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Book cover of A Hero of Our Own: The Story of Varian Fry

A Hero of Our Own: The Story of Varian Fry

by Sheila Isenberg

Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
Pages: 388
Paperback
ISBN: 9780595348824






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Overview of A Hero of Our Own: The Story of Varian Fry

"Fry was the American Schindler...with desperate exiles, menacing Nazis, forged documents and midnight escapes...[think] Casablanca."

--New York Times

Varian Fry, the only American honored at Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust memorial, was a young New Yorker who rescued more than 1,500 Europeans from the Nazi's including Mar Chagall, Max Ernst, Hannah Arendt, and other intellectuals, political activists, and "degenerative" artists, many of them Jews. This moving Holocaust rescue story is set against the backdrop of American isolationism and anti-Semitism.

"The drama here is in the thrill of rescue, the realistic portrait of a complex leader, and the decidedly nonheroic truths about WWII at home."

--American Library Association

"One of the BEST BOOKS of 2001"

--St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Synopsis of A Hero of Our Own: The Story of Varian Fry

"Fry was the American Schindler...with desperate exiles, menacing Nazis, forged documents and midnight escapes...[think] Casablanca."

--New York Times

Varian Fry, the only American honored at Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust memorial, was a young New Yorker who rescued more than 1,500 Europeans from the Nazi's including Mar Chagall, Max Ernst, Hannah Arendt, and other intellectuals, political activists, and "degenerative" artists, many of them Jews. This moving Holocaust rescue story is set against the backdrop of American isolationism and anti-Semitism.

"The drama here is in the thrill of rescue, the realistic portrait of a complex leader, and the decidedly nonheroic truths about WWII at home."

--American Library Association

"One of the BEST BOOKS of 2001"

--St. Louis Post-Dispatch

JewishPress.com

Several months ago, a television production of "Varian`s War," based upon the subject matter of this book, was televised nationwide ... unfortunately, it was boring! This is one more time when you have to say: "Read the book!" ... [A Hero of Our Own] records one adventure after another ... From almost the moment that Varian Fry landed in Marseilles, in occupied Vichy, France, with basically no prior training or experience in emigration matters, he engineered the work of a dedicated staff that not only directly assisted the escape and emigration efforts of many survivors, but also documented the nefarious activities of Nazis and their sympathizers ... Some day soon, another Hollywood scriptwriter may prepare this story once more for a movie or theatrical presentation, but as I said, one can obtain quite a thrill by reading this book.

About the Author, Sheila Isenberg

Sheila Isenberg is the author of A Hero of Our Own: The Story of Varian Fry and Women Who Love Men Who Kill. She is the recipient of a fellowship from the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation and an instructor of English and Journalism at Marist college. She lives in Woodstock, NY.

Reviews of A Hero of Our Own: The Story of Varian Fry

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Editorials

Booklist

Varian Fry, the only American honored at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial, played a crucial role in rescuing more than 1,000 European refugees from the Nazis ... This highly readable biography tells the exciting escape stories of the underground railroad he organized ... Isenberg sets the rescue story against the background of American isolationism and anti-Semitism at the time, documenting her dramatic narrative with more than 70 pages of fascinating notes ...

JewishPress.com

Several months ago, a television production of "Varian`s War," based upon the subject matter of this book, was televised nationwide ... unfortunately, it was boring! This is one more time when you have to say: "Read the book!" ... [A Hero of Our Own] records one adventure after another ... From almost the moment that Varian Fry landed in Marseilles, in occupied Vichy, France, with basically no prior training or experience in emigration matters, he engineered the work of a dedicated staff that not only directly assisted the escape and emigration efforts of many survivors, but also documented the nefarious activities of Nazis and their sympathizers ... Some day soon, another Hollywood scriptwriter may prepare this story once more for a movie or theatrical presentation, but as I said, one can obtain quite a thrill by reading this book.

