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Terra Infirma: A Memoir of My Mother's Life in Mine Paperback – March 28, 2000
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More About the Author
Kamenetz's six books of poetry include To Die Next To You and The Lowercase Jew. He has been called "the most formidable of the Jewish-American poets." His memoir, Terra Infirma was described as "one of the most beautiful books ever written about a mother and a son."
When The History of Last Night's Dream appeared in 2007, Oprah Winfrey interviewed him on her "Soul Series" program, saying, "What's so exciting about this book is that it talks about how there's a whole other life that we are living when we sleep and that our dreams are there as offerings and gifts to us if we only recognize what the dreams are there to teach us."
Kamenetz's latest work of non-fiction 2010's Burnt Books, in Schocken/Nextbook's Jewish Encounters series, once again crosses boundaries, between literature and religion. It begins as a dual biography of Franz Kafka and Rebbe Nachman, who each asked his best friend to burn his books. It ends with Kamenetz on his own pilgrimage to Kafka's Prague and to the rebbe's grave in Ukraine.
Born in Baltimore, Rodger Kamenetz has degrees from Yale, Johns Hopkins and Stanford. At Louisiana State University, he held a dual appointment as a Professor of English and Professor of Religious Studies and founded the MFA program in creative writing and the Jewish Studies minor. He retired as LSU Distinguished Professor and Sternberg Honors Chair Professor. He lives in New Orleans where he devotes himself now to his work with clients who seek spiritual direction through dreams.
For more information about Rodger Kamenetz, visit his website at http://kamenetz.com, or meet him on Facebook, or follow him on twitter at
Top Customer Reviews
His mother, Miriam Kamenetz, refuses to speak of her past until the last stages of her illness. Granddaughter of Jewish immigrants, her mother died in a mental institution, her father abandoned her in the hands of relatives, and eventually she was sent to a foster home. Upon a successful marriage, she is determined to erase her past, to place mind over matter. She becomes a fierce, willful mother, with a passionate love, channeling all her aspirations through her children. This love suffocates the author in a metaphorical umbilical cord that is only cut with her death. Poetry becomes the refuge in this shaky (terra infirma) relationship between mother and child. The tension reaches its climax when the author confronts his mother through dreams, submerging him in a Freudian dream analysis. Kamenetz's purpose in his book is to write about death of a loved one without being sentimental, as a healing and spiritual process. If Kamenetz saw his mother's sadness as "a song without lyrics," he has certainly given lyrics to her song, showing that his mother's all-embracing love bears a reciprocal love from her son.