The Genizah

by wayne karlin

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September 17, 2024 Release Date

“Heartbreaking, powerful, poetic, and innovative, this novel deserves its place on every bookshelf.”   

—  Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai, international bestselling author of The Mountains Sing and Dust Child  

“Gorgeously written and one of the most powerful, poetic books I have read, I am in awe of this novel.”  

— Jennifer Rosner, author of Once We Were Home and The Yellow Bird Sings.  

"Brave, beautiful, heartbreaking. Necessary in this strange, awful historical moment."

— Richard Bausch, author of Playhouse, editor of The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction

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Definition: Genizah is a storage area in a Jewish synagogue or cemetery designated for the temporary storage of worn-out Hebrew-language books and papers on religious topics prior to proper cemetery burial.

In the novel The Genizah, Wayne Karlin enters its pages as a character in his own novel, reimagining his family’s lives—and fate—if they had not come to America but stayed in his mother’s village in Poland where the rest of her extended family were murdered by the Nazis in 1941.

Karlin commemorates and mourns that unutterable loss by making it present, in the spirit of the words from the Passover Seder, which asks those at the table to recount the story of oppression as if they had lived it.

It is a phrase that calls upon the people at the table to feel, not just to know, what happened, as good fiction calls us to do. How can anyone who had not been through the Holocaust share even a little part of such experiences? How can anyone who has not felt some of that horror reverberate in their own bones try to understand the terrible massacres of our own days, sparked by hatred of the Other, in Syria, in Myanmar, in Israel, in Gaza, in Charleston, and in Pittsburgh—in so many other places, they overwhelm our ability to empathize.

Karlin’s answer to that question is to personalize the impersonal, to imagine what could have happened if his grandparents, and mother, and her brothers and sisters and his father and his family, had not torn themselves away from a place they and their ancestors had lived for hundreds of years, in a town and on a continent where they had always been unwelcome guests.

Book Reviewers: Now on NetGalley HERE

Read Excerpts:  HERE

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Pub Date: September 17, 2024

$19.95 trade paperback; ISBN: 979-8-9866178-2-4

$9.99 ebook; ISBN: 979-8-9866178-3-1

Distributors: Ingram, Baker & Taylor, Publishers Group West, Overdrive, and others


About the Author

Wayne Karlin has published eight novels: A Wolf by the Ears, Marble Mountain, The Wished-For Country, Prisoners (all with Curbstone Press); Lost Armies, The Extras, Us (all with Henry Holt); Crossover (Harcourt), and a short story collection: Memorial Days (Texas Tech University Press, 2023), as well as three works of non-fiction: Rumors and Stones, War Movies (Curbstone Press), and Wandering Souls: Journeys with the Dead and the Living in Viet Nam (Nation Books).

His books have also been published in England, and in translation in Denmark, Sweden, Italy, and Vietnam. Karlin has received five State of Maryland Individual Artist Awards in Fiction, two Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (1994 and 2004), the Paterson Prize in Fiction for 1999 for Prisoners, the Vietnam Veterans of American Excellence in Arts Award in 2005, and the Juniper Prize for Fiction for 2019 for A Wolf by the Ears.

More Praise:

"The Genizah drills its way into the tender vulnerability of our hearts with unforgettable descriptions of events and characters who sought to resist and escape the horrors of the Nazi genocide in occupied Poland.  It is a novel that  examines  how the ugliness of war may erase hope, and urge both its victims and perpetrators to abandon even imagining a meaningful  purpose for their lives.  This powerful  novel helps us further understand the fears and hungers of immigrants who are willing to give up home and country for a chance at freedom and an escape from constant fears of violence, hunger, and death.  It is, ultimately,  not so much a story about war as it is an exploration of how loss “must be held up to the light to find how it can speak to love.”

-- Michael Glaser, former Poet Laureate of Maryland

"The Genizah is a thoughtful imagining of what would have happened to the author's mother's family if they had not fled Poland for America. This is a detailed, vividly written exploration of this "What If" scenario, a poignant and harrowing sequel to Karlin's previous non-fiction book documenting the history of his extended family, all murdered in the Holocaust. This elegiac novel pays heartfelt tribute not only to Karlin's own family but to all Holocaust victims so their stories will not be forgotten."

-- Dr. Nora Gold, author of Sickness and in Heath/Yom Kippur in a Gym and 18: Jewish Stories Translated from 18 Languages, and Editor of Jewish Fiction .net.

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The Genizah is Wayne Karlin’s fiction at its best.  A friend once said: say it clearly and make it beautiful. Wayne Karlin has done this in a book that will be called his masterwork.”

— Grace Cavalieri, Maryland Poet Laureate, Playwright

“What might have been the fate of his parents if they had not been able to escape from the Polish town of Kolno, where most of their family were murdered by the Nazis? This brave, eloquent, and redemptive novel sears and heals, all at once.”

— Joyce Kornblatt, author of Mother Tongue and others

"An unexpected discovery in the present leads to a flashback and retelling of a Jewish‑American family history in Poland brought to life by vivid, increasingly brutal experiences, but also with moments of joie de vivre, characters and descriptions as layered and complex as modern life itself. Karlin's fiction always has magical qualities of visual illusiveness, uncanny insights, and revelations that emerge unexpectedly, yet it’s not mere artifice that carries his complex imagery, it’s profoundly felt emotion and the sure hand of a master craftsman."

— George Evans, award-winning poet, recipient of numerous fellowships, and author of several collections, including The New World, and Sudden Dreams.

“In one sense, this is the story of Jewish torment through the ages; but, even more, it is the story of particular persons in whose lives we can see something of our own. In the end, we come to realize that only one distinction should matter: whether we participate in the murder or persecution of vulnerable others, seek to protect them, or stand by while it happens.”

— Michael Kinnamon, former General Secretary for the National Council of the Churches of Christ USA and author of A Rooftop in Jerusalem and Summer of Love and Evil, plus others