The Aunt’s Mirrors

The Aunt’s Mirrors is a memoir published by Brandl & Schlesinger.

  • To read about the book on the publisher’s website, click here.

Praise for The Aunt’s Mirrors

Thomas Keneally, author of Schindler’s List:

“Damien Freeman’s memoir is utterly engaging, subtle where it counts, robust in its narrative and utterly charming. Its central device gives it a unity and a drive readers will enjoy. This is an accomplished and engrossing book.”

Richard Zimler, author of The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon:

“Jewish and Australian history converge in this compelling and beautifully documented memoir.  The Aunt’s Mirrors is sure to resonate strongly with those readers who adore the details of history.”

Meg Stewart, author of Margaret Olley—Far from a Still Life:

“A richly detailed celebration of family and significance gleaned from the everyday… the resulting patchwork of personal and social history offers readers much to identify with and savour.”

David Gonski, Chancellor of the University of New South Wales:

The Aunt’s Mirrors exemplifies one way in which we might begin to laud ordinary experience, and come to enjoy contemplating the insights to be gleaned from lives composed of such experiences… the author demonstrates the pride that we can take in the achievements of those who have contributed to our community… We live in a world that has an unhealthy obsession with personal authenticity: The Aunt’s Mirrors reminds us that generations of Australians have found that their lives gain meaning from participating in a shared form of life, and the more we reflect on this experience, the more we might come to embrace the meaningfulness that our individual lives have from participating in the life of the team.”

Noel Pearson, author of Up from the Mission:

“I was very keen to read Damien’s family memoir, but I find it is fundamentally a work of philosophy, and there is great philosophical guidance and some riveting passages in this book.”

Hilary Rubinstein, the Journal of the Australian Jewish Historical Society:

“…an exceedingly interesting and intelligent family history, felicitously told through the literary device of objects reflected in the mirrors… The book exemplifies family history at its best and most enlightening.”

The Sydney Morning Herald:

“This is an embracing, even epic family history… along with meditations on memory and family, Freeman not only gives us… a portrait of migrant colonial life from the gold rushes on, but also a homage to ‘ordinary’ life.”

About The Aunt’s Mirrors

The author’s discovery that his aunt’s mirrors reflect tantalizing perspectives of his relatives’ past and present life leads us on a journey from Partitioned Poland with six Jewish families whose experiences of Australia began in the mid-1850s. His unflinching eye captures dreams, heartache, love and loss, with immense understanding of what it takes to reflect on lives lived:

“When I look at the objects in this house… the mirrors function as my camera—recording, not thinking… their impressions waiting to be developed.”

On the top shelf in his aunt’s dressing room, Freeman discovered a collection of family memorabilia that told a story he had always assumed to be perfectly unexceptional. As he looked into his aunt’s mirrors, however, he realised that her house held the key to understanding the simple yet arresting values that had sustained seven generations of his family in Australia:

  • love of ordinary people
  • holiness of family life
  • commitment to communal life
  • attachment to objects
  • possibility of reclaiming the past
  • reconciliation to the raging of family ghosts

The Aunt’s Mirrors reveals an unexpected story of how an immigrant family from Poland made a new life—whilst continuing an old one—in nineteenth-century Beechworth, Grafton, Rylstone, and Sydney, through the shared sense of meaningfulness that permeated the lives of seven generations of this Australian Jewish family.

  • To read more about Freeman’s family, click here.

Book launch

The book was launched by Noel Pearson at the Union, University and Schools Club on 24 November, 2014.

Speaking engagements

Freeman has been invited to speak about The Aunt’s Mirrors at a number of events.

  • To read “The Values of Australian Jewry”, a talk that Freeman gave at the Sydney Jewish Museum, click here.
  • To read “The Meaningfulness of Objects”, a talk that Freeman gave at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, click here.