2013 National Book Prize from Grub Street


Jane Brox, judge:

In We Are Here, Ellen Cassedy does far more than recount her journey to Lithuania to learn Yiddish and uncover her family’s past.  As she weaves together her personal story and her research she does honor to the complexity of history, to the corrosions of time, to the weight of memory, culture, and family.  She finds nothing is easy, but her capacity to remain open to her experience, to question herself, her assumptions, and the truth of memory make her a most reliable narrator.  Her narrative — gracefully written and carefully structured — pulls the reader forward with her questioning, and brings both the Lithuania of today and the ghettoes of its wartime past to life.  Her journey becomes not merely a search for answers but a quest to understand the complexity of a people who must live with their tragic and violent history.  We Are Here is a grave and beautiful accomplishment.

Back to all In the News items.