New Star Books Announces Virtual Book Launch of THE SMALLEST OBJECTIVE to Coincide With Jewish Book Month

The book launch will take place on November 24.

By: Nov. 03, 2020
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New Star Books Announces Virtual Book Launch of THE SMALLEST OBJECTIVE to Coincide With Jewish Book Month

Recognizing a live event isn't possible in light of COVID-19 restrictions, New Star Books has announced the virtual book launch for The Smallest Objective, hosted by arts journalist Jeanette Kelly. The launch coincides with Jewish Book Month, celebrated every November, though themes of mother-daughter relations, memory loss, and the search for home are intertwined with the Jewish dimensions of Sharon Kirsch's newest book. Honouring works that contain Jewish content first started at the Boston Public Library in 1925; Montreal's first comprehensive exhibit for Jewish Book Month was in 1944. Join the author for thought-provoking book readings, conversation, music and a viewer Q&A on Tuesday, November 24. A book makes a great gift for Chanukah (Dec. 10-18).

The Smallest Objective unfurls in the course of the author's sorting through the memorabilia accumulated over half a century in her childhood home. In this literary memoir, Kirsch celebrates the complex fabric and history of Montreal's Jewish community, not least the escapades and legacy of her own family. This includes her paternal grandfather, a child immigrant from Russia who beat the odds to become one of the first Jewish faculty members at McGill University, as well as a community leader key to such enduring institutions as the Jewish General Hospital, Mount Sinai Sanatorium and Camp B'nai Brith. Kirsch's great uncle was the notorious Jockey Fleming (born Moses Rutenberg); a raconteur embraced by politicians and the hockey elite alike, a near-criminal known to the RCMP, and one of mid-century Montreal's most vivid and talked-about denizens. Carol, the author's young aunt, was an exuberant second generation Jewish Montrealer who came of age in the lead-up to Expo 67 when opportunities for both women and Jewish people had rarely been better.

Grappling with her mother's failing memory and move to assisted living, the author discovers these personalities as she dismantles the family home-where her father claimed to have hidden something of value under the floorboards. In what begins with a hunt for buried treasure, the riches of Jewish Montreal over the decades aren't merely excavated, but illuminated in their full brilliance for all to see. The book includes black-and-white photographs of the objects that spoke to Kirsch, disclosing her past.

At the heart of Jewish Book Month is the perpetuating of traditions and memories central to the Jewish experience. The theme of remembrance is foremost in Kirsch's book as well, both at the collective and personal levels. Unexpected secrets and taboos come into focus and a layered legacy of willed forgetfulness is uncovered. "My experience as a teenager in vibrant 1970s Montreal, along with the stories of family members that I knew or only heard about, offers a vantage point on the city's Jewish community and Jewish immigration to North America that encompasses contrasting genders and professions, different eras, and myriad ways of life," said Kirsch.

This first-person creative narrative produces unsettling discoveries as revealed by the things that survive their owners-a microscope (the book title refers to the lens of a microscope that allows for the highest degree of magnification), a postcard from Mexico, a worn recipe book, a nugget of fool's gold, an enve­lope of yel­low­ing news­pa­per clip­pings and an obituary. In the end, packing and unpacking, the search yields both less and more than the author ever imagined about this unique family, as well as the extent to which they were punctured and shaped by the muffled anti-Semitism of the time.

"The reasons underlying my grandfather Simon Kirsch's departure from his position at McGill University, in 1925 at aged forty, were complex and as I understood from the little my father told me, voluntary. Already in 1919, the president of Queen's University was bragging about how the faculty included only five Jews, a necessary restriction since they "lowered the tone". By 1931, Jewish faculty in the whole of Canada numbered eleven, of which only five worked in Quebec."-The Smallest Objective

New Star Books Publisher Rolf Maurer was riveted by Kirsch's depth of discovery, "This is a book about the Kirsch family, but it is foremost a book about the events and attitudes of the day that distorted both her grandfather's and her great-uncle's lives, as well as the darker and more tragic aspects of people's existence. As with any great memoir, the real gold is in the stories that the narrator encounters in settling her own account," he said. For further insights into Kirsch's story, check out her blog and Facebook page.

The Smallest Objective is an intricate memoir about the treasures that the past can bring in the face of a difficult present. This is an ideal time to read a book and be transported; reflecting on parents and extended family.