27 August 2019

When a Toy Dog Became a Wolf and the Moon Broke Curfew by Hendrika de Vries Book Spotlight!


When a Toy Dog Became a Wolf and the Moon Broke Curfew
Hendrika de Vries | August 27, 2019, | She Writes Press
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-63152-658-9 | Price: $16.95
Memoir
Memoirist Embodies Resistance in Nazi-era Title
In her memoir When a Toy Dog Becomes a Wolf and the Moon Broke Curfew (She Writes Press, August 27, 2019), Hendrika de Vries focuses on the importance of female empowerment. A story of survival and the power of love, courage, and imagination in a time of violent oppression, Hendrika de Vries shows how the bond between mother-daughter is made stronger amidst subversive activities and acts of moral courage.  
Born when girls were to be housewives and mothers, a Dutch “daddy’s girl” in Nazi-occupied
Amsterdam learns about female empowerment when her father is deported to a POW camp
in Germany and her mother joins the Resistance. Freedoms taken for granted are eroded with
escalating brutality by men with swastika armbands who aim to exterminate those they deem
“inferior” and those who do not obey.


Following de Vries’ journey from child- to woman-hood, When A Toy Dog Became a Wolf
and the Moon Broke Curfew bears witness to the strength that flourishes despite oppression,
the power of women existing beyond the cultural gender roles of the time, and shows that
memories hold the keys to the betterment of our future. A therapist for over thirty years,
de Vries has used her experience healing the trauma of others’ to tap into her childhood
memories of Nazi-occupation to empower others to stand up in the face of injustice.
Hendrika de Vries’ life experiences, from the dark days of Nazi-occupied Amsterdam as a child, through her years as a swimming champion, young wife and mother in Australia, and a move to America in the sixties, have infused her work as a therapist, teacher, and writer. Hendrika holds a BA (with Phi Beta Kappa) from the University of Colorado, an MTS (cum laude) in theological studies from Virginia Theological Seminary, and an MA in counseling psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute. Read more on www.agirlfromamsterdam.com
An Interview with
Hendrika de Vries
You experienced a lot of uprooting from what a “normal” childhood might look like. How did that effect you and what did you learn most from your childhood in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam?
As a therapist for over thirty years I have learned that a “normal” childhood is more
of an illusion than we imagine.  Around the world we see children suffering violence,
hunger, and prejudice, and, as therapists and social workers we know that even behind
the façade of our safe suburban homes, many children silently endure the trauma of
incest, of physical or verbal abuse, and domestic violence.
I grew up at a time when people who were deemed “inferior” were dragged off the
streets to be slaughtered, and when discovered listening to the radio could get you
shot.  I will always carry the vigilant awareness that freedoms we take for granted
can be taken away at lightning speed and that hatred is easily fanned by leaders
who attain power through stoking fear and prejudice, but I was fortunate to have
had parents who taught me the spiritual and emotional power of integrity, moral
conscience, and courage.  Their strength of character lives inside of me and has
enabled me to guide others in my work as a therapist, teacher, and writer.
How did your mother’s choice to join the Resistance and hide a Jewish girl in
your home impact you as a young girl?
At the time that my father was deported to Germany, I was an only child surrounded
by friends and cousins who all had siblings so that when my mother told me we
were going to hide a Jewish girl I was thrilled that I too would have an adopted
older sibling. But as she and I formed a sisterly closeness and often slept in the
same bed, I could never figure out at six-years-old why the Nazis wanted to kill her.
 I believe this set me on my lifelong path to try to understand human behavior and
an eventual spiritual quest for the divine. By joining the Resistance and breaking
Nazi-imposed laws, my mother sowed the seeds for my adult feminism. She modeled
female strength, showed me the limitations of culturally imposed gender roles that
expected women to be passive, and taught me that active disobedience could be an
empowering act of moral courage and love.
Right alongside surviving Nazi-occupation, you survived the Hunger Winter of 1944-45 in which 20,000 Dutch people died of starvation. Can you tell us a little bit about that experience?
The Hunger Winter of WWII Amsterdam was not written or talked about much during
the early postwar years when the discovery of the death camps and slaughter of
millions of Jews sent shock waves through the Western World.  Our family emigrated t
o Australia and I sometimes felt that my mother and I alone experienced the trauma
of the Hunger Winter. This created an intense mother-daughter trauma bond that
would require many years of personal therapy to untangle.  When I returned to
Amsterdam in 1993 for analysis with a Dutch Rabbi/Jungian analyst, I was surprised
to find a book with photos that had been taken by Underground workers, of the
