian survivors of the Killing Fields; descendants of survivors of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; and the effects of 9/11 on the general population. Examining current brain research, Rosner depicts the efforts to understand the intergenerational inheritance of trauma, as well as the intricacies of remembrance in the aftermath of atrocity. Survivor Café becomes a lens for numerous constructs of memory—from museums and commemorative sites to national reconciliation projects to small-group cross-cultural encounters.
Beyond preserving the firsthand testimonies of participants and witnesses, individuals and societies must continually take responsibility for learning the painful lessons of the past in order to offer hope for the future. Survivor Café offers a clear-eyed sense of the enormity of our 21st century human inheritance—not only among direct descendants of the Holocaust but also in the shape of our collective responsibility to learn from tragedy, and to keep the ever-changing conversations alive between the past and the present.
Elizabeth Rosner is a bestselling novelist, poet, and essayist living in Berkeley, California. Her first book of non-fiction, SURVIVOR CAFÉ: the Legacy of Trauma and the Labyrinth of Memory, will be published in September 2017. Her third novel, ELECTRIC CITY, published in 2014, was named among the best books of the year by National Public Radio. Her poetry collection, GRAVITY, was also published in 2014. THE SPEED OF LIGHT, Rosner's acclaimed debut novel in 2001, was translated into nine languages. Short-listed for the prestigious Prix Femina, the book won several literary prizes in both the US and Europe, including the Prix France Bleu Gironde; the Great Lakes Colleges Award for New Fiction; and Hadassah Magazine's Ribalow Prize, judged by Elie Wiesel. BLUE NUDE, her second novel, was selected as one of the best books of 2006 by the San Francisco Chronicle. Rosner’s essays have appeared in the NY Times Magazine, Elle, the Forward, and several anthologies; her poems have been published by Poetry Magazine, Catamaran, Poetry East, Southern Poetry Review, and many other journals. She travels widely to lead intensive writing workshops, to lecture on contemporary literature, and to visit with book groups. Her book reviews appear frequently in the San Francisco Chronicle.