The Survivors: A Story of War, Inheritance, and Healing

Adam Frankel tells in his recently released book, The Survivors: A Story of War, Inheritance, and Healing, about identity, family trauma and how in family those who came before us impact our own lives.

“This is the book I needed to write,” says Adam Frankel who worked as President Barack Obama’s Special Assistant and Senior Speechwriter.

But Frankel’s book isn’t about those heady days in the White House. Instead, the story he tells in his recently released book, The Survivors: A Story of War, Inheritance, and Healing, about identity, family trauma and how in family those who came before us impact our own lives. It begins with his maternal grandparents, both Holocaust survivors who ultimately were able to make it to the United States and settled in Connecticut. But their trauma during those years didn’t end with the freedom and safety they found in New Haven. It echoed through the generations first to their daughter, who suffered from depression and was prone to violent outbursts and then to Frankel himself. But there was more trauma to come for Frankel.

“Shortly before joining the Obama campaign in 2007 I learned that my father was not my dad, a secret my mother had kept from us,” says Frankel, now the vice president of External Affairs at Andela. “In order to wrap my head around it, I had to go back in the past to my grandparents and my mom who had mental health issues.”

When he was writing The Survivors, Frankel says many of his relatives lobbied him to abandon the project. Besides pushback from family, he also had to deal with his own feelings.

“This was a very difficult book to write,” says Frankel, noting that he often had to take hours and sometimes days to step away before he could go back to exploring his family’s story. “Only by writing about it could I process it.”

Frankel, a graduate of Princeton University and the London School of Economics and Political Science, where he was a Fulbright Scholar, describes putting his thoughts on paper as a form of expressive writing where one receives physical benefits when writing about thoughts and issues that are weighing them down.

 “My goals in writing were to be as honest as I could and also to tell the story honestly about how World War II reverberated within my family,” he says. “All families have trauma somewhere and there’s nothing disrespectful about being open and acknowledging that. That’s the way we heal.”


What: Adam Frankel talk and book signing

When: Tuesday, November 19, 7 to 9:30 p.m.

Where: Northbrook Public Library, 1201 Cedar Lane, Northbrook, IL

Cost: Free

FYI: 224-406-9257;

Hope Rides Again: An Obama Biden Murder

Obama and Biden are back! This time they’re in Chicago solving the mystery of who stole Obama’s Blackberry and killed the thief.

              Barack Obama and Joe Biden return to solving crimes in Hope Rides Again: An Obama Biden Mystery, the second in the series written by Andrew Shaffer and starring the former president and vice president.

              “It’s a totally separate mystery from the first book,” says Shaffer while sitting at a table where a long line had formed waiting for him to autograph copies of his novel at a two-day book fair in Lexington, Kentucky. “The first was set in Wilmington, Delaware and this one is set in Chicago on Obama’s turf and takes place in the spring around St. Patrick’s Day which is certainly a holiday they take seriously there.”

              Indeed, Shaffer, who at one time lived in Chicago, says he revisited old haunts and new places for background as the two BFFs hunt for Obama’s Blackberry and the murderer of the their who originally stole it.

              Though the premise of the two joining together as detectives is somewhat zany, Shaffer describes his book as dealing with serious topics as well.

“But I try to do it in a lighthearted way,” he says. Also, fun are the covers for both books including the first in the series, Hope Never Dies. Harkening back to the vivid colors of 1960s, the first shows Biden driving a convertible while Obama stands in the front seat pointing out the way as they chase their quarry. In the latest, Obama leans down from a swaying rope ladder tethered to a helicopter, his arm outstretched to help Biden up.

One person who thinks the mysteries are fun is the former vice president. When Biden was campaigning in Kentucky (Shaffer and his wife, a romance writer, live in Louisville), he was contacted by the campaign who set up a meeting.

              “I didn’t know whether he liked the book or not or what he was going to say,” says Shaffer adding that the Biden hadn’t read either book but signed his copies. “It was really kind of different to have a character in your book sign your book. I found out later that people have been bringing my books to his campaign stops and asking him to sign them, so he was probably thinking who’s the guy who wrote this?”

              It’s tricky writing about people we know publicly but not in person says Shaffer.

              “I think in ways I know them too well because I know their history and what I think they would do and say, because I’ve written about them and I’ve seen and read about them for eight years,” he says. “When I heard Biden speak in Kentucky, I was like my Biden wouldn’t say that.”

              Shaffer’s book might have garnered a few votes for the vice president.

              “I met one person who said I can’t wait to vote for them again because now they’re detectives,” he says.


What: Andrew Shaffer book signing

When: Tuesday, July 9 at 6 p.m.

Where: The Seminary Co-op Bookstore, 5751 S Woodlawn Avenue, Chicago, IL

Cost: Free but RSVP is suggested

FYI: 773.752.4381;

What: Andrew Shaffer book signing

When: Wednesday, July 10 at 7 p.m.

Where: Anderson’s Bookshop, 123 W Jefferson Ave., Naperville, IL

Cost: This event is free and open to the public. To join the signing line, please purchase the author’s latest book, Hope Rides Again, from Anderson’s Bookshop. To purchase, stop in or call Anderson’s Bookshop Naperville.

FYI: 630-355-2665;

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