Awkward Conversations We Have Had

by Belle Waring on August 9, 2013

My brother has had, really. I was going to put this in a comment but realized I couldn’t let it languish down there. I thought of this because it is such a piquant combination of ‘I’m laughing’ and ‘the blood is draining from my face as I contemplate the lived horrors of chattel slavery.’ There’s not so all-fired many anecdotes you can say that abou-naw, I can think of 6 or so right away and if I called my pops and my brother and sister I’m sure I’d get up to 30-odd. So, frex, my brother was really good friends with Charles Pinckney, who both had a summer house down the bluff from us on Pinckney Island and was a fellow boarder at St. Alban’s in D.C. One day–PSYCH different story!

When my brother got to USC (not that one. The other, less evil one) and he walked into his dorm room, his new roommate was shocked. (This was before there was Facebook.) “You’re white!” My brother had to concede that this was so. His roommate continued to be startled and amazed. “Sorry, I just assumed you were a brother. I mean, I have met a lot of people in South Carolina named Waring and they have all been black. I have never met anybody named Waring who was white till now.” I am unsure as to what, exactly, my brother said. I really wouldn’t have known how to get out of there gracefully. ‘Ah, yes, about that, well, you see. It used to be that… That is to say there were…we. Uh. Did you know that after the Civil War, freed slaves often…arrrglegggh [Belle pretends to be choking on a boiled peanut shell].’ I believe my brother actually re-directed the conversation with a well-timed, “hey, you want to fire this up?” in which no one was accused of depositing excess saliva on the cottonmouth killer. Gameslifemanship for the ages, people.

The diaries of Hannah Senesh

by Eszter Hargittai on August 9, 2013

I saw a special exhibition recently (special in various senses of the word) that I wanted to recommend: Fire in My Heart: The Story of Hannah Senesh showing through September 8th at the Illinois Holocaust and Education Center in Skokie just outside of Chicago. It’s a touching tribute to an amazing young woman who was killed by firing squad in 1944 at age 23 having been captured and tortured while on a mission to help Jews escape from Hungary.

Through diary entries and her letters to her mother and her brother, we learn of a girl and young woman who was wise beyond her years with quite a sense of humor. The exhibition starts out with scenes from 1930s Budapest depicting what seems like just another middle-class family. The fact that the family happens to be Jewish doesn’t come across forcefully at all at first, something quite true of many Hungarian Jewish families, both then and now. But as the years pass and Jews are increasingly treated as “the other”, young Anna (her Hungarian name was Szenes Anna) starts realizing that she may not have the same opportunities as others, whether in school or in love. She decides to emigrate, eventually joining the British Army and becoming part of a parachuting mission.

The exhibition does a nice job of sharing her writing (both diary entries and poetry) as well as showcasing all sorts of artifacts from her life. It is remarkable that her family was able to retain all of these materials.

I couldn’t tell if it would be a traveling exhibition. With the effort that went into compiling the material, I would hope so, but it doesn’t look like it so if you’re in the area or were looking for a reason to visit, do stop by in the next few weeks. Alternatively, several books have been published about her life and with her writing. I haven’t read them so don’t have specific recommendations, but I do recommend reading up on her story.