I wanted to spread the news. Why was it that I had to physically visit Budapest to understand the life vibrating within and beyond its walls? Why do international communities assume Jewish Budapest, and the wider Jewish Eastern Europe, is a cemetery? How could I, and people like me, build on the history of the Holocaust to tell a new story, rather than repeating tales of victimization and fear?
Within one year, I applied to grants, fellowships, and scholarships, all yielding an unapologetic "No." I had one more chance: crowd funding. I typed feverishly until finally, my Kickstarter successfully reached its goal. I raised the $12,085 that would fund my eight-month stay in Budapest, Hungary, interviewing and documenting the life narratives of twenty-one inspiring Hungarian adults.
This led to the narrative nonfiction anthology, Somehow I Am Different: Narratives of Searching and Belonging in Jewish Budapest. This book introduces the reader to a circle of empowering individuals, including but not limited to a proud and independent Orthodox wife and mother, a young non-Jewish man who grew from angsty anti-Semitic teen to spiritual adult contemplating conversion to Judaism, and an internationally renown Hungarian rapper and slam poet defending Judaism despite physical and career risks.
Increasing numbers of adults in today's world are feeling more and more alone. I share my sometimes strong, sometimes clumsy journey to provide an opportunity for connection.
While many books have documented the historical narrative of Hungary, or World War II Eastern Europe, or the psychological benefits of resilience, none to date have combined the variety of perspectives that Somehow I Am Different has turned into a human tale of survival, vulnerability, and belonging.
Somehow I Am Different reminds readers that in spite of the factors working against you, you have the inherent power to get back up to achieve whatever you set your mind to.
Alyssa Petersel, December 2016