A short story collection

When I go to a friend’s funeral and see his now-fatherless 12-year-old daughter, the grief I have for my mother resurfaces. Though I would like to tell my young children about their missing grandmother, I find it almost impossible to talk about her suicide when I was four years old. Compelled to understand her, I begin researching both sides of my family, going back to the late 1800s in part to avoid my mother’s era and in part because I know it will eventually lead me to her.

Through a new contact, my brother and I are invited to Zhongshan, the birthplace of our mother’s grandfather. In China, we feel a powerful connection to this great-grandfather who would become one of the first Chinese American millionaires.

On my father’s side of the family, two photos help me reconstruct the life of my Jewish great-grandfather in Poland in 1895, who died shortly before his son—my grandfather—was born.

I recount the stories generation by generation, concluding in 1995. I track my ancestors as they immigrate from China, Poland, and Lithuania, and settle in Oakland, Reno, and Los Angeles. While my Chinese American relatives build and squander a fortune, my Jewish kin work their way up through the garment industry to my father, a doctor.

By honoring the lives of my ancestors and telling my mother’s story, my relationship with my heritage and her death transforms.

Madelyn Postman