Annie's Ghosts

Annie's Ghosts

A Journey Into A Family Secret

Book - 2009
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Newly selected Great Michigan Read 2013-14 and a Michigan Notable Book for 2010

One of the Washington Post Book World's "Best Books of 2009," Memoir

Beth Luxenberg was an only child. Or so everyone thought. Six months after Beth's death, her secret emerged. It had a name: Annie.

Praise for Annie's Ghosts
"Annie's Ghosts is one of the most remarkable books I have ever read . . . From mental institutions to the Holocaust, from mothers and fathers to children and childhood, with its mysteries, sadness, and joy--this book is one emotional ride."
--Bob Woodward, author of The War Within and State of Denial

"Steve Luxenberg sleuths his family's hidden history with the skills of an investigative reporter, the instincts of a mystery writer, and the sympathy of a loving son. His rediscovery of one lost woman illuminates the shocking fate of thousands of Americans who disappeared just a generation ago."
--Tony Horwitz, author of A Voyage Long and Strange and Confederates in the Attic

"I started reading within minutes of picking up this book, and was instantly mesmerized. It's a riveting detective story, a moving family saga, an enlightening if heartbreaking chapter in the history of America's treatment of people born with what we now call special needs."
--Deborah Tannen, author of You Just Don't Understand and You're Wearing That

"This is a memoir that pushes the journalistic envelope . . . Luxenberg has written a fascinating personal story as well as a report on our communal response to the mentally ill."
--Helen Epstein, author of Where She Came From and Children of the Holocaust

"A wise, affecting new memoir of family secrets and posthumous absolution."
--The Washington Post

"Annie's Ghosts will resonate for many, whether the chords have to do with family secrets, the Depression, memories of a thriving Detroit, the Holocaust's horrors, or the immigrant experience."
--The Detroit Free Press
Publisher: New York :, Hyperion Books,, 2009.
ISBN: 9781401322472
Branch Call Number: 306.8754087 LU
Characteristics: x, 401 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm


From the critics

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Dec 12, 2011

“I offer to send her the letters; it’s an unexpected present for her, and I’m glad to be able to make the offer, because it allows me to give as well as take, something reporters can’t often do. It’s also a good way to win trust.”

YPRLLocalHistory Dec 04, 2011

“I offer to send her the letters; it’s an unexpected present for her, and I’m glad to be able to make the offer, because it allows me to give as well as take, something reporters can’t often do. It’s also a good way to win trust.”

Infolass Dec 04, 2011

“I stopped thinking like a son and started thinking like a journalist.”

“What I didn’t expect, as the week wore on, was that the family would expand to take in a new member. But that’s what happened. As people dipped in and out of the records, as the debates flew about what we knew and what we didn’t and whether we should be digging around in the past, Annie gradually became a part of the family consciousness. She was no longer just a name on a hospital record. She was no longer just a secret.”


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Dec 20, 2018

DNA testing has people now finding relatives all over the world, but sometimes the information is not that welcome. People have to realize that what is now perfectly acceptable was once very much a disgrace to families. I don't know that the author really thought he knew his mother after all his research.

CRRL_MegRaymond Nov 10, 2017

Luxenberg grew up believing his mother was an only child. After her death, the family discovered she had a sister who was never mentioned. But why?

The author by his own admission claims not to be a genealogist but his journalism skills have held him in good stead to unravel the stories of his own family, which he tells in this book. In particular those of his mother, who always claimed to be an only child, but whom in fact, had a sister until the age of 21 when she was admitted permanently to a local hospital due to her physical and mental frailties.
This book is almost like a detective story as the author narrates his own research journey and what he finds out about his mother and father and other family members having interviewed over 150 people to add a context and find memories of life in Detroit in the Depression era and elsewhere.
You can hear an interview with the author on episode 120 of the Genealogy Gems podcast


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