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Kathleen A. Balgley



New Release

Letters to My Father: Excavating a Jewish Identity in Poland and Belarus

"It’s possible my father and I had our closure before he died. It was a St. Patrick’s Day. We were in California at a place called “The Abbey Pub” where we each had a beer, he by now in a wheelchair, me by his side. He pondered silently for a moment, and then remarked on the strange miracle that his long discarded Jewishness should come back to him in the form of his second daughter. When he said, “You are a lot braver than I ever was,” an entirely new door opened for me."

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"​In this beautiful, keenly observed, and evocative book, Balgley takes us on a journey to find her origins, and as with all good literary journeys, this one is rich in history, in characters large and small, in revelation and heartache. Balgley’s writing is thick with everyday life, reclaimed and honored. And Balgley succeeds on another front: reading her quest stirs the desire to explore our own history, excavating the events that we know shaped us and, possibly, events we have yet to uncover."

Professor Mike Rose, Ph.D.
Author of Possible Lives; The Mind at Work; and Why School: Reclaiming Education for All of Us


Balgley’s desire to reclaim that lost history propels her, as a Fulbright scholar, into the looking glass world of 1980’s communist-era Poland. Her soulful remembrance of that sojourn and her attempt to recover her family’s story—at a time in Poland when discussion of Polish-Jewish relations and Polish anti-Semitism were taboo—is honest, nuanced, haunting, at times hilarious. Letters to My Father is a rigorously researched, beautifully written tale about identity and belonging." 

Louise Steinman
Co-Director, Los Angeles Institute for Humanities, USC
Author of The Crooked Mirror: A Memoir of Polish-Jewish Reconciliation

"​​Balgley’s Letters to My Father is probing and panoramic. Her hunt for identity takes the latest descendant of a brilliant Jewish family back to the old country. Balgley’s genius is literary, and her evocative poetic prose transports the reader back to the old country with her. 

Rabbi Shai Cherry, Ph.D.

Author of The Torah Through Time; Introduction to Judaism: the Great Courses; Coherent Judaism: Constructive Theology and Halakha


About Kathleen Balgley

Kathleen Balgley earned her Ph.D. in Literature from University of California, San Diego. During her academic career she was at different times Lecturer at UCLA Writing Programs, Associate Director of Writing at UCSD’s Sixth College, and tenured Associate Professor of English at California State University, San Luis Obispo. 

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