Wednesday, November 16, 2022

An Explanation of the Book Cover of Zaidy's War


I have gotten many compliments for the book cover of Zaidy's War. That's gratifying, because the publisher and I put a lot of thought and planning into it. I'd like to explain its features, so that you might appreciate its engineering.

There are 5 elements to the cover: the title, the subtitle, the background, the arm, the flags.

The title: the most familiar and oft-used holocaust memoir titles are "x's x," where the first x is an old-world European name (e.g. Manya, Luli, Anka, et al.) and the second x is a hopeful adjective (e.g. Hope, Search, Journey, et al.). That worked for me, but I wanted the first x to me more family-familiar, and the second x to be something harsher. Hence, Zaidy's War. I also went with "Zaidy" over "Zeidy" because the former is more flexible in pronunciation.

The subtitle: this was an 11th-hour request from the publisher. I set to work drafting something impactful, catchy, and eyeball-grabbing. I wrote up a dozen ideas, and polled my family, plus my cousins - who have a deep, vested interest in the book, as you might imagine. The one settled on was the near-unanimous winner. The first clause is an eyebrow-raiser, the second hints that it's wide-ranging, the third tells you more is involved than only one man's trial, and the final one works because the publisher said "survival" and "resilience" are a bit overused. "Endurance" it is!

The background: I was looking for something that conveyed the harshness of the environment that Zaidy endured for 3.5 years of the war. I was also looking for something that suggested not just the harshness of terrain, but war itself. The artist found the perfect blend of bone-coldness, plus a war trench. It's perfect. I swear I can feel the cold when I hold the book.

The arm: the outstretched arm and strong grip overtly and obviously represent the Yad chazakah v'Zroyah netuyah of the Creator. Zaidy's brother specifically cited this when saved from death, in the visage of the liberating Americans. It serves as metaphor as well because Zaidy appreciated God's intervention in subtler ways.

The flags: I was looking for a way to represent Zaidy's life journey. I did not want the most common motif, which would be obvious to anyone who picks up 15 ransom Holocaust memoirs. You'll see how they're alike. The publisher rejected a giant map of Europe with various arrows, and a timeline with arrows was rejected as well. As a passionate vexillologist, I thought flags of each sojourn would be a marvelous way to depict Zaidy's wanderings. The publisher agreed. The angle of the pole and fluttering of the flags is inspired by the famous Flag Raising at Iwo Jima picture, and also by a beautiful picture my wife took on Yom Ha'atzma'ut years ago of an arm waving the Israeli flag (it's on the wall of our home office). The reader will note that the flags all look like they were during WWII. Therefore, 4 of the 6 are different from the present day. The reader will also note that the wear and tear of the flags is carefully orchestrated. Example: the Nazi flag is limpest of all, and ravaged through its heart, while the Israeli flag's heart is intact, albeit with a healed scar. An explanation of this is not necessary. I worked with an artist on to put all these elements together.

And there you have it! A cover I consider rather unique, and certainly stands out on a Holocaust bookshelf, if all the books were facing out. I'm proud of it, and I appreciate the interest in my book overall. Thank you for reading: