From Chef to Author – All about historical fiction

I’m at all times intrigued by the paths that spark an writer’s first novel. For me, it was being an expat in Hong Kong with no job, no household, and nearly no pals. For Laura Morelli, it was the conventions of educational scholarship that made the historical past of artwork boring and inaccessible. For completed chef, Cathy Lewis, it was the invention of a tattered suitcase containing a worn crimson journal that belonged to her father and mementos from his six-week trek in 1933 by Europe together with his Boy Scout Troop on their approach to the 4th World Scout Jamboree held in Godollo, Hungary. Her father documented in his journal that whereas on the way in which to the Jamboree, in Vienna he met a 16-year-old German Hitler Youth, a former Boy Scout. After conversing with the younger man her father wrote, “I discovered him to be a effective fellow.”

That discovery made Cathy marvel: did this younger man develop into considered one of Hitler’s Wehrmacht answerable for the demise of thousands and thousands, together with her personal family? Finally it sparked Cathy to jot down The Highway We Took.


With the rise of anti-Semitism across the globe, I’m reminded of my mother’s journey to Panama. That sojourn led to a brand new life within the U.S., one she had by no means foreseen. Her life started in South America.  My mother’s father was a little bit of a nomad, relocating their household round South America through the early years of her life. 

My grandparents escaped Poland in March 1919, leaving all of their households behind. The Polish border city of Baranovichi had suffered occupations by Russian and German troops, inflicting political upheaval and instability. Anti-Semitism was on the rise there because the fixed presence of German or Russian troops contributed to the environment of biased hatred.

My mother’s mother and father had household residing in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and it was there that they married and started their household in 1924 with the delivery of my mom, Matilda. In January of 1944, at age nineteen, my mom moved from Quito, Ecuador, to simply exterior of the canal zone in Colón, Panama.  She moved right into a easy Panamanian flat and started her new life.

She discovered gainful employment as a translator instructing Spanish to officers at Ft. Sherman, the U.S. Military base there. Ft. Sherman was positioned on the (northern) finish of the Panama Canal, immediately reverse Colón. Matilda Silverstone met Captain Raymond D. Lewis of Rochester, New York, on the officers membership on base.  It was there that their courtship unfolded.

After a whirlwind romance, they married in July of 1944, whereas the struggle in Europe raged. Each my mother and father confessed to “love at first sight,” and it was kismet.

The U.S. Military granted my father and his bride a two-week depart after their wedding ceremony. 

My dad determined one of the best ways to rejoice their marriage was to carry my mother dwelling to Rochester to satisfy his household, however the journey was delayed by a number of months attributable to authorities crimson tape. As soon as cleared to journey, the newlyweds boarded a U.S. Naval ship, anchoring on the port of New Orleans, Louisiana, the place my mother set foot on American soil for the primary time. The U.S. Military supplied transportation to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and from there, a prepare took all of them the way in which dwelling to Rochester.

Unbeknownst to my father, his father revealed a marriage announcement within the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle stating that the captain had a whirlwind marriage to a “Matilde Perla,” the daughter of an Englishman and a Spanish-American lady,” which was an outright lie. My mom’s maiden title was initially Zilberstein, however sooner or later, her father anglicized it to Silverstone. 

The intention appeared evident to my mother and father, rightfully outraged by this willful obfuscation.  My grandfather was ashamed that not solely did his firstborn marry an immigrant however a Jewish immigrant. My mom’s household was orthodox and livid that she married a “goyim.” The wedding didn’t get off to a great begin, having neither in-law’s blessing.

That was just the start. My mom was stunning. My father was underneath the belief that his household would obtain his new bride with open arms. They’d love her as he did and be form to her in his absence as soon as he returned to the bottom at Colón. Because it seems, that was a false hope. 

My father’s sisters resented my mom’s magnificence and “energy” over my father. They discounted my mother and father’ love for one another, believing that my father made a giant, ill-informed mistake. The expression of animosity got here within the type of a letter written by my dad’s youthful sister.  She accused my mom of utilizing her magnificence to attraction my father, labeling their relationship “juvenile,” primarily based solely on bodily attraction.

His household warned my father to remind his spouse to not converse of her background or historical past.

My father returned to the bottom at Colón, whereas my mom lived on the highest ground of her in-law’s dwelling. Think about being barely twenty years outdated, married, with out her husband, in a brand new nation, away from her household, whereas residing with a household that despised her.  These wounds by no means healed; they had been a specter, haunting her all through her life.

Mother was naïve as to why her new household was rejecting her, however they had been cowards at coronary heart like most bullies. They ignored her, eschewing her very existence.

My grandfather was put answerable for the funds to be doled out to her, as she had no checking account, my father considering it will be simpler to have his father deal with the cash. How embarrassing for her to ask for cash for private items-my grandfather anticipated an in depth account of how she spent each penny. Mother lived along with her new household for a 12 months and a half. Not as soon as did my father’s two sisters or brother ever ask her to go to a film, buying, or a meal. Ultimately, my grandmother warmed to my mother, however she was the one member of the family who did. 

My mother busied herself with language courses and American historical past classes at a neighborhood highschool. It was there that she heard the pejorative sentiment of hatred towards Jews, blaming them for the world’s many ills, even World Battle I. Jewish jokes had been a day by day staple spoken by college students and college.  Regardless of that, she tutored college students in Spanish, creating wealth to maintain her from having to beg her father-in-law.

She wrote her husband day-after-day, by no means talking of her ill-treatment. She didn’t complain to my dad, however that suppression got here at a price to her well being and emotional well-being. Till my father returned dwelling from the struggle in January 1946, my mom lived a solitary life, lonely and skeptical of her supposed household and new nation.

Honoring my mother by writing has helped me to grapple with the fact of anguish and ache she endured. On her behalf, I press on to sound the battle cry illuminating the message of how mindless hatred can destroy a life, a household, a world.

Thanks, Cathy, for sharing your loved ones’s story. Prejudice and hatred primarily based on variations corresponding to faith, ethnicity, or pores and skin color should not have any place in civilized society. I hope The Highway We Took will illuminate many hearts and minds.

The Highway We Took by Cathy A. Lewis ~~ In 1933, earlier than World Battle II, and the Holocaust, the world was unaware of Hitler’s plans to exterminate thousands and thousands.

Writer Cathy A. Lewis found a tattered leather-based suitcase containing her deceased father’s journal documenting his six-week trek by Europe in 1933 whereas on his approach to the 4th Boy Scout World Jamboree.

Impressed by her father’s historic recount, The Highway We Took is the four-day epic story of a determined group of Jewish residents making an attempt to flee Nazi-occupied Germany.

Fascinating characters come collectively in a story of maximum braveness, budding adolescent love, and their battle for survival.

Life in Germany won’t ever be the identical as Hitler and the Nazis advance their propaganda marketing campaign, to systematically homicide the Jewish inhabitants.

And this was solely the start.


M.Ok. Tod writes historic fiction. Her newest novel, PARIS IN RUINS, is on the market for pre-order on Amazon US, Amazon Canada, Kobo, and Barnes&Noble. An earlier novel, TIME AND REGRET was revealed by Lake Union. Mary’s different novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED can be found from AmazonNookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She will be contacted on FbTwitter and Goodreads or on her web site

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