Episode 467 – Ken Krimstein

Virtual Memories Show 467:
Ken Krimstein

With his new book, When I Grow Up: The Lost Autobiographies of Six Yiddish Teens (Bloomsbury), cartoonist Ken Krimstein recreates a lost world, bringing to life the true stories of Jewish youth in 1930s Lithuania, preserved in anonymous submissions for a contest. We talk about the circuitous, perilous history of the stories he adapted, the role of the YIVO Institute in preserving Jewish & Yiddish culture, and how he tried to be faithful to the hopes & dreams of the anonymous writers while knowing that they & their world would perish in the Holocaust. We get into how he developed a visual storytelling language for this book, the new influences on his cartooning, the joy & spiciness of Yiddish language & culture, the research to recreate Vilnius and how uncomfortable he got when visiting Lithuania for the project. We also discuss the counterhistory that the Yiddish teens represent, the stories that didn’t make the cut, the out-of-body experience of getting interviewed by CBS’ Morning Show for the book, Hannah Arendt’s notion of contingency and what the pandemic experience means to artists, and plenty more! Give it a listen! And go read When I Grow Up!


Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

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About our Guest

Ken Krimstein has published cartoons in the New Yorker, Punch, the Wall Street Journal, and more. He is the author of The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt, which won the Bernard J. Brommel Award for Biography and Memoir, and was a finalist for the Jewish Book Award and the Chautauqua Prize, and also of Kvetch as Kvetch Can. He lives and writes and draws in Evanston, Illinois. His new book is When I Grow Up: The Lost Autobiographies of Six Yiddish Teens.

Follow Ken on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and listen to our 2018 podcast.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded remotely via Zencastr. I used a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Ken by Richard Shay. It’s on my instagram.

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