New York Times Book Review

Sheila Isenberg's book A HERO OF OUR OWN helps rescue Fry from obscurity. And with its stories of desperate exiles, menacing Nazis, forged documents and midnight escapes through the mountains, it reads at times like the script for some old Hollywood movie. Think Warner Brothers in the 1940's. Think CASABLANCA (even down to the transit visas for Portugal). All that's missing is Peter Lorre.

Taconic Times

You’ll want to read Sheila Isenberg’s riveting biography of Varian Fry, A Hero of Our Own.... it is the flashback to Fry’s early life that gave this reader the clearest insight not only into the man but into the times he lived in...He was a man who ‘chafed at the world,’ a rebel against authority...a hero abroad. He died in 1967, an ordinary person who had done extraordinary things just once in his life. There are 16 pages of photos [and] interviews with survivors, letters and records.

Washington Post Book World

Now that America has been shocked into a new appreciation of heroism, the story of the late Varian Fry is especially timely ... Sheila Isenberg devotes most of the book to the specifics of Fry’s action-packed months in Marseilles, when he ferried numerous Jews (Marc Chagall, Max Ernst, Andre Breton, and Hannah Arendt, to name a few) out of occupied France ... This is where Isenberg starts to explore new terrain: Tales of survivors and saviors are familiar to us, but Fry was both. And he was American.

Publishers Weekly

The only American to be honored at Yad Vashem (Israel's Holocaust Memorial), Fry saved the lives of thousands of refugees from the Nazis. Isenberg, a professor of English at Marist College (Women Who Love Men Who Kill), delivers a moving, workmanlike account of Fry's heroics. During the late '30s Fry, a Harvard-educated editor, journalist and teacher who was radicalized in 1935 when he witnessed Nazi troopers beating Jews in Berlin, wrote New York Times articles concerning the worsening situation in Europe, but didn't manage to increase public awareness. Under the auspices of the Emergency Rescue Committee, an organization of leftist journalists, religious leaders and activists, Fry traveled to Marseilles in August 1940 with $3,000 and a list of refugees, primarily Jewish, stuck in Vichy France, without money or visas. Isenberg details how, under cover of a humanitarian relief center, Fry helped well-known figures such as Marc Chagall, Andr? Breton, Hannah Arendt and many lesser-known people sneak across borders and escape. But his evident na?vet? and combative personality sometimes worked against him: mistakenly assuming that most Americans would support his efforts, he alienated officials in the American Embassy who were unsympathetic to the plight of Jews and was forced to return home after a year. Fry's later years were marked by unhappiness in his personal life (he divorced his first wife and had a tempestuous relationship with the second) and destructive political disagreements with former colleagues. Isenberg ably renders prewar and war-time public ignorance and apathy in America and the extraordinary heroism of the sole volunteer for a dangerous rescue mission. Agent, ElizabethKaplan. (On sale Oct. 30) Forecast: Fry was brought to public attention by a Showtime movie last April starring William Hurt. Fry remains somewhat elusive here, but he is a dynamic character and this vivid telling of his story, which the author will promote in New York, should sell well if it is widely reviewed. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

Library Journal

Isenberg's (English, Marist Coll.; Women Who Love Men Who Kill) biography of Varian Fry is part of a developing trend in Holocaust studies to focus attention on "rescuers." Fry, recently the subject of a Showtime docudrama, served as the point man of a New York-based rescue committee that helped a number of prominent European intellectuals and artists, such as Marc Chagall and Hannah Arendt, reach the United States after the fall of France in June 1940. Isenberg describes Fry as a man driven later in life to achieve recognition for his efforts. After the war, he was unable to secure steady employment or maintain a stable family life, which Isenberg links to an obsession with his wartime experience. Although Isenberg provides ample context, describing the politics of U.S. immigration and the problems faced by those helping refugees escape from Hitler's Europe, she also periodically goes into excessive detail, at one point even telling us when Fry changed his shirt. Recommended for special collections and public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/01.] Frederic Krome, Jacob Rader Marcus Ctr. of the American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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