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Where She Came From: A Daughter's Search for Her Mother's History

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After the death of her mother, author and journalist Helen Epstein set out to uncover her mother's past and to learn more about her grandmother and great-grandmother, victims of the Holocaust. The result is this compelling biography, both a chronicle of three generations of women and a social history of Czechoslovakia's Jews.

322 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1997

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About the author

Helen Epstein

47 books38 followers
Born in Prague.
Grew up in New York City.
Graduated Hebrew University in Jerusalem
Graduated Columbia Journalism School
Taught at NYU Journalism
Now live outside Boston, MA

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5 stars
66 (40%)
4 stars
55 (33%)
3 stars
34 (20%)
2 stars
6 (3%)
1 star
2 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 15 of 15 reviews
69 reviews1 follower
December 25, 2008
Helen Epstein has reconstructed the stories of the women in her family from her great grandmother to her mother. I found the historical quotes about Jews from the period more distracting to the story than enhancing of it. The stories themselves are fascinating enough, and her ability to research her topics, starting with very little factual data, was amazing.
Profile Image for Linda.
Author 12 books125 followers
May 28, 2012
One of the best books I've read on the history of a family. Extensive research leads to a well told story written like a novel, though it is all true, and heartbreakingl so as you watch the family caught up in the runup to the war. Eptstein is the best historical writer of memoir I've read.
Profile Image for Dana.
163 reviews49 followers
March 15, 2018
Napriek suchšej prvej polovici to nakoniec bol nářez. Človek pochopí, prečo pamätníci hrôz o nich nechcú rozprávať. A dokonca ani o svojom živote pred týmito hrôzami.

Profile Image for Krysti Brice.
1 review
November 8, 2017
This is one of the best Holocaust memoirs I've read. In it, Helen Epstein traces her mother's roots to find out more about the life of both her mother and maternal grandmother back in the author's birth country of former Czechoslovakia, a place the author spent only the first year of her life before she and her parents emigrated to the United States. But she goes even further back in time to discover much about the history and culture of Czech Jews many generations prior to her grandmother's. One of the best things about this book at the time I read it is that it was the best source I had found on the history and lives of Czech Jewry.

The author states that she found her mother an utterly amazing person, and that fact inspired her to learn more about her mother and "where she came from;" hence, the title. And I think that if you read this book, you'll think that her mother was amazing, too!
Profile Image for Harry.
451 reviews2 followers
April 3, 2020
Not your typical Holocaust memoir. Not a hagiography of saintly parents. But a story of generations of strong women from the 19th Century through post World War II. The author researches her ancestors' histories from the Austro-Hungarian Empire through the birth of Czechoslovakia and its demise. The stories of Therese, Pepi and Franci are those of independent, business women. They were assimilated Jews who were mostly baptized. Yet that did not stop Hitler from deporting Pepi and Franci to concentration camps. Epstein's well researched book gives a detailed history of Austria and Czechoslovakia during this period.
Profile Image for Ann Otto.
Author 1 book41 followers
August 22, 2021
Epstein researches several generations of women in her family from Czechoslovakia in the 1890s to America. Her task is not easy given that little Jewish history is written by or about women and that much human life, history, and heirlooms were lost in the Holocaust.
Profile Image for Bárbara.
1,130 reviews71 followers
November 30, 2019
Una investigación impecable, que enlaza un relato de saga familiar con las experiencias más crudas de la historia universal.
Profile Image for Julia Allen.
29 reviews
December 17, 2015
I was glad that I had read Madeline Albright's Prague Winter before reading this book, as Albright's book provided much-needed background which helped me understand Epstein's story. I also was glad that I had seen the film The Woman in Gold, so that I had some minimal understanding of the events in Vienna. I especially appreciated Epstein's "thinking back through her mothers," as she traces her history back to her mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, beginning with the latter and moving forward. It is a riveting story.
Profile Image for Mim.
487 reviews20 followers
September 23, 2007
I just finished this book, in the wee hours of the morning when I couldn't sleep. I found it very interesting, good info on Czech history, Jewish Czech life, searching for family history. I like the way the personal stories were interwoven with history book info.
Profile Image for Greg.
57 reviews
January 18, 2015
Excellent and outstandingly well-researched portrait of a family through four generations. In addition to the family story, I also learned quite a bit about the history of Jews in Europe (including the Holocaust) and Czech history.
Profile Image for Betty.
1,087 reviews22 followers
April 7, 2015
The history is not just of her mother's family, but of the Czechs from 1900s to the 1950s. She was arduous in her research and honest in her telling. Highly readable and an excellent addition to history of the period.
23 reviews
August 4, 2014
This is a beautifully researched, lovingly told memoir. The type of book that makes you want to go to an archive.
542 reviews6 followers
August 30, 2016
As a child of a Holocaust survivor from Eastern Germany I could somewhat relate to the culture that the book describes. It is a very interesting book about the history of the Czech Jews.
Displaying 1 - 15 of 15 reviews

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