cover image Your Eyes Will Be My Window: Essays

Your Eyes Will Be My Window: Essays

Jodi Varon. Univ. of Georgia, $22.95 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-0-8203-6466-7

In this intermittently thought-provoking compendium, Varon (Drawing to an Inside Straight), a professor emeritus of English at Eastern Oregon University, brings together interconnected essays exploring the vagaries of historical memory. The through line of the collection is Varon’s quest to uncover the story of Esta Plat, the childhood friend Varon’s grandmother, Susha, left behind in Ratne, Ukraine, after immigrating to the U.S. in the early 20th century to escape antisemitic persecution. Lamenting the ways that heritage is lost to history through violence, Varon notes that Esta’s letters to Susha stopped arriving in 1942 after Nazis massacred “all but a handful” of Ratne’s Jewish population. The author suggests erasure also happens through more benign means, regretfully noting that she impulsively threw out decades of correspondence between Susha and Esta while helping Susha move in 1965: “What might [the letters] mean to our diminished family, shocked and stunned into silence in a time warp that tried every day to erase each year before 1945?” Though Varon finds bittersweet poetry in the unknowability of her grandmother’s friend, she never quite arrives at a thesis, and the selections straying from the author’s investigation into Esta’s story feel out of place. This has its moments, even as Varon struggles to bring the various threads together. (Sept.)