Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Silvia Tennenbaum, 1928 – 2016

We are sad to report that Silvia Tennenbaum passed away at age 88.

The author of novels and short stories, including the best-seller Rachel the Rabbi's Wife, Silvia will also be remembered for her bright blue eyes, her love of the Mets, and her progressive politics.  She was smart and kind and generous.  I was sad to get the news that she passed away this summer.

My daughters remember Silvia as the smiling writer with the blue hair.  Her hair was lovely and white, but she took to adding a swipe of bright blue hair color... sassy and unexpected... just like she was.  

Silvia Tennenbaum in her studio at VCCA (photo by Lois Lord)
Silvia was one of the first Fellows I met at VCCA. She had a long, wonderful history at Mt. San Angelo where she had been in residence fifteen times.  She first came to VCCA in 1984, and she had great stories to tell about the early days at VCCA.  She loved baseball and would organize us to go to watch the minor league team in Lynchburg.  The team was called the L-Sox early on, and she talked of watching Darryl Strawberry play there before he went to the Majors and the Mets.  She continued to attend the ball games when the team became the Lynchburg Hillcats.

She also had a deep connection to Lynchburg where she lived from 1951 to 1958 as the rabbi's wife.  Although she talked of moving to Lynchburg at one point, East Hampton, New York, was home to her. 

In addition to Rachel the Rabbi's Wife, she was the author of the novel Yesterday's Streets, for which she received the Goethe Medal of the Hessian Ministry for Science and Art in 2012.  She was touched by the honor and proud to be fêted in her native Germany which she had fled when she was ten years old. 

In an application to VCCA, she said that her life and work have been a search for her identity. She said, "I am still trying to chart the passage, the long road through sunlit landscapes, the melodies of the languages that compete in my head, the passions unleashed by my exile, my escape into life."   We were happy to have been with her during part of that search.

Silvia was deeply connected to VCCA. "I love the VCCA more than any other place I've been", she said in one of her evaluations.  It was wonderful to see the ease with which she entered life here.  It was a creative home for her. Somehow, I always thought she'd be back for another residency.  I'm sorry that I won't be seeing her twinkling blue eyes again...and the radical blue patch of hair above them.

-Sheila Gulley Pleasants



2 comments:

Sandell Morse said...

I remember Silvia with great fondness. I just took a copy of Yesterday's Streets down from my book shelf, which she signed. We were in residence together in '95. Like, you Sheila, I always thought our paths would cross again. Lovely, tribute. May she rest in peace.

Kellly Cherry said...

I am saddened to hear this. I remember the blue streak!