Making Stories, Making Selves: Feminist Reflections on the Holocaust

MAKING STORIES, MAKING SELVES: FEMINIST REFLECTIONS ON THE HOLOCAUST by R. Ruth Linden [Ohio State University Press], $39.50 hardcover; $14.95 paper

This very feminist book, by a post positivist ethnographer, is only tangentially about the Holocaust. Using survivors’ stories as a springboard (Linden was a founder of the San Francisco Holocaust Oral History Project), the author explores, among other issues, herself: everything from her outbursts at her mother during her sister’s wedding to her alienation from her 1970’s Santa Cruz women’s collective.

Starting from the academic assumption that “objectivity is dead,” Making Stories inadvertently challenges readers to ask whether subjectivity too—exploring how “we are all part of one another,” in Barbara Deming’s words (quoted in Making Stories) —shouldn’t also be declared dead. At what point does it become narcissistic to place our own stories side-by-side with our informants’ (in this case. Holocaust survivors)—obscuring asymmetry? At what point does it become vulgar to claim, as Linden does, that “Holocaust survivors’ stories have become my own?”

Making Stories is an important read for those interested in scrupulously honest, experimental explorations of the Holocaust, as well as for those beginning to wonder whether that guiding feminist principle— that the personal is the political—might sometimes be in need of a restraining order.