Review: The Gates of November

Chaim Potok’s The Gates of November is an extremely intense non-fiction book, written about a Jewish family. The book delves into the father/son relationship that Potok is well known for in his books.

Solomon Slepak is an old-school Russian Jew, a diehard Bolshevik. He became a Marxist when he emigrated to the America, and then returned to the Soviet Union. He was a stubborn and difficult man, and became a staunch and renowned Communist Party member, despite the fact that he was Jewish. Solomon Slepak resists the ideals of his son, Volodya, who is a “refusenik”, and basically disowns him.

Volodya sees what is occurring in the Soviet Union and wants no part of it. He wants to take his wife and two sons and emigrate to Israel. Thus he begins the process of paperwork and documentation. His bid to emigrate is refused, and he and his wife, Masha, become activists, working to try to help other Jews who are refused permission to emigrate, under Josef Stalin’s relentless rule.

Due to his activities, he is sent to a remote part of Siberia, where the conditions take their toll on his health. Masha asks for permission to be with him, and is granted such. He is exiled for over five years, under the harshest of conditions, not only weather, but food and daily sustenance and necessities (this articulation is putting it mildly).

Once he returns home, he tries to seek work, and finds menial jobs here and there, that don’t last for any length of time. He applies for permission to emigrate, once again. The process drags on for years, and we are given an overview of the social, political and diplomatic events and results during the years that go by, while he waits for a positive outcome.

I could articulate more on The Gates of November, but I suggest you read it yourself in order to grasp the depth of the story. The Gates of November is quite extreme in detail. Potok has shown us the degrees people will go to in order to manipulate others by leaving out none of the horrible events or descriptive word images.

Potok infuses the intensity of the time period under Josef Stalin’s rule. He details the depth of life under the most adverse and harshest of circumstances within the confines of the brutal Stalin reign. His book is based on personal accounts, taped and written interviews, videos, etc., in order to bring exactness to The Gates of November. It is not an easy book to read, due to the brutally detailed circumstances and events. But, it is a book most definitely worth reading, not only in comprehending the historical aspect regarding Jews under Soviet rule, but for the ongoing father/son relationship and family dynamics that Chaim Potok always manages to write so brilliantly about.

The Gates of November, by Chaim Potok,  is a masterful telling of Jewish familial life and dynamics under extreme social circumstances. It is both horrific and inspirational, and brings to the forefront the degrees of determination people have in order to obtain their goals. I highly recommend it to everyone.

All photography, writing, poetry, etc. is my copyright and may not be reproduced without my express written permission.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Historical Fiction, Immigrant Experience, Jewish History, Jewish Immigrant, Judaism, Lorri's Blog, Non-Fiction

Sunday Scenes: September 7, 2014

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I love to watch goldfinches go about their activities. Their illuminating tones bring smiles to my face. I find joy in watching them, other than when they are fighting for food at the feeders.

They become almost frenzied when waiting their turn at the bird feeders. They squawk, push others with their noses, flap their wings, hover, and do all sorts of physical maneuvers in order to get at the feeders.

I have bought extra feeders, hoping it will help with the feeding frenzy.

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Cliffs and Sea

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The Cliffs

They sing of the grandeur of cliffs inland,
But the cliffs of the ocean are truly grand;
And I long to wander and dream and doubt
Where the cliffs by the ocean run out and out.

To the northward far as the eye can reach
Are sandhill, boulder, and sandy beach;
But southward rises the track for me,
Where the cliffs by the ocean run out to sea.

Friends may be gone in the morning fair,
But the cliffs by the ocean are always there;
Lovers may leave when the wind is chill,
But the cliffs by the ocean are steadfast still.

They watch the sea and they ward the land,
And they warn the ships from the treacherous sand;
And I sadly think in the twilight hour
What I might have been had I known my power.

Where the smoke-cloud blurs and the white sails fill,
They point the ships to keep seaward still;
And I think—Ah, me!—and I think—Ah, me!
Of the wreck I’d saved had I kept to sea.

Oh! the cliffs are old and the cliffs are sad,
And they know me sane, while men deem me mad.
Oh! the cliffs are firm and the cliffs are strong,
And they know me right, while men deem me wrong.

And I sometimes think in the dawning gray,
I am old as they, I am old as they;
And I think, I think that in field and town
My spirit shall live till the cliffs come down
-Henry Lawson

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Bench B&W

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I often lay on that bench looking up into the tree, past the trunk and up into the branches. It was particularly fine at night with the stars above the tree.
-Georgia O’Keeffe

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It Shouldn’t Be Necessary

The Jewish Book Carnival for August is up, hosted by Ann D. Koffsy, with many links for you to browse. DO stop by.

I have been lax in blogging, lately. There has been so much happening, worldwide, in my own life, and in the life of a dear friend, that I didn’t feel the motivation to write a post.

Tuesday’s news regarding James Wright Foley, crushed me. It is appalling, unfathomable, and heartbreaking on so many levels. The family statement is a beautiful tribute, yet through all of the anxiety they have been dealing with for several years, how can they overcome this? How?

When I heard the news, I immediately thought of Daniel Pearl, and his family. I pass by the Daniel Pearl Magnet School a couple of times a week, and each time I do, I pray for him and his family. Now, when I drive by, I will include James Wright Foley in my prayers.

It shouldn’t be necessary…

Here is a statement from Ruth Pearl, mother of Daniel Pearl: “Our hearts go out to the family of journalist James Foley. We know the horror they are going through.” Ruth Pearl – Daniel Pearl Foundation

It shouldn’t be necessary…

The world has turned against itself, it seems. Even within America, due to the events in Ferguson, the anger is prevalent and fueled with discord, and lack of harmony. Fighting, looting, bullying, and defiance are not, in any sense, the answer.

I abhor the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There doesn’t seem to be any end in sight. My people are being held responsible for inflicting harm, yet, no responsibility seems to be called for regarding Palestine’s involvement. Many in the world see some of the events through lenses of cultural preference and/or religious foundations, and not through realistic actions that have been taken.

MH17 with all of its passengers and crew being shot down is a deplorable act, and one that is unimaginable. The families left behind…how do individuals go on from an act of this proportion!?

It shouldn’t be necessary…

So much discord, so many deplorable acts, so much horror is occurring. At times, I stay away from the news, yet, I return, because I want to keep up with current events. It is a lose-lose situation.

I turn towards my photography, towards hiking, towards writing and towards listening to ethnic music. It helps for a short while…

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The Gazebo

The gazebo
is a harbor of reflection
of today’s issues
on the days past
the days ahead
on nature’s beauty
roses, petunias lavender
dogwood trees, weeping willows
a place of retreat
to nourish the body
sip a cup of tea
from a floral china cup
bite from a scone
infuse the soul
with quietude and calm
-LM

Shalom…

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Filed under Judaism, Lorri's Blog, Photography, poetry

Sunday Scenes – August 10, 2014

bug on lily

Beetle on waterlily: The photo above was captured at a local Japanese Garden.

If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere. -Vincent Van Gogh

Sorry for the update. I had to end my quotation “italic”, because it offset my entire sidebar, etc. in “italic” mode.

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