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My Writer's Journal

Message and Memory

I was sitting here at my computer, glumly trying to think of something bright and interesting to write in my Journal, when the following e-mail arrived:

Dear Ms. Meyer: What an amazing writer you are! I am a mom and teacher with a great love of historical fiction. When we travel, we usually do "thematic" travel. For Thanksgiving we are driving from NYC to VA, through Amish Pennsylvania. I am hoping to listen to, or read aloud Gideon's People to my 11 and 13 yr. olds. Do you know where I can find and order the tape or CD? I would appreciate any leads you have. Thank you so much for all you do for our youth.--Suzanne B.

GIDEON'S PEOPLE was published in 1996. I remember exactly when I got the idea for the book: I was visiting Lewistown, Pennsylvania, where I grew up and happened to run into a friend of my late mother's, Stanley Siegel. We went out for lunch together, and at some point I asked him how his Jewish family had ended up in our thoroughly Pennsylvania Dutch small town. He told me the story of his grandfather, an immigrant from Russia in the early 1900's, who had eventually become a peddler in Lancaster County, dealing with Amish farm families whose German dialect was similar to the Yiddish spoken by his grandfather. Stanley's father, who became a lawyer, settled in Lewistown to escape the antisemitism he was encountering in other cities.

Before we finished lunch, I was already thinking, "Now what if somehow a Jewish boy, traveling with his father, ends up staying with an Amish family...." The book was already beginning to take shape in my mind.

Well, that email certainly cheered me up. I rushed to the mirror and said to myself, "What an amazing writer you are!" And what an amazing mom/teacher Suzanne is, to plan such trips for her kids. Thank you, Suzanne, for reminding me of how it all happens. And I'm sorry there's no CD.

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