Foreword Reviews


In Search of Poetry, History, and Home

In her memoir Afterlight, Isa Milman recounts her struggles as the child of Holocaust survivors. Fraught with memories of the Holocaust, modern politics, and long family histories featuring better times, the book articulates a painful struggle against rootlessness. In the process, Milman also seeks her family history out in Poland and Ukraine.

At the behest of her eighty-nine-year-old mother, Milman bears witness to the difficult survival of Polish Jews during World War II. Milman’s mother, Sabina, saved herself with quick thinking, drawing on her facility with languages to do so. Her father’s skills as a machinist were also useful. Still, both were sent to a Siberian gulag. Of Milman’s four aunts, three—those who fled to the Soviet Union––survived.

The death of Sabina’s twin, who stayed behind with their parents, haunts the book. Her absence, and the need to understand the weight of that loss, results in Milman traveling to Poland and Ukraine to find out what happened to her aunt, and to seek understanding about the part she plays in their family history.

The book’s multitude of figures includes family members and those with whom chance encounters proved important. They arise across time periods, from the period of WWII and into the recent present. The book has the finesse of a novel, including with its sense of foreshadowing. It is emotional and hefty, but also composed; the devastating facts contribute to the sense that it is a meticulous, rich family history. Family photographs augment its work.

Written with powerful awareness and historical heft, the memoir Afterlight follows the daughter of Holocaust survivors as she travels to unpack her lifetime of living with the aftermath of a genocide.

Reviewed by Camille-Yvette Welsch

Disclosure: This article is not an endorsement, but a review. The publisher of this book provided free copies of the book to have their book reviewed by a professional reviewer. No fee was paid by the publisher for this review. Foreword Reviews only recommends books that we love. Foreword Magazine, Inc. is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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