We Must Not Think of Ourselves

Algonquin. Nov. 2023. 304p. ISBN 9781643752341. $27. F
The latest novel from Grodstein (Our Short History) tells the story of Adam Paskow and the efforts of the historical Oneg Shabbat group to keep a record of those living in occupied Warsaw’s Jewish ghetto. Adam is a Jewish educator with relentless optimism in spite of the Nazi invasion. Having been swindled by his father-in-law, he finds himself living in a small apartment with nine other people, all of whom have been relocated to Poland’s old Jewish district and locked in. Emanuel Ringelblum, the real-life archivist behind Oneg Shabbat, finds Adam teaching children English in secret and recruits him to start documenting his life and the lives of those around him. Grodstein brings to life a critical piece of history with her strong sense of place and complex characters who are determined to live their lives despite daily threats of violence and dehumanization. The Oneg Shabbat archive contains vital first-hand accounts of Jewish subjugation, and it is represented beautifully in Grodstein’s first historical novel, supported by her intensive research and the book’s dynamic relationships that show the value of everyday intimacies.
VERDICT Recommended for readers who enjoy stories from all time periods about the extraordinary actions of ordinary people.
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