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Flatbush Flashback

Next Stop: Naziland


Brooklyn Museum: A collection of photographs and plates from books.

The streets of Naziland.


Now that all turkey carcasses have been stripped bare and there's no more stuffing leftover to stuff myself with, it's time to get back to blogging. But before I return to the final phase of the Beaver Street Autumn Offensive, I'd like to say a few words about what I've been working on between meals for the past week: Bobby in Naziland.

If you're a regular reader of this blog, then you already know that I've described Bobby in Naziland as a combination of historical fiction and black humor about a Jewish kid growing up in Brooklyn in the 1950s and 60s where, to quote from the book, "World War II lingered like a mass hallucination on East 17th Street and large swaths of the surrounding borough." And if you know me personally, then you might think that that sounds an awful lot like a memoir. You would be correct.

When I finished Beaver Street, the question before me was: What next? And it occurred to me that there was some very rich material in the Beaver Street Prologue that needed to be more fully explored—mainly the opening scene in my father’s candy store.

I spent the next two years writing down everything I could remember about that particular time and place: Flatbush in the 1950s and 60s. And I found myself with 400 pages of notes, fragments, anecdotes, character sketches, bits of dialogue, etc. I read through it, searching for common themes, and what jumped out at me was Nazis, Nazis, and more Nazis. I grew up surrounded by Holocaust survivors and World War II veterans, and for them, the war had never ended. This became the heart of the book.

Yes, Bobby in Naziland began as a memoir, but for reasons both practical and personal, it turned into a novel. And now, as I appear to be coming down the home stretch, I’m reminded every day of the William Faulkner quote: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” And Faulkner didn’t even have Facebook.
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