I think that memoir is my favorite genre, especially when I know the people involved or at least the period of time described.
Many of you have read or at least seen my book, Memoirs of a Hopeful Pessimist (Urim-K’tav, Jerusalem, 2017.) On the cover, there’s a color picture of me with Pope Francis. I am handing him a small package, which contains a book. That book is Building Bridges, the autobiography of Dr Victor Goldbloom, a man who preceded me by many years as the president of the ICCJ and was later made a Papal Knight. His book was published in 2015 by McGill-Queen’s University Press in Montréal.
In February of 2016, Victor unfortunately died of a heart attack at the age of 92. I recommend reading both of those books - mine and his - but now a third has appeared, which I also heartily recommend: Opening Doors, by Sheila Barshay Goldbloom, who is Victor’s widow. The book just came out, in 2019, and was published by John Aylen Books, a Canadian publisher. It is a very interesting and beautifully done book. It took me only about two and a half days to read it, because I found it so compelling.
My next comment may seem like faint praise, but today, nothing in publishing should be taken for granted. Several books I have read recently are full of typos, factual errors and omissions. Sheila’s is exceptional in this way - I couldn’t find anything incorrect (not that I know all the details of her life or her family, but I’m assuming she got all of that right, too.) Secondly, it’s full of really beautiful pictures.
It spans the first 93 years of Sheila’s life, lived in North America, both the US and Canada. Born in 1925, she grew up in New York and attended Mount Holyoke College, which had a lasting impact on her development. If you are interested in feminism, the struggle against racism, social work and academia, how an individual can influence social change, or the art of aging, this is a book for you.
My only regret is that Sheila devoted a mere two pages to the ICCJ. Victor included a whole chapter. But I will conclude by saying that although inter-religious dialogue was clearly more Victor’s passion than Sheila’s, her whole life reflects the openness and humanity of dialogue.