Historical Fiction Novel 'Send For Me' Brings To Life The Letters Of Jewish Woman Trapped In Nazi Germany
For much of author Lauren Fox’s life, she has carried with her letters written by her great-grandmother, a Jewish woman trapped in Nazi Germany, to Fox’s grandmother who had escaped with her husband and Fox’s mother to the United States.
When she first found the letters, she was studying creative writing at the University of Minnesota and began creating a memoir based around her great-grandmother’s writing. But Fox says her first attempt at trying to tell the stories of her letters was not a success.
“Memoir wasn’t my genre, I was kind of too young I think, so I put [the letters] aside for a long time,” says Fox.
The Wisconsin author has since written three novels and been published in outlets like Milwaukee Magazine and The New York Times. But then in 2016, she felt like she had to return to the letters and try again to tell their story. Events of the early days of the Trump presidency like the Muslim ban made her feel like the history inside her great-grandmother’s letters was repeating itself.
“I mean, things were so horrible in this country but that was a moment for me when I thought, 'Oh my god, the past is with us, we haven’t learned from our mistakes and this is the moment when I need to start thinking about this story again,'" she says.
So, Fox started writing what would eventually become her latest book, Send for Me: A Novel, a historical fiction story born out of the letters.
Fox says while doing research for the book she had to be reminded of her past success as a novelist and that she could faithfully retell the story of her great-grandmother through fiction.
“In a world where Holocaust deniers exist, right, in a world where like anyone could ask the question, ‘Did the Holocaust happen?’ I feel such an obligation to tell the truth, so that kind of stymied me for a long time,” she says.
Eventually, Fox settled on the genre of historical fiction but decided that one thing that would stay unchanged were the words of her great-grandmother.
“That to me is like the beating heart of the book. It’s like the authenticity of the book weaving through it,” she says.
Fox did a tremendous amount of research to understand the time period and write accurately. She says she loved getting lost in that research, even spending an entire day just learning about women’s shoes in 1930s Germany.
Fox says that research was necessary because the letters weren’t meant to tell the entire story. They were originally just a mother trying to communicate with her daughter while living through one of the darkest moments in history.
“[The letters] weren’t my great-grandmother’s attempt to tell me a story. They were letters she wrote as she was trying desperately to leave Germany,” she says. “So I was constructing this fictionalized version of their story based on little bits and pieces and little things I had heard and little things that I knew about that particular era."
As more time passes and more survivors of the Holocaust die, Fox says it’s important that every person plays a part in remembering their stories.
“Our obligation is to remember these stories, and it’s also to live in the world as ethical people who know our history and do whatever we can to prevent history from repeating itself,” she says.