One of the many memoirs drawing interest, and big a advance, at the Frankfurt Book Fair is by the mother of a famous, young literary star. Esther Safran Foer, mother of Jonathan Safran Foer, is drumming up interest from publishers around the world for I Want You to Know We're Still Here, a post-Holocaust memoir that Tim Duggan at Crown acquired in a North American rights deal.
The book, which Rafe Sagalyn at Sagalyn/ICM represents, was, as of Wednesday, at the center of a four-way auction in Italy with a Thursday deadline pending for offers from German publishers. After a sale for the book closed in Holland, offers had also come in from houses in Spain and Israel.
Foer's parents, who came to the U.S. in 1949, were the only members of her family to survive the Holocaust. (She spent her earliest years in one of Germany's displaced person camps, where numerous refugees and concentration camp survivors were sent immediately following World War II.) The book chronicles a shocking discovery—her mother's admission that her father had another family before the War and that Esther had a surviving half-sister—and the ensuing trip she takes to Ukraine to find out more about this long-lost sibling.
In a pitch letter about the book from Curtis Brown (which handles foreign rights for ICM/Sagalyn), it's explained that Jonathan's 2002 novel, Everything Illuminated, initially sparked memories about this secret family history, revealed to Esther by her mother before the book's release. CB wrote that "Everything Is Illuminated, based on the shetl where Esther’s father grew up, finally opened doors and gave her scraps of information about her sister’s life." The trip Esther then took, with her son Franklin, led them to "the family that cared for her sister" who she found out was called Asya Safran.
Speaking about the book, Esther Safran Foer said: "While this is my story and my parents’ story, each of my three sons, and now my six grandchildren, are important parts of this journey. We are four generations of survivors and survivors of survivors, storytellers and memory keepers. And we’re still here."
Foer is the former president of the public relations firm FM Strategic Communications and most recently served as the executive director of the synagogue Sixth & I. She's also worked extensively in politics; her first job in the field was in 1972, working on the presidential campaign for George McGovern.