About the Book
The Queen of Everything began as a book about the author's late husband's struggle with psychosis and Alzheimer's Disease. As the illness progressed, the nightmare it unleashed upon their lives provided all the material the author needed. Or so she thought.
But what she found was that she couldn't write his story without sharing her own. So she embarked on a journey to understand where she'd come from and how she became the person she is today.
The single most astonishing moment of insight that gradually emerged from this process was the recognition that the author had been a childhood alcoholic. A child who loved whiskey sours and had an ever-increasing need for the "liquid candy with a buzz-kick," led to an alcohol addiction with an unremitting stranglehold that persisted for decades, shadowing the joys and exacerbating the tragedies of her life.
The author tells her story of the soul-crushing power of addiction and loss with raw emotion and spirited humor. In her dramatic struggle towards recovery she is finally able to free herself from the demons of her turbulent past.
She sums up her success in the final sentence of the book: "In one sense, the past is behind me; in another, it’s right where it’s always been — it’s just that the view from where I’m sitting now is much different."
About the Author
As a youngster, Sonya Braverman was always writing stories in her head and filling them with colorful characters. The tales she spun were about perfect people in loving families who always did the right thing. Since then, she's progressed to composing longer and more complex pieces and sharing them with much larger audiences. Her characters are rarely predictable or ordinary. The major difference between what she writes now and what she wrote then is that the stories today are true.
Sonya Braverman, LCSW-C, was a Clinical Social Worker in the Washington, D.C. area for over thirty years. Her keen insight into the human mind enhanced her work with clients, and her personal struggles made her a more compassionate therapist. She grew up in Toledo, Ohio, and now lives near Atlanta, Georgia. The Queen of Everything is her first book.
When she's not writing, Sonya is likely to be creating something, whether it's with food, thread, yarn, fabric, paint, or ink. She's also been known to let her slightly goofy side come out from time to time.
News & Events
An update on The Boy in the Forest: A Holocaust Survivor Returns to Poland.
I've begun transcribing my late husband's tape-recorded material that is the basis for The Boy in the Forest. At first, I was just blown away by the sound of his voice, the familiar expressions, and the overwhelmingly emotional content.
When he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease, his only wish was to return to Poland to say Kaddish for the family who perished there during the Holocaust.
As he stood on Nowolipki Street in Warsaw facing what used to be the home he shared with his parents and siblings, doors away from a Nazi outpost, he realized he had come full circle. For a week, he immersed himself in long-forgotten memories of familiar places, people, and experiences.
Upon leaving Poland decades earlier, he had lost everything including his freedom. He returned as a free man with a successful life to say goodbye forever to the family that died there. Revisiting the most traumatic period in his life was also the most cleansing. And healing.
The process of creating a book from these tapes has been a challenging undertaking. I suspect that those who read his extraordinary tale of remembrance will be deeply moved. It's an ugly and beautiful story all at once.
More updates on The Boy in the Forest later.
Thank you to everyone who has read The Queen of Everything: A Memoir. I'm thrilled with the positive response to my book and grateful to those of you who posted a review on Amazon. I'm including several of those reviews (some of which have been edited to conserve space):
" . . . a book that you won't be able to put down. It is honestly and beautifully written."
" . . . gutsy and riveting . . . filled with brave openness that is often sad, sometimes funny, and touched with loving. The author writes of alcoholism from childhood and of a husband with Alzheimer's. In addition to her own inner conflicts, she had to confront well-meaning people who didn't understand Alzheimer's and challenged how she was caring for her ill husband. Her . . . strength and growth through the years is evident. I was most moved by her enchanting tale of loving two men, her husband who was ill and the man who became his friend and helped care for him."
"What a story. A beautifully written book, painfully sad at times, humorous at others. I was touched by the author's candor."
"A beautifully written memoir of a difficult childhood and a problem-filled adulthood which describes the journey to becoming a strong, sober woman. It packs an emotional punch."
"A painfully candid memoir that ends in hope. The author recounts her longstanding alcoholism and its effects on her life. After helping her battle the bottle, her beloved second husband developed psychosis and Alzheimer's Disease. Beyond exhaustion and unable to manage him even with help, she placed him in a specialized residential facility . . . But as the author lost piece-by-piece the man she had married and was reviled by many who knew nothing of the real situation, she found happiness in a strange but wonderful story full of friendship and love. She gives excellent advice for future caregivers, and includes an appendix on childhood alcoholism. This work rises above the level of most memoirs, and gets better as it goes."
"An enlightening journey of life. Eloquently written story of the author's struggle with alcohol as a young person pulls you in from the very beginning. Painful at times, funny at others. An eye opening glimpse of Alzheimer's Disease and how it affects a person and family. Excellent book I would encourage all to read!"
". . . A remarkable story, a book that was hard to put down. The author is able to pull the reader right into the middle of the action. Her story is unique."
"The Queen of Insight. Sonya Braverman tells the story of her life with bravery, honesty and humor. The
author has experienced more than her share of challenges, from alcohol addiction starting during childhood, through divorce, caregiving for a beloved husband afflicted with psychosis and dementia, and her own struggles to achieve sobriety and self-acceptance. The book is highly readable, simultaneously painful, inspiring, and deeply insightful."
The Boy in the Forest: A Holocaust Survivor Returns to Warsaw Ghetto
When the author's late husband is diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease, he is determined to return to Warsaw, Poland for the first time since WWII to say kaddish, a Jewish mourner's prayer, for his family members who perished during the Holocaust.
As his airplane awaits its turn to taxi down the runway, he switches on a pocket voice recorder and, for the next week, in his own words, he documents his experiences, thoughts and feelings about his journey and about life, death, the Holocaust, family, marriage and his illness. In those first words, The Boy in the Forest was born.
We follow right alongside him as he wanders the streets of his childhood and recalls in great detail his experiences during that terrible time. We see the bombed out building where he lived, the nearby church that was transformed into Nazi headquarters, and the train station from where the Jews were sent to the camps. He takes us to the wall that was erected around the Jewish Ghetto and shows us how, as a small boy, he would sneak under it to bring back food for his starving family. He meticulously documents his return to several concentration camps where he believes his family may have perished. In the end, he marvels at how the city of his birth was transformed during the Holocaust, and how little it has changed since.
At once, heart-rending and cathartic, his odyssey back in time is not only a testament to the power of the mind to catalog and remember voluminous details of one's childhood amidst a world of war, but also the strength of character to confront the hell of living and find closure from coming face-to-face with what is feared most.