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Author Blog: Hunting Family Ghosts

Doreen Carvajal’s first book, “The Forgetting River,” is about her search to recover her Catholic family’s hidden Sephardic Jewish roots in a mystical white pueblo on Spain’s southern frontier in Andalusia. Her blog posts are featured on The Arty Semite courtesy of the Jewish Book Council and My Jewish Learning’s Author Blog Series. For more information on the series, please visit:


The moment the cardboard box from New York arrived, I felt a strange mixture of elation and melancholy. The package was stacked with copies of my first book, a memoir, “The Forgetting River.”

I examined the hardcover like checking a new baby, counting the pages, smoothing the cover, reading the tribute and rereading my first sentences that I think I must have rewritten more than 100 times since I started my quest. It’s a universal story of personal discovery, my journey to reclaim the secret Sephardic Jewish identity of my Catholic Carvajal family in a white pueblo on a high ridge in the southern frontier of Spain.

Everyone has a mystery in the family tree and this was mine. Now I feel wistful as a I look over the last chapter because I long to keep adding new information. Unbeknownst to me, my older cousin, Rosie, revealed a few days ago that she had questioned my great aunt Luz in San Jose, Costa Rica at a family gathering before she died in 1998. Aunt Luz, which literally means the light, was the careful historian of family lore, typical of Anusim — Hebrew for forced Christian converts dating back to the Spanish Inquisition. The Anusim or Marranos — which in Spanish literally means pigs — typically relied on elder women to pass on their secrets.

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Author Blog: Hunting Family Ghosts

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