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Shirley Russak Wachtel Books In Order

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Publication Order of Standalone Novels

My Mother's Shoes (2011)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Music Makers (2014)Description / Buy at Amazon
A Castle in Brooklyn (2023)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Picture Books

Charlie Wonder--Chef-Detective (2005)Description / Buy at Amazon
Brad Sureshot--Coach-Detective (2007)Description / Buy at Amazon
Zoey and the Purple Elephant (2015)Description / Buy at Amazon
Where is Emmy? (2021)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Non-Fiction Books

The Story of Blima (2005)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Collections

In the Mellow Light (2009)Description / Buy at Amazon
Three For a Dollar (2017)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Anthologies

Mothers and Other Creatures(2015)Description / Buy at Amazon

Shirley Russak Wachtel is a historical fiction novelist from New Jersey that is best known for “My Mother Shoes.”

The work is a memoir that follows her mother’s life from Dombrowe, Poland her hometown to her terrible times in a Bergen, Belsen labor camp, and ultimately when she made a new life for herself in Brooklyn, New York despite her emotional scars.

Watchel was born and brought up in Brooklyn and much of her life has been in the shadow of the ordeal her parents went through during the Holocaust. For this reason, she has devoted much of her life to teaching and writing for humanistic causes.

In 2017, Shirley was the recipient of the Middlesex County College Faculty Scholar of the Year Award. She has since been teaching at the institution for more than two dozen years and during that time helped establish a Human Rights and Holocaust Center.
She has also had some significant literary contributions and has also published reading texts and research papers. Shirley Watchel also holds a Drew University Doctor of Letters Degree and over the years has been a lecturer, newspaper editor, and freelance writer.

Shirley Russak Wachtel was always a lover of books growing up. This is strange since nobody ever read to her when she was a child. Her parents never bothered to accompany him while she scanned the covers and wandered the children’s section of the local library.
Shirley was born to Holocaust survivors that had just recently moved to New York and struggled with the language. Her father worked at a clothing factory at night and went to night school while her mother kept the home making chicken soup and ensuring her brother and her were warm and protected.

Her father would soon find success in business and the family started moving from town to town. They moved from Flatbush to Brownsville and Borough Park where her father opened several luncheonettes and laundromats.

Since they moved a lot, she often found herself the new girl in class and in the playground. Books would then become her true companion as she read the “Nancy Drew “mysteries and novels by Beverly Cleary that her father got for her.
It was from reading these stories that she began thinking that maybe she could write her own stories. With the encouragement of Miss Miller her seventh-grade teacher, she soon began to write.

When Shirley Russak Wachtel turned 13 she was certain that she wanted to grow up and become a writer. In her twenties, after years of working as a columnist, editor, and freelance reporter and not finding fulfillment for her creative urges, she decided to try Plan B.
She got into teaching English in high school before she became a Middlesex College tenured professor where she worked for more than three decades. It was during her tenure that she got her Doctor of Letters degree and this inspired her to write even more.

As she taught literature to her multicultural classes, she became energized by the likes of “The Joy Luck Club” by Amy Tan and “Night” by Elie Wiesel. Discussions with her students were very gratifying but soon enough, she felt that she needed to recreate the experiences in the books by writing.
After writing for several years, she finally published “My Mother’s Shoes” her debut work in 2011.

“A Castle in Brooklyn” by Shirley Russak Wachtel is set in Poland in 1944. It introduces Zalman Mendelson and Jacob Stein who met as boys in some terrifying circumstances. They miraculously escaped the Holocaust but their lives are shaped forever by their shared past.
Years later, Zalman is employed as a farmhand in Minnesota while Jacob is living in Brooklyn with Esther his wife, and working for his father-in-law who owns a real estate company.

While suffering from the horrors of the Holocaust all Jacob wanted was to one day have a house. When they reconnect Zalman is determined to help him and Esther build their own house.

With Zalman’s help, they soon have a light-filled and modest house that is warm and inviting. However, they soon fall into an unforeseeable tragedy. The revelations, betrayals, and grief that follow threaten to break the strong bonds that Zalman and Jacob had forged while they were in Poland.

It makes for a heartfelt and moving immigration story about building a family and home and finding love despite the shadow of a traumatic past.

Shirley Russak Wachtel’s novel “The Story of Blima” tells a tale from the concentration camps.

The novel is set in Poland in 1936 and the lead is a twenty-year-old, pretty Jewish girl named Blima Weisstuch. She is employed at the bakery that belongs to her aunt and spent much of her time serving customers and chatting with friends when she got off work.
Politics has never been her thing as all she was interested in was getting to work and doing her part. But then she arrives at the bakery one morning to find her aunt weeping with a bold yellow scroll with the word JUDEN stuck on the window.
This means that the bakery is owned by Jews and as such, it has been blacklisted. Still, they continue working at the bakery until she is practically kidnapped one evening coming from work and bundled into a Nazi army truck.

A few days later, she finds herself at the Grunberg prison camp and learns that her only chance of surviving is to will herself to live and work with dogged determination.

Through it all, she longingly thinks of her loving family and wonders how worried they must be about her.

“My Mother’s Shoes” by Shirley Russak Wachtel continues to follow the story of Blima Weisstuch.

Things changed when she was taken from her family and everything she knew and swept up by the horrors of the Holocaust. It is a catastrophic and heartbreaking event that changes Blima’s life and those of the generations that would come after her.
Set over a period of five decades as it depicts the story of the unbreakable bonds between daughter and mother. The two had made their home in Brooklyn New York after they successfully managed to escape the horrors of the Holocaust.
The work expands on what happened in the first novel as it also answers many questions about how she managed to forge a new life for herself.

It is a beautifully written and riveting memoir that is told from the perspective of Blima, Betty her alter ego, and Shilrey her daughter. Ultimately, the work is a testimony to the power of family and the resilience of the human spirit.

Book Series In Order » Authors » Shirley Russak Wachtel

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