A WITNESS TO HISTORY
From Revolutionary Russia to Los Angeles in the eighties, Chernes new collection spans the twentieth century, as experienced by a Russian Jewish-American woman.
Novelist Barbara Cherne has turned her pen to short fiction in order to tell the stories of her friend of many years, a woman named Vera Lewis. Vera was already in her late-middle age when she told Barbara about her childhood experiences in Russia during the Marxist Revolution, and particularly the hair-raising tale of how a kind and beautiful Russian countess helped her and her family escape from the spontaneous pogrom of an angry revolutionary mob.
Cherne encouraged Vera to write these memories down, but Vera said that task would be up to her son Joe, a staff writer for Time. Joe Lewis died in the late 1960s, with the story still unwritten. Barbara urged Vera again to put pen to paper, but Vera did not feel up to the challenge. When she died in 2001, Vera Lewiss life remained a memory instead of a memoir.
Barbara Cherne did not want these important stories to die. By this time, her memories of Vera (and her memories of Veras memories) included tales of the womans life in her adopted home of Santa Monica, including a scary episode when her purse was stolen by an imposter pretending to be a Jewish friend-of-a-friend, and a surprising adventure when Vera almost (but not quite) forsook her Jewish faith by taking her first airplane trip to join an ashram of new-age thought.
Cherne is a fiction writer, and so she turned to the art of the short story to tell the memories of a woman she renamed Devora Marcus. The freedom of fiction allowed her to craft remembered memories into entertaining and enlightening stories. The details may have been changed, along with the protagonists name, but the message remains, as does the record of changing times for Russian-Jewish immigrant women in the twentieth century.
We may assume that if Vera Lewis is aware of what Barbara Cherne has done with her life stories, she is giving her blessing from among the stars, those same stars with whom she talked one night in exile from her Santa Monica home.
Barbara Cherne is the author of three published novels, Looking Glass, Bella Donna, and A Sword Wrought for Guile. She lives and writes in Los Angeles, California.