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At the end of her new memoir, “Between Gods,” Canadian author and poet Alison Pick writes about becoming something she had never expected to grow up to be: a Jewish mother.

Pick had no idea her father’s family was actually Jewish and had been keeping it a secret for generations. The author, 39, grew up going to Church with her parents and sister and did not discover until she was a teenager that her ostensibly Christian grandparents were Czech-Jewish Holocaust survivors who had hidden their background from everyone — including their own son, Pick’s father.

“Between Gods” is a deeply personal and candid account of how Pick came to know she was destined to return to her father’s family’s abandoned Judaism, and of the obstacle-filled road she took to get there.

The memoir does not represent the first time that Pick has grappled literarily with her family’s history. She decided to initially deal with her family’s long-held secret through fiction in her novel “Far To Go,” which was inspired by her grandparents’ escape to Canada from Czechoslovakia on the eve of Nazi occupation in 1939. Published in 2010, it was nominated for the Man Booker Prize and won the Canadian Jewish Book Award.

Now, in “Between Gods,” she tackles in memoir form the complex emotions and family dynamics that have come in the wake of the revelation of the Pick family’s secret and her own decision to formally convert to Judaism.

“The reaction to the book has so far been generally positive among my close family members and friends,” Pick says. Between Gods” has quickly made the bestseller lists in Canada since its publication in early September. (It will be released in the UK early in 2015, and hopefully soon thereafter in the US.)

“However, I do have some extended family members who have decided not to read it,” she says. “But I’m okay with that. I went in to this with my eyes open.”

For readers unfamiliar with Jewish prayer, holidays and ritual life, Pick’s description of her and her husband’s two-year long process of informally and then formally learning about Judaism and studying for conversion will certainly be interesting.

However, the heart of the memoir are the parts that explore Pick’s compulsion to deal with and reclaim her family’s past.

During much of the first half of the book, Pick makes readers privy to her struggles with depression, which she suggests could somehow be tied to the trauma experienced by her ancestors.

“I don’t think there is a clear cause and effect,” Pick says cautiously about the relationship between her depression and her Jewish identity. “I suspect I would still be depressed, that depression is part of my being in the world distinct from the Holocaust trauma and my Jewishness.”

Some who have read “Between Gods” dismiss as far-fetched the notion that Holocaust trauma can be genetically passed down to subsequent generations, but this is a phenomenon has been well documented among second and third generation families by psychologist Eva Fogelman and author Thane Rosenbaum, among others.

Holocaust trauma can be genetically passed down to subsequent generations

Now, the behavioral epigenetics is proving the scientific basis for the anecdotal evidence and case studies. Molecular biologist and geneticist Moshe Szyf and neurobiologist Michael Meaney, both at McGill University in Montreal, have conducted research on rats showing that traumatic experiences in our past, or in our ancestors past leave molecular scars that adhere to our DNA. The changes are not caused directly to our DNA in the way of mutations, but rather to the expression of our DNA.

Rachel Yehuda, professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital has shown that pregnant women directly exposed to the events of 9/11 (who were at or around the World Trade Center) have biologically transmitted their PTSD symptoms to their children.

In “Between Gods,” Pick works hard through psychotherapy and her writing to figure out what her relationship is to her family members who either perished in or survived the Holocaust. Most important, she struggles with what her responsibility to them is.

Toward the end of the memoir, Pick comes to understand that her converting and living a Jewish life is enough, that she does not have to carry the burden of the Holocaust as a type of atonement.

The author recounts a dream in which she meets her great-grandmother Marianne in a pre-war Prague café. It is like meeting herself, as she has always looked uncannily like this woman who died in Auschwitz.

“Marianne wears a blue hat with a veil of sheer netting over her face. I have the sinking feeling that I know something she doesn’t, that I alone can see what is coming,” Pick writes.

As Marianne rises from the table and turns to go, she tells the great-granddaughter she will never meet, “Go live your life… Don’t suffer for me… for us…There are better ways to honor us.”

Pick considers her conversion to Judaism, overseen by a Toronto Reform beit din (rabbinical court) and not without difficulties, a huge milestone, but only an external transformation.

“I was aligning my outside with what was already inside,” she says. “There was a sense of inevitability and familiarity about it.”

Pick believes her Jewish identity will always be something in process.

“We make Shabbat, we go to shul, I’m relaxed about it,” she says. “The conversion chapter is over.”

For Pick, being out in the world with a Jewish book when “Far To Go” was published, was probably the biggest and loudest expression of her new Jewish identity.

‘I was aligning my outside with what was already inside’

“Winning the Canadian Jewish Book Award is not something I would have even remotely predicted when I was a child,” she says.

The author’s father, who discovered he was Jewish as a young man but decided not to act on it and to hide it later from his children, begins to open up to Judaism more and more as the memoir progresses, and this openness continues.

“My dad says he feels more Jewish today than yesterday, and that he’ll feel more Jewish tomorrow than today,” Pick says.

Although she would never have imagined herself as a Jewish mother, Pick doesn’t find that being one is a challenge.

“All I can be is the mother that I am. I don’t feel like I am an imposter,” she says.

Pick has had enough of secrets and prefers transparency. She is consequently happy that her daughter takes her own Jewish identity at face value.

“Ayla, who is now five, proudly declares, ‘I’m Jewish!’” Pick says.

“In most Jewish families, a daughter would gain her Jewish identity from her mother, but in our family, it’s the other way around.”