A Conversation with Writer/Cartoonist Ken Krimstein

Rescued Stories Brought to Life

A Conversation with Writer/Cartoonist Ken Krimstein

Spertus Institute Dean & Chief Academic Officer Dr. Keren E. Fraiman and writer and New Yorker cartoonist Ken Krimstein sat down to discuss his book, When I Grow Up: The Lost Autobiographies of Six Yiddish Teenagers.

This program was broadcast live in June 2022. We recorded it so you can enjoy their conversation about this incredible book and the remarkable story behind its creation.


An NPR Best Book of the Year | A Washington Post Best Book | A Chicago Tribune Best Read

In the 1930s, the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in Vilna (Vilnius), held a memoir-writing contest for Yiddish-speaking teens. They received 700 entries. The prize was to be awarded on September 1, 1939, the day Hitler invaded Poland.

Long thought to be lost to the Nazis, the teens’ essays were in fact heroically smuggled into hiding. In 2017, they were found. Krimstein, notebook in hand, came to bring them to life.

In When I Grow up, Krimstein shares stories from six of the young men and women. Almost cinematic, the narratives are full of humor, yearning, ambition, and teen angst. It’s as if half a dozen new Anne Frank stories suddenly came to light, framed by the dramatic story of their rediscovery.

Readers will leave with gratitude for Krimstein’s innovative vision of a time and place, rescued from oblivion — Jewish Book Council

Ken Krimstein is a cartoonist, author, and educator whose work regularly appears in The New YorkerThe Wall Street JournalBarron’s, and the Chicago Tribune. His 2018 book The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt won the Bernard J. Bromm­el Award for Biog­ra­phy and Mem­oir, was named a Best Graphic Novel of the Year by Forbes, and was a final­ist for the Nation­al Jew­ish Book Award. He is a member of Spertus Institute’s faculty and teaches at DePaul University. Photo by Art Shay.

Dr. Keren E. Fraiman is Spertus Institute’s Dean & Chief Academic Officer. In this role, she oversees Spertus Institute’s academic and public programming.

This program was Spertus Institute’s 2022 Horwitz Family Presentation on Jewish History, generously endowed by the Horwitz Charitable Fund.

See all On Demand