malnourished and starving children of which I had been one. Suddenly, I did not
feel so alone with my memories anymore.  I could acknowledge the origins of my
intense need for physical security, for warmth and food, and my fear of empty
kitchen cupboards, and began to heal the trauma.
What is the meaning of your title?
The title of my memoir refers to two actual events, described in detail in the book,
that gave me a lifelong belief in the power of our imagination to change the world.
Born and raised at a time when women were expected to be obedient as toy dogs and
passive as the reflective moon, I see a similarity between the enforcement of culturally
prescribed gender roles that take away women’s rights and gun-toting Nazis threatening
those they deem “inferior” or those that dare to disobey.  The women and men who
resisted the dark evils of prejudice and hatred drew on their wolf nature to resist and
drew down the moon from behind the clouds to illuminate their path when the powers
of darkness tried to permanently extinguish all the Light in the world.
In light of war, violence, separation, betrayal, hunger, poverty and emigration,
how did your mother’s choices empower you to become a successful woman?
My mother was a bit of a “tiger mom” who taught me not to let fear or feelings of
helplessness turn me into a victim.  A woman of deep faith, intuitive wisdom, courage
and practicality, she believed every problem was simply a challenge and taught me
that survival and success both depend on a disciplined mind and a focus on the tasks
over which we have power––even if it is only to make your bed or brush your teeth.
Connect with the higher power in your life, whether it is God or your own conscience,
trust your dreams, and give thanks for what you have.  Her rituals of survival, a
determination not to let fear turn us into victims, and the daily practice of gratitude,
have guided and empowered me at every turn of my life.
How has your experience with male presence influenced your perspective of gender?
The little girl who experienced the Nazi presence and cruelty did not identify the Nazis,
whether Dutch or German, as evil because they were men, but because they were
“bad people” filled with hatred and prejudice instead of love and kindness.  
Raised on Grimm’s fairy tales with evil kings and monstrous witches, I believed
that evil transcended gender. On a more personal level, I saw my father respect
women, and male resistance workers treat my mother as an equal warrior in the fight
against tyranny,  but I also witnessed other men (Nazi and non-Nazi) dismiss and
reprimand my mother as if she were an ignorant child, simply because she was a woman.
These early experiences gave me a glimpse into the connection between the abuse of
power, based on ideologies of supremacy, and cultural gender bias that shaped my
future feminist views about the need for gender equality that is based on mutual respect
and an acknowledgment of our shared humanity.
What drove you to write your memoir now?
Over the years, as I shared stories of my childhood in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam
with friends, students and colleagues, I was often told that I should write my memoir.
 I always hesitated, because it felt self-indulgent to write about my childhood
experiences since I have lived a long successful life while so many others were
brutally tortured and died horrible deaths.  But after seeing torch-bearing Neo-Nazis
carrying swastikas in Charlottesville, Virginia, on my television screen last year and
witnessing the current resurgence of hatred, prejudice, and attacks on women’s rights,
 I realize that those of us who have experienced the swift erosion of freedoms and the
brutality of Nazi tyranny have an obligation to future generations to share our stories.
What ways have you overcome your own trauma? Has that helped in your role
as a therapist?
Trauma is a complex issue since traumatic events are often encapsulated within the
psyche and not dealt with until a current event triggers the memories. For many years,
I locked mine away, while I enjoyed being a swimming champion, young wife and
mother in Australia.  The full impact of my childhood trauma only resurfaced after a
series of events––a permanent move to Denver, Colorado, for my husband’s career,
the unexpected death of my father, and the break up of my marriage––shattered my
defenses. I entered Jungian analysis, embarked on an intense spiritual quest, and
eventually made a pilgrimage to Amsterdam to work with a Rabbi/Jungian analyst
who had me visit the sites where the trauma had taken place and encouraged me to
tell him my story in Dutch, the mother-tongue familiar to the little girl who had
experienced the trauma. Without my own healing, I doubt that I could have been a
successful therapist to others.
What advice would you give someone who may be facing trauma in their lives currently?
Do not go it alone!  Seek support, surround yourself with people who understand
trauma and are able to hear your needs and concerns, and find a therapist.  Know
that you can survive and thrive. Take action. We are all much stronger than we think
we are, and with the current increasing awareness about the impact of trauma, help is
available if you look for it.

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