Faith makes a comeback

• Local writer's short stories reflect her spiritual journey

Annie Dawid's Jewish father fled Germany in 1939.

He survived the Holocaust, but whatever religious faith he may have had did not. And his daughter Ñ a Portland writer who directs the creative writing program at Lewis & Clark College Ñ inherited his lack of faith.

'I read Elie Wiesel's 'Night' when I was about 9 years old,' says Da-wid, who grew up in a Jewish community on Long Island, N.Y. 'It had this huge effect on me. Between my father and that book, I was pretty much sold on atheism as the only way you could live in the world.'

Then, during a sabbatical from 1996 to 1997 in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of southern Colorado, Dawid says that her chronic depression, coupled with trouble in a relationship, caused her to have a 'crisis of spirit.'

At the same time, she says, she felt something very powerful in the mountains that pushed her away from atheism.

It was during this sabbatical that Dawid wrote six of the 12 short stories that appear in her recently published collection, 'Lily in the Desert.'

Dawid, who will read from the book in Portland this week, says she wanted to call it 'Faith,' which also is the title of one of its stories. But a friend warned her that a one-word title wouldn't appeal to the public, so she named it after one of its other stories instead.

Despite the change in title, it is faith Ñ as a broadly defined concept Ñ that loosely connects the book's parts.

In the story 'Faith,' which won the 1999 Raymond Carver Short Story Contest, a family struggles to go on after the murder of one of two daughters; in 'Lily,' a man's relationship with his dog stands between himself and suicide.

Dad's review

Three of the book's stories, including 'The Man Who Remained Upright,' draw on Dawid's experiences with her father.

According to The Jewish Review, 'The Man' is a familiar story for families of Holocaust survivors.

'My father didn't live out his own kind of depression,' the review quotes Dawid as saying, 'so the people around him had to.'

Dawid says that before her father died in 2000, she risked showing him 'The Man.'

'I was a little scared,' she says of his reaction. ''Cause it's a portrait of a harsh man.' But she was pleased by his terse, two-word comment: 'pretty accurate.'

Dawid also showed her father something else before his death: her only child, Isaiah, born in 1999.

'I think he had a lot of pride in being a new grandfather in his 80s,' she says. 'Isaiah is kind of a last Dawid.'

Unlike herself, Dawid expects Isaiah to be raised in an atmosphere of faith, even as she acknowledges 'it's not like I can point a finger at something and say, 'This is what I believe.' '

'I think my father had a faith in history,' Dawid says. 'I think of faith as any kind of belief system that keeps you alive. When I had Isaiah, life further changed because I became a hopeful person. É I've moved to a much more hopeful stance in the world because of him. Even though it's hard being a single mom, my life is so much richer. I'm very happy.'

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