It Feels Personal: A New ‘Year of Goodbyes’

2010 edition

Nine-and-a-half years ago, Disney-Hyperion published my book about my mother’s—Jutta’s—last year living in Nazi Germany before Europe exploded and she and her family made their way to the United States. The Year of Goodbyes reached people across the country—people familiar with stories of refugees from Hitler’s terror, and people who were learning about what life was like for Jews in that era for the very first time. Mom and I went to schools, conferences, luncheons, and other events where we talked about her story.

We talked to many people, my mother and I did, and the book had quite a few readers—but to an author there can never be enough readers. And at this particular moment in time there can never be enough readers of a story that puts them in the shoes of a young person on the receiving end of anti-Semitism, injustice, and hate. The Year of Goodbyes is also about the small treasures my mother’s friends gave her before they all scattered. Those treasures were the poems and proverbs Jutta’s friends wrote in her poesiealbum—a type of poetry album or friendship book. The pages these young people created provide the architecture of, and serve as springboards for, this true story.

Now, I’m really pleased and grateful to share news of a re-issue of The Year of Goodbyes, coming from Disney-Hyperion in September. It will have a new cover that will resemble a poesiealbum. The poesies that begin each chapter will be rendered more beautifully.

And there’s this: Tom Angleberger, beloved author of outstanding, creative, funny, full-of-heart books for kids, has written a foreword for the book. In it, this creator of the Origami Yoda series frames my mother’s story in a way that only someone who reaches kids where they live could. His essay at the beginning of this fresh edition is perfect.

For me, the impetus for a re-issue of this book began a couple of years ago. I got my undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia; during my senior year I lived on the Lawn, desecrated in August of 2017 by the neo-Nazi march and violence in Charlottesville. My mother never graduated from college but oh, how she loved UVa, which she knew as a young woman when she drove down to spend party weekends there with friends. The bold resurgence of white nationalism and anti-Semitism, including its presence in middle and high schools, reinforced my feeling that there could never be enough readers of my mother’s story. What’s happening feels personal.

It’s no slight to the other strong, accomplished, admirable, and lovely women of my more recent books—Jo Ann Allen Boyce of This Promise of Change, Ruth Bader Ginsburg of I Dissent—to say that Jutta Salzberg Levy of The Year of Goodbyes has an unrivalled place in my heart. It’s my book about my mother, and that puts it in a category of its own. So I know that Jo Ann and Justice Ginsburg will completely understand if I close by remembering that, when I used to talk with Mom on the telephone (she died in 2013), and we were wrapping up the call, I’d say “I love you” as part of my goodbyes. We all do, right?

“Love you more!” she’d sing out and then, BAM! hang up lickety-split. She wanted the last word. Love you more.


















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6 Responses to It Feels Personal: A New ‘Year of Goodbyes’

  1. Great that it’s being re-issued! And it couldn’t be more timely.
    Your mother would be so proud and if just a few more readers read it, it can make a difference in the world. Kudos to you Debbie!

  2. Debbie Coburn says:

    Congratulations on the re-issue! I love the photo of young Jutta on the cover!

  3. Nancy Siegel says:

    Debbie, having known Jutta and your family growing up I know she is so proud of your accomplishments. I Love the book I have signed by you and Mom. Yes this is a timely re-issue. Needed even if only a reminder and a chance for many new readers to experience . Love Nancy

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