|Arts at Old First is honored to host distinguished authors Anne Nelson and Lauren Belfer in conversation about their most recent books, which offer perspectives on relationships between Christian and Jewish people and communities in various historical contexts. Nelson's nonfiction work Suzanne's Children chronicles the the riveting drama of Belgian-born Catholic Suzanne Spaak, who risked and gave her life to save hundreds of Jewish children from deportation from Nazi Paris to Auschwitz. Belfer's National Jewish Book Award-winning novel After the Fire, inspired by historical events over the course of two hundred years, traces the story of story of two women - one European, one American - and the mysterious choral masterpiece by Johann Sebastian Bach that changes both their lives. Nelson and Belfer discuss the connections between their work as part of Old First's ongoing literary series on art and faith. Audience Q&A and book signing to follow.
Seating is limited; RSVP requested. A wine reception follows the event. Books offered for sale by Community Bookstore. A portion of all book sales benefits the Old First Restoration Fund.
About Anne Nelson:
Anne Nelson is an award-winning author and playwright. She is the author of Suzanne's Children; Red Orchestra: The Story of the Berlin Underground and the Circle of Friends Who Resisted Hitler; Murder Under Two Flags: The US, Puerto Rico, and the Cerro Maravilla Cover-up; and The Guys: A Play. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Harpers, BBC, CBC, NPR, and PBS. Nelson is a graduate of Yale University and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She teaches at the Columbia School of International and Public Affairs in New York City.
About Suzanne's Children:
One of the untold stories of the Holocaustthe nail-biting drama of Suzanne Spaak, who risked and gave her life to save hundreds of Jewish children from deportation from Nazi Paris to Auschwitz vividly dramatizes the stakes of acting morally in a time of brutality (The Wall Street Journal).
Suzanne Spaak was born into the Belgian Catholic elite and married into the countrys leading political family. Her brother-in-law was the Foreign Minister and her husband Claude was a playwright and patron of the painter Renée Magritte. In Paris in the late 1930s her friendship with a Polish Jewish refugee led her to her lifes purpose. When France fell and the Nazis occupied Paris, she joined the Resistance. She used her fortune and social status to enlist allies among wealthy Parisians and church groups. Then, under the eyes of the Gestapo, Suzanne and women from the Jewish and Christian resistance groups kidnapped hundreds of Jewish children to save them from the gas chambers.
Suzanne's Children is the dogged, page-turning account (Kirkus Reviews) of this incredible story of courage in the face of evil. Anne Nelson is superb at showing the upheavals in Europe since WWI through vivid, illuminating details - and she also masterfully describes the incremental changes in the Jews plight under the Occupation (Booklist). It was during the final year of the Occupation when Suzanne was caught in the Gestapo dragnet that was pursuing a Soviet agent she had aided. She was executed shortly before the liberation of Paris. Suzanne Spaak is honored in Israel as one of the Righteous Among Nations. Nelsons heartfelt story is almost a model for how popular history should be written; it will satisfy lovers of history, Jewish history in particular (Library Journal).
About Lauren Belfer:
Lauren Belfer's novel A Fierce Radiance was named a Washington Post Best Novel; an NPR Best Mystery; and a New York Times Editors Choice. Her debut novel, City of Light, was a New York Times bestseller as well as a number one Book Sense pick; a New York Times Notable Book; a Library Journal Best Book; and a Main Selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club. She lives in New York City.
About And After the Fire:
WINNER OF THE NATIONAL JEWISH BOOK AWARD!
The New York Times-bestselling author of A Fierce Radiance and City of Light returns with a new powerful and passionate novel - inspired by historical events - about two women, one European and one American, and the mysterious choral masterpiece by Johann Sebastian Bach that changes both their lives.
In the ruins of Germany in 1945, at the end of World War II, American soldier Henry Sachs takes a souvenir, an old music manuscript, from a seemingly deserted mansion and mistakenly kills the girl who tries to stop him.
In America in 2010, Henrys niece, Susanna Kessler, struggles to rebuild her life after she experiences a devastating act of violence on the streets of New York City. When Henry dies soon after, she uncovers the long-hidden music manuscript. She becomes determined to discover what it is and to return it to its rightful owner, a journey that will challenge her preconceptions about herself and her family's history - and also offer her an opportunity to finally make peace with the past.
In Berlin, Germany, in 1783, amid the city's glittering salons where aristocrats and commoners, Christians and Jews, mingle freely despite simmering anti-Semitism, Sara Itzig Levy, a renowned musician, conceals the manuscript of an anti-Jewish cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach, an unsettling gift to her from Bachs son, her teacher. This work and its disturbing message will haunt Sara and her family for generations to come.
Interweaving the stories of Susanna and Sara, and their families, And After the Fire traverses over two hundred years of history, from the eighteenth century through the Holocaust and into today, seamlessly melding past and present, real and imagined. Lauren Belfers deeply researched, evocative, and compelling narrative resonates with emotion and immediacy.
About Arts at Old First:
Arts at Old First carries out Old First's mission to offer hospitality to creative and art-minded community groups. This includes the annual Brooklyn Bluegrass Bash, the annual Park Slope Messiah Sing-along, and various other events supporting the visual, literary, and musical arts. Arts at Old First events benefit the Old First Restoration Fund.
About Old First Brooklyn:
Old First Reformed Church, founded in 1654, is a diverse, open, and supportive church community that welcomes persons of every ethnicity, race, and orientation to worship, serve, and love God, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Its 200 members and adherents are from all walks of life and reflect a diversity of backgrounds.
Old First's main sanctuary has been closed since 2011 when plaster fell from the ceiling, revealing wear in the 19th century structure. Listed on the National Register of Historic Place and a hub for community events in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn, the building is undergoing a multi-million dollar restoration project, supported by grants as well as community contributions. More at oldfirstbrooklyn.org/restoration.