Prisoner of Her Past

Trade Paper – $19.95

ISBN 978-0-8101-2795-1
Publication Date
September 2011
Page Count
224 pages
Trim Size
5.5 x 8.25

Prisoner of Her Past

A Son's Memoir
Howard Reich

Until February 15, 2001, Howard Reich’s mother, Sonia, had managed to keep almost everything about her experience of the Holocaust from her son. That night, she packed some clothes and fled her house in Skokie, Illinois, convinced that someone was trying to kill her. This was the first indication that she was suffering from late-onset post traumatic stress disorder, a little-known condition that can emerge decades after the initial trauma. For Howard, it was also the opening of a window onto his mother’s past. 

In Prisoner of Her Past, Howard Reich has written a moving memoir about growing up as the child of Holocaust survivors and finding refuge from silence and fear in the world of jazz. It is only when Sonia’s memories overwhelm her and Howard begins to piece together her story that he comes to understand how his parents’ lives shaped his own. The paperback edition includes an epilogue by the author that relates developments since the publication of the cloth edition.
About the Author

Howard Reich has been an award-winning Chicago Tribune arts critic and writer since 1983. He is also a correspondent for DownBeat magazine. In addition to covering jazz, blues, gospel, and world music for the Tribune, he has authored several investigative reports that have been featured on ABC’s Nightline and various National Public Radio programs. He is the author of three other books: The First and Final Nightmare of Sonia Reich: A Son’s Memoir (2006); Jelly’s Blues: The Life, Music, and Redemption of Jelly Roll Morton (2003), written with William Gaines; and Van Cliburn (1993). He most recently wrote, produced, and narrated a documentary film about his mother’s unspoken Holocaust childhood, Prisoner of Her Past. Reich graduated from Northwestern University’s School of Music.


"[Reich's] book is a compelling and compassionate memoir, a moving story of a loving relationship between a mother and son." —Booklist

"All through her suffering, rage and terror, [Howard Reich's mother] kept things together for her husband and children as best she could. Now Reich can only do what a good son should do—honor his father and his mother, in the best and perhaps the only way possible." —Carolyn See, Washington Post 

"A tender exploration of a family that reverses its silences. Delivered with precision and guided by emotion, the work avoids melancholy, instead presenting a breathtaking familial panorama that is studded with loss, pain, denial, and, ultimately, honor." —Utne Reader 

"Memory runs deep, and it is real, and the mind is not capacious enough to heal itself from its own worst scars. The only thing left is to prevent the atrocity in the first place. Reich's book gives us yet another reason to mourn the tragedies we have set upon ourselves—and the tragedies we fail to prevent." —Beth Kephart, Chicago Tribune