Laura Geringer Bass
Emigration and immigration.
Originally published in GENERATION F: THE GIRLS WRITE NOW 2018 ANTHOLOGY.
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My mother came to this country from Russia when she was three years old. There had been trauma before she arrived, tragedies I knew nothing about except by growing up in the force field of her fears. I pieced a narrative together from scraps I overheard when the adults sat around telling stories. This flash is an autobiographical remnant then, passed down to me from my immigrant grandmother and mother.
Mama told us about her Russian uncle who ran away from the Cossacks during a pogrom in Kishinev, fleeing over rooftops, fleeing finally to America, where he lived to be ninety-nine. She told us about her other uncle, who was not as lucky that night and so never came to America.
Mama told us about her baby brother who died of influenza and so also never came to America. She told us how the officer at Ellis Island asked “How many children?” and her mother had wept and couldn’t speak and so Mama, afraid he would be angry and send them back to the Cossacks, pointed to her four-year-old self, at her fast-beating heart, and said in Russian, loudly, “Me. Only Me!” and her mother slapped her and was sorry after and Mama was sorry, too.
Mama told us about her uncles, the one who escaped the Cossacks and lived and the one who did not and her dead baby brother who had been handsome and so much sweeter and better than Mama and as she told her stories her voice rang hollow and her words sounded foreign as if spoken in a language we would never be old enough to understand.
Laura Geringer Bass is the author of many books for children and young adults including A Three Hat Day, an ALA Notable Book and Sign of the Qin, an ALA Best Book. She is the creator of the #BeYourOwn! writing workshop, designed to empower preteens and teens to tell their own stories with prompts based on her new middle grade novel, The Girl With More Than One Heart. A Mentor at Stony Brook, Southampton on the graduate Fellowship faculty, as well as at Girls Write Now, she serves on the Advisory Board of First Book, an award-winning organization that has delivered over 170 million books into the hands of children in need. She may be found on her website www.laurageringerbass.com, and on FaceBook @Laura Geringer Bass, Author.
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