“White Walls tells a story of mother-daughter relationships in a way that is fresh, honest, sad, and funny all at the same time.” –Bustle, in 12 Nonfiction Books Every Woman Needs to Read
A “Mom Must-Read” –Parents
“Batalion is a talented writer who