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Sing This at My Funeral

A Memoir of Fathers and Sons

David Slucki

Jewish Studies, Memoir, Holocaust

Printed Paper Cased
Published: July 2019
ISBN: 9780814347218
Pages: 280 Size: 6x9
Illustrations: 44 black-and-white images
Published: July 2019
ISBN: 9780814344866
Pages: 280 Size: 6x9
Illustrations: 44 black-and-white images
Published: July 2019
ISBN: 9780814344873
Book Images

In 1978, Jakub Slucki passed away peacefully in his sleep at the age of seventy-seven. A Holocaust survivor whose first wife and two sons had been murdered at the Nazi death camp in Chelmno, Poland, Jakub had lived a turbulent life. Just over thirty-seven years later, his son Charles died of a heart attack. David Slucki’s Sing This at My Funeral: A Memoir of Fathers and Sons tells the story of his father and his grandfather, and the grave legacy that they each passed on to him. This is a story about the Holocaust and its aftermath, about absence and the scars that never heal, and about fathers and sons and what it means to raise young men.

In Sing This at My Funeral, tragedy follows the Slucki family across the globe: from Jakub’s early childhood in Warsaw, where he witnessed the death of his parents during World War I, to the loss of his family at the hands of the Nazis in April 1942 to his remarriage and relocation in Paris, where after years of bereavement he welcomes the birth of his third son before finally settling in Melbourne, Australia in 1950 in an attempt to get as far away from the ravages of war-torn Europe as he could. Charles (Shmulik in Yiddish) was named both after Jakub’s eldest son and his slain grandfather—a burden he carried through his life, which was one otherwise marked by optimism and adventure. The ghosts of these relatives were a constant in the Slucki home, a small cottage that became the lifeblood of a small community of Jewish immigrants from Poland. David Slucki interweaves the stories of these men with his own story, showing how traumatic family histories leave their mark for generations.

Slucki’s memoir blends the scholarly and literary, grounding the story of his grandfather and father in the broader context of the twentieth century. Based on thirty years of letters from Jakub to his brother Mendel, on archival materials, and on interviews with family members, this is a unique story and an innovative approach to writing both history and family narrative. Students, scholars, and general readers of memoirs will enjoy this deeply personal reflection on family and grief.

David Slucki is an assistant professor in the Yaschik/Arnold Jewish Studies Program at the College of Charleston. He is the author of The International Jewish Labor Bund after 1945: Toward a Global History and co-editor of In the Shadows of Memory: The Holocaust and the Third Generation.

David Slucki's memoir is a gutsy reckoning with ghosts. Like the best stories, Sing This at My Funeral features complex characters and a curious narrator who is not afraid to keep digging. Slucki's voice is compassionate, sharp, and relentless. A page-turning family narrative that is both highly personal and highly relatable.

– Sofija Stefanovic, author of Miss Ex-Yugoslavia

Sing This at My Funeral is a compelling memoir, crafted with great artistry: an eloquent meditation on fathers and sons, the forces that shape them, and the impact of grief and trauma over the generations. Slucki acts as both subject and witness, intimate participant and historian, skillfully interweaving the past and the present, the personal and the political, and the old world with the new. This riveting quest for understanding is, above all, a profound act of familial love and humanity.

– Arnold Zable, novelist, writer, and human rights advocate

With this exquisitely written history and memoir Slucki has gifted us a haunted and haunting work. This is a vital story of family, loss, grief, and post-war devastation, of connection across time and space, of Jewish worlds and communities made and remade. It is a book unlike any other, a must-read.

– Jordana Silverstein, author of Anxious Histories: Narrating the Holocaust in Jewish Communities at the Beginning of the Twenty-First Century

Brick by loving brick, Slucki builds a lyrical bridge of time, over which ghosts, dybbuks, and specters of memory may come to pass. Sing This at My Funeral is more than a son’s tender tribute to a remarkable man. It is a profound meditation on what it means to father and be fathered.

– Bram Presser, author of the National Jewish Book Award–winning The Book of Dirt

Sing This at My Funeral is a passionate—and visceral—meditation on trauma, memory, loss, and legacy. In urgent yet intimate prose, David Slucki provides a memoir of his beloved late father and grandfather and, using his own life as a fulcrum, explores the impact of their lives and loss on his own identity. Probing wounds still raw after years—or decades, he unflinchingly raises questions that in many cases have no answers. What, he wonders, will his own young son inherit from this family history of Holocaust, immigration, political engagement, and love?

– Ruth Ellen Gruber, author of Virtually Jewish: Reinventing Jewish Culture in Europe