Years ago, I started researching my family history, which is a mixture of early American settlers, Polish Catholic immigrants and Eastern European Jews. I was saddened but also fascinated by the story I had heard of one family member in New York in the 1930s.
At the same time, also many, many years ago, not too long after I had moved to Europe, I had been thinking about writing a novel, but wasn’t sure which genre or which topic. I have loved reading and writing since I was young and I wanted to get it just right. This meant finding a topic that really inspired me to write an entire novel.
While contemplating this, I was also doing my regular genealogical research on my family. This time, I was looking for my grandfather’s birth certificate in London, where he was born in 1895. I did not find it, unfortunately, but I did find the birth certificate of one of his brothers.
By stroke of fate, I had found this great-uncle’s death certificate. Based on this find, which I felt was telling me something, coupled with the family story that I had heard about this great-uncle, inspired me to write Caged Time.
At the time, I was also reading Gay New York by George Chauncey about the time 1890-1940. So everything somehow just fit together prompting me, more screaming at me, to write Caged Time.
This great-uncle had a terrible time in the 1930s as a gay Jew and I wanted to try and understand his life and his pain, perhaps give him more hope than he really had had, and explain to readers how difficult being yourself can be even today.
I wanted to tell a realistic story, well as realistic as I had researched and could imagine it. And perhaps I did want to shock the reader at points. I think the hardest thing while writing was really trying to put myself into his shoes and somehow “relive” what he went through. Just terrible. And depressing. On the other hand, there were some highlights in his life, as I wrote it, and these helped pick up my spirits.
New York, New York
The New York setting was perfect for the story. I’m from Connecticut and my father was from Brooklyn, so I’ve been to New York numerous times. It’s my favourite city and the vibe is definitely reflected in my novel. I’ve visited some of the places, like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but some alas are no longer around, such as Child’s. Overall, the locations, such as the places the characters live, are a mixture of reality and fiction.
A major goal in life was to write a novel. Caged Time took twenty years from the first words to being published in early 2021. I am so proud of my accomplishment and so glad I was able to tell my version of David’s story. I hope it reminds people that there are so many going through a difficult time because society won’t accept who they are.
Maybe if we were all a bit more human to each other, the world would be a better place.
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