‘Missouri’s Own’ highlights local authors


Each year the St. Louis Jewish Book Festival includes a special program, which this year will once again be moderated by KMOX 1120/News Talk Radio’s Charles Brennan, in which local authors will discuss their recently published books.

This year’s “Missouri’s Own” panel will be presented at 1 p.m., Friday, Nov. 9, at the Jewish Community Center’s Wohl Building, 2 Millstone Campus Drive.


Included among the Missouri authors are:

Lawrence A. Coben, M.D., Associate Professor Emeritus of Neurology at Washington University in St. Louis, will discuss his critically acclaimed book Anna’s Shtetl , described as “a fascinating, stirring and detailed look at a young woman’s early 20th century life in a Ukrainian shtetl, as told through interviews with powerful recall and rich detail.” Anna Spector was born in 1905 in Korsun, a Ukrainian town on the Ros River, 80 miles south of Kiev, at the time heavily populated by Jews despite the increased danger from pogroms and raids by Cossacks.

Anna’s area of birth and young years was held by Poland until 1768 and annexed by the Tsar in 1793. “Korsun and its fluid ethnic population were typical of the Pale of Settlement where Russian Jews were obliged to live: Ukrainians, Cossacks, Jews and other groups living uneasily together in relationships punctuated by violence,” Coben notes.

Anna’s father left Korsun in 1912 to immigrate to America, and Anna left seven years later, in 1919, having lived through World War I, the Bolshevik Revolution and part of the ensuing civil war in Russia, as well as several lethal pograms, “deadly anti-Jewish riots begun by various invading military detachments during the Russian Civil War and joined by some of Korson’s peasants.”

In the early 1990s, Anna met the author Lawrence A. Coben, the American-born Jewish physician who was seeking information about shtetls, Jewish neighborhoods or villages in the Old Country in order to learn more about his own heritage. “Even in her 90s, Anna had remarkable recall of her life as a girl and young woman in one of those historic communities. Although the Jews of Eastern Europe are virtually all gone now, less than 100 years ago their population was in the millions. Anna’s richly detailed account, based on 300 careful interviews by Dr. Coben “is valuable because it is one of the few personal memoirs of shtetl life told from a woman’s point of view.” Also of significance is the fact that Anna does not only recall anti-Semites and Cossacks among her childhood neighbors, but other Christians who are friendly toward the Jews.

Joann Rose Leonard, author of The Soup Has Many Eyes: From Sthtetl to Chicago — A Memoir of One Family’s Journey Through History , describes Anna’s Shtetl as “a fascinating, well-written work describing Anna Spector’s life in a Ukrainian shtetl during the early 20th century and her escalating tribulations in the violent political turbulence.” Leonard also praises Coben’s “standard for verification of Anna’s account” as “both stringent and prodigious.” His description of his important work is bound to be a Jewish Book Festival highlight.

Cynthia Frohlichstein, an award-winning journalist and feature writer, celebrated her 30 years of surviving breast cancer with a terrific self-published children’s book called The Perils of the Peanut Butter Kid . Based on her own love affair with peanut butter which dates back to her childhood, The Perils of the Peanut Butter Kid tells its whimsical story with animated and clever prose by Frohlichstein, and with beautiful illustrations by the Canadian artist Peggy Collins. Frohlichstein’s story of how she decided to take on the project, and how she successfully had the work self-published is an exciting story in itself, which she recently shared at a special forum of the Press Club of Metropolitan St. Louis, along with other local writers.

She has expressed appreciation to her hard-working husband Harvey Frohlichstein for his essential help, and to her longtime friend Carol Weisman, whose expertise as a writer and public speaker has mentored many local authors.

“No one in the world loves peanut butter more than Elmer Kay,” writes Frohlichstein. “The taste of every drippy, gooey spoonful of peanut butter always makes him grin. Will Elmer’s mother find a jar big enough to satisfy his ever-growing appetite? Or will he find himself in a peanut butter jam?”

Join Elmer on his journey in The Perils of the Peanut Butter Kid . By the way, Frohlichstein is aware of the severe peanut allergies that affect many children these days, but feels her story of Elmer and his love for the perfect mate for jelly will appeal to readers of all ages — and she is clearly right.

Larry Swedroe, the principal and director of research for BAM, an investment specialist and adviser, has penned Wise Investing Made Simple , in which he shares stories for individuals and financial advisors, along with his nationally recognized expertise in his field.

Swedroe says, “Wall Street wants you to thank that investing is hard,” trying to “dazzle us with two-bit words like ‘Sharpe ratio,’ and flashy advertisements that tease us with historical performance.”

The author insists, “Wise investing doesn’t take rocket science. It takes good old-fashioned common sense, and a willingness to look past the marketing machine of Wall Street.”

Swedroe fulfills his promise to provide a book that is easy to understand which empowers the reader to “cut through the fog of false promises to uncover simple, low-cost strategies that will beat the majority of professional investors.”

Dr. George Grossberg, director of the Division of Geriatric Psychiatry at the Saint Louis University School of Medicine, will discuss The Essential Herb-Drug-Vitamin Interaction Guide , his detailed compendium of information on how common supplements, vitamins and herbs interact with popular medicines and how to protect oneself with a “user friendly handbook” of information designed to aid the reader interested in a healthy lifestyle (see separate review).

The St. Louis Jewish Book Festival deserves applause for setting aside a special program so that our “home-grown” authors can present their work to an appreciative audience of bookophiles.

MISSOURI’S OWN PROGRAM: Panel includes Missouri authors Cynthia Frohlichstein, author of “The Perils of the Peanut Butter Kid”; Lawrence Coben, M.D., author of ” Anna’s Shtetl “; Larry Swedroe, author of “Wise Investing Made Simple” and Dr. George Grossberg, author of “The Essential Herb-Drug-Vitamin Interaction Guide” (reviewed on page 10B). The discussion wil be moderated by KMOX 1120/News Talk Radio’s Charlie Brennan. The discussion will take place at 1 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 9.

Admission: $12 or free with festival series ticket.