A search for the Sephardim of Spain

  • Book: Stolen Lives
  • Location: Spain
  • Author: Joyce Yarrow

Review Author: Carol LaHines



In Alienor Crespo, an intrepid journalist who returned to Spain to search for her Sephardic roots, Joyce Yarrow has an indelible heroine. Alienor has Vijitas, or visions, that connect her across time to her matriarchal ancestors, enabling her to inhabit their consciousnesses and reifying ancestral memory. In Zahara and the Lost Books of Light, Alienor helped save the precious knowledge of the ancient libraries from the period of the Convivencia—when Jews, Muslims, and Christians lived in harmony in Spain, prior to the expulsion of the Jews in 1492—for posterity; in Stolen Lives, she embarks on a more personal mission, to reckon with Spain’s infamous history of the missing children during Franco’s repressive regime—that is to say, those stolen from their loving parents and who were raised as the children of their political enemies—as she uncovers her grandfather’s role in helping to reclaim some of the victims. Yarrow seamlessly weaves in the history of the Convivencia, the origins of the Landino language, the diaspora of the Jews from Rhodes, and the family’s dispersal during World War II, into the action-filled narrative. As Alienor believes, it is better to know the truth than to subscribe to the Pact of Forgetting, as many in modern Spain have chosen to do. In uncovering the histories of the missing children, Alienor gives voice to those whose futures and very identities were cruelly rewritten for them, erasing their bloodlines and their connection to their ancestral past—connections Alienor so vividly embodies.

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