Ramona Ausubel has found a way to let a story breathe while also giving great specificity to language—a rare trait among new authors.
After spending the first 18 years of her life in Santa Fe, Ausubel retains the importance of community, art and storytelling she learned here—as well as, she tells SFR, “a love for green chile and big skies.”
In a city that “fosters weirdness and individuality like nowhere else,” Ausubel found the voice that fills her novel No One Is Here Except All of Us. While scripting the struggles of a Jewish community in the hatred-filled turmoil of 1939 Eastern Europe, she evokes Native American narrative traditions.
In the latter years of World War II, a small tribe of Romanian Jews decides to stop running. They cannot survive in the world they inhabit, so at the insistence of leading lady Lena and a mysterious man washed ashore, they decide to invent a new one, creating new histories for everyone. The community isolates itself from the violent outside world.
The characters begin their new lives in the small town of Zalischik. From day one in their imaginary world, however, problems arise. For starters, they are still hiding, but now psychologically from the brutality of the real world. In this alternate reality, Lena’s aunt and uncle become her parents, and she has to forget her real family. The history of her tribe she hoped to preserve has been erased.
Although we see through Lena’s eyes, we also witness others going through similar transformations. They only find peace when characters scatter across Europe and America. Though running away from home seems more frightening at first, they no longer have to pretend that “the new world we are all making together is a fair one.”
Based on Ausubel’s great-grandmother, Lena is plaintive and powerful in her resilience—a brave participant in history, putting her love for her tribe above her own survival.
Where Ausubel supplements her grandmother’s stories with imaginative material, one might conclude that she learned the importance of storytelling and of tribal bonds from her 18 years in Santa Fe. She first realized her love for writing in Santa Fe at the Rio Grande School. She laughs, remembering; “It was the one thing I felt better at than everyone else in my class.” She later studied poetry at the Santa Fe Community College.
No One Is Here Except All of Us is full of poetic language, graced by a fiction writer’s imagination. The author has managed to break apart from the heavy weight of World War II, leaving readers in a dream state with this close-knit community. Infinitely soulful and tender, Ausubel’s characters mold stories within stories just to escape the truths of their world.
Readers may not find the community’s reimagined reality believable, but the point of this tale is to view history through an invented lens. Ausubel has a story to tell, a story from her family, from her home, and from a place deep within herself.
“No one had the in-betweens of the story, so I had to create it for myself,” Ausubel says. “I found my own truth along the way—a writer’s truth apart from all the facts. There are true stories tucked in there.”
She manages to avoid the gravity of facts, giving us insight into the life of an 11-year-old girl just coming to terms with herself and learning to be brave.
Even with her great-grandmother’s stories and her fascination with tales from “the old country,” Ausubel finds truth in her own inventions, gracefully stepping into her great-grandmother’s worn-down shoes.
“You’d have to lock it in a box to keep it the same [story],” Ausubel says, “and that would kill it. If you keep the story going, no matter how it changes over time, it remains alive.”
3 pm, Sunday, March 4
Collected Works Bookstore
202 Galisteo St 988-4226