Lately, I’ve been poking at the Drakon coda that I’ve taken to calling “The Rest of the Kamenskys Are Okay.” Unfortunately, I’m coming to the realization that it is not my story to tell. A lot of the story is about dragons and rebuilding after loss, yes, but so, so much of it is about Madame Kamensky as a Jewish woman married to a gentile in late imperial Russia. I have so many Jewish friends whose ancestors lived under Russian rule, who still bear intergenerational trauma from what their families endured. When I think of writing about her, I realize that I’m also to some extent trying to write about my friends’ ancestors, and I would never dare presume that I could do their lives justice. There is no amount of reading and empathizing that will make me an authority, because ultimately, the aftershocks of those lives only touch me glancingly. To me, they’re stories. To so many people (and at the same time, not nearly enough people), they’re an inheritance of memories.
I love the family I’ve built for the Kamenskys. I love the way they come together in the wake of the devastation of their home and their oldest son’s death; I love their rigorous fair dealing with the dragons in the lull of the war. That story will always be important to me, and one I hold on to. But I don’t truly understand the layered generational traumas that Madame Kamensky would’ve lived. The way violence in the Pale of Settlement always touched Jewish communities first; the ways that Jewish people were programmatically made vulnerable to state violence. How experiencing the loss of her home during the war would have touched on all of the losses she’d experienced throughout her life, and how rebuilding as a community would have touched on the legacy of shared joys and survival that she was heir to.
I try to write about people whose lives are outside of my own realm of experience. I think that’s important for all writers to do. But on some things, I cannot claim authority, because to do so would disrespect the authority of others. There are so many Jewish writers who could write the story in my head with the authority and experience it deserves.
So unfortunately, I will not be posting “The Rest of the Kamenskys Are Okay.” But I want you to know that they are okay. And if anyone wants to tell the story where they’re okay, I encourage it.