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Tales from a Book Tour: Part I

States visited: South Carolina and Illinois Number of talks scheduled: 5 Total attendance at all talks: 800 Experience: Priceless

For starters, the fact that invitations to speak at schools, Jewish Community Centers, synagogues, and book groups continue to roll in – now a year since “What Papa Told Me,” the memoir about my grandfather, first came out – is amazing.

“The book’s got legs,” says my friend Deb. And those legs are keeping me moving.

The first week of my two-week book tour started in Columbia, South Carolina. Hosted by The 1425 Inn, a sprawling B&B with charm and wonderful hosts Karen and David, I was shuttled around by Pam, a cheerful woman who runs the Author Talks at the Inn, who found me from the YouTube apartment video.

One morning Pam drove me to Muller Road Middle School, a brand new facility, where I was ushered into the gym. “We have 600 students excited to hear you speak,” the vice principal told me. “And most of them read your book,” added the librarian.

Afterward, students shared how much the book meant to them. Some even created projects on their iPads, including a book trailer (soon to be posted on my website) called, “Seventy Eight Pounds.” Tears welled in my eyes as I watched.

While down in Columbia, I reconnected with a best friend from childhood, met a friend of a friend who showed me the nightlife, and after one talk, a local businessman named Henry, who is a child of Holocaust survivors, invited me to his home for dinner with his wife. Without hesitation, I accepted. And as dinner cooked on the grill, the three of us talked on their porch overlooking a serene lake. After dinner Henry asked if I’d like to meet his mother.

Bluma, her hair done that morning, smiled and held herself elegantly, even though I recognized the sadness in her eyes so reminiscent of survivors. We chatted late into the evening (along with Henry’s sister who was a fellow UMass Amherst alum!) and it felt like I’d been part of their family for years.

A few days later I found myself in a large synagogue in a suburb outside Chicago. Chatting with members before the event, it turns out the rabbi lived in Amherst, MA for 30 years and we had a mutual friend, and the member who was to introduce me has a son in Manhattan who lives across from my old tiny abode.

With two states and many more people still to meet, I have come to realize that while my old home was small, so is this large world. Each new place I visit and each new friend I make, the more at home I feel.

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