I Will Remember You by Deborah Packer
Based on a true family story set in 1943 indoor America, I will remember You by Deborah Packer is a bittersweet portrait of a conflicted wartime romance between an idealistic, proud Jewish girl from a small town and a Jewish soldier from Brooklyn with harrowing memories as a child in war-torn Poland during World War I. Their relationship struggles with personal doubt, misunderstanding, and childhood trauma.
This was a time of great upheaval on the home front with hasty marriages, broken promises, and the uncertainty of war. The story takes place in the shadow of the anti-Semitism and racism of the time – in the country itself and within the military. We were a people at war to preserve democracy abroad but suffering from deep-seated hatred and intolerance at home.
The author takes us inside her work, major themes and issues and some back stories in her compilation.
Q: Why did you write this book?
A: This was a family story that I have heard all my life. I told it 20 years ago after first writing it as a screenplay. I put it away due to family illness, but after the horror of the Trump years and the ensuing rebirth of anti-Semitism and racism, I knew I had to end it. Before I lost my wonderful mother in 2019, she asked me why I hadn’t done something about it. In honor of her and her blessed memory, I’m starting to work on her again to help me deal with her loss.
Q: Your book is a novel but it is based on the true story of a deeply human narrative about a conflicted wartime romance in 1943 between two strangers on the home front amidst anti-Semitism and racism. What is the real story behind the work, and where do you separate fact from fiction?
A: It is about what happened when my mother went on vacation to Miami Beach in 1943 and met the soldier she was going to marry three weeks later. She was a girl from small-town Michigan, who grew up in a conservative middle-class Jewish family. He was a Jewish soldier from Brooklyn who had a horrific childhood in Poland during World War I. As an actress and writer, I have a deep interest in character development and story telling through dialogue. There is more truth and less fiction. The only narrative is found in some of the dialogues – my opinion of what I was told about their meeting and the hasty marriage. Since I wasn’t there, I can only guess at the various interactions although some were almost literal.
Q: Tell us about the two distinctly different points of view from which the book was written.
A: I approach it all as an actor with an interest in psychology. What are their motives? How do these two personally deal with their past experiences? Bobby and Murray were two very different people who saw things on the spectrum of their lives. Bobby’s beliefs and judgments come from her childhood experiences. She brings with her her doubts and insecurities as an only Jewish child from a small town into a relationship with a complex stranger in an unusual time. Murray’s perspective was that of a child who saw the war, emigrated at the age of nine, and settled in Brooklyn in his early twenties—a soldier training for war but expecting that, because of his horrific childhood, it wasn’t coming. Homepage. All characters have their own unique points of view.
Q: What kinds of communication problems did Bobby and Murray have, and how did this affect their relationship?
A: This generation wasn’t as open-minded as ours: our feelings, especially, considering there was a war and Murray was going abroad to fight in it. People keep their thoughts close to their jackets. Neither of the two main characters manages to open up to the other. This generated suspicion and misunderstanding. Their ideas were particularly expressed through the use of italics. It is only at the end of the novel that they reach a new plateau in their fragile relationship when Murray encounters a fanatic in a North Carolina restaurant.
Q: Your book deals with some heavy topics: anti-Semitism, racism, and the uncertainty of war. Tell us how you set out to dissect these subjects, and how much care you have to give to the volatility and sensitivity of these issues?
A: I taught Holocaust history at the original Museum of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. I was fascinated by that period, but I also knew what my family was going through. My uncle was involved in a Broadway drama trying to warn the country about what was happening to the Jews in Europe. My mother lived just miles from the church where the radio priest, Father Coughlin, was shouting anti-Jews on the airwaves in the late 1930s, and my father had his own problems with anti-Semitism as a kid in Poland, on the streets of Brooklyn and in the military. There are scenes that seem invented because they are called “historical fiction”. Believe me. they were not. If I had to put this story in a different genre, it would be called “non-fiction,” but that term is not in use nowadays.
Q: What was the most challenging scene for you to write in the book?
A: These are probably some of the difficult situations when Murray faced bigotry and hate as a child and then in the Army Air Corps. Also, there was a scene in their hotel room on the night of their wedding. Most of the girls may face a problem there. My mom’s great sense of humor helped me through it!
Q: What do you hope readers will take away from reading this book?
A: I hope they understand more about what their families have gone through, as they struggle with a war abroad and another war of hate and bigotry here. Readers may grasp the horror of that time in light of what we are witnessing now – the return of racism and anti-Semitism, threats to our democracy, and a violent kind of domestic fascism. The Greatest Generation had to deal with these issues and fight a terrible war. I’m not as brave as my wonderful parents. I feel a complete sense of hopelessness about what is happening today. I suggest readers listen to Rachel Maddow’s podcast, ULTRA.
Deborah Packer She has a BA and MA in Speech and Drama from the University of Michigan, where she was a Professional Theater Program Fellow to work with the APA Repertory Company and the American Conservatory Theater in their days on the Ann Arbor campus. Her first professional job was playing Helen Hayes’ daughter in a production you are right by Pirandello. Since then, she has worked as an actress on stage, film and television in Los Angeles and Toronto. She wrote and performed sketch comedy in Los Angeles and New York and wrote two screenplays. I will remember You is her first novel, which she developed from her original script of the same name about a highly conflicted and tempestuous relationship between two strangers, set during 1943 Middle America amidst the anti-Semitism and racism of the time.
This is much more than a typical home romance. Packer’s work with the American Jewish Committee and the National Congress of Soviet Jews immediately after college, and her affiliation with the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles in later years, gave her understanding and helped her to explore more thoroughly the form of the intense hate novel. And the prejudice that was taking place in her country during that period, especially as it affected her family. I will remember You It is based on a true story.
Publish date: July 27, 2021
Author: Deborah Packer
Pages: 324 pages