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The Elusiveness of Childhood Memory

In between promoting my books, running my business and being a newly-single dad with teenagers, I’m working on my third novel these days.

In all my books, I try to tackle (or, as one reviewer put it, “pick open scabs of”) issues with intrinsic societal value. At the same time, like any writer, I try to bring deep personal experience into play to create emotional intensity.

In Enfold Me, it was my experience living in Israel and serving in the Israel Defense Forces, juxtaposed with the ongoing threat of conflict with Iran. In Galerie, it was my personal experience in a family of Holocaust survivors, played off the changing role of the Holocaust in the Israeli collective consciousness. In my new book, it’s a subset of my own childhood experiences mirrored in a formative period of Israel’s history (no further details yet...but stay tuned).

The problem is that childhood memories are as fickle as they are elusive. What is picture-postcard clear 30 years later may not even be the product of memory, but rather of photography. I question whether the boyhood pictures still in my own mind’s eye were actually pictures, once viewed in some now-destroyed album.

And this leads me to the question with which I’ve been wrestling this week: how much weight can I give a character’s childhood memories, when the memories themselves are inherently unreliable? Does undeniable lifelong emotional impact imply factual accuracy? If a character recalls an overall unhappy childhood, yet can quote no specific instances to support this, does this make his memories invalid? These are tough questions, and I hope my upcoming third novel will answer them.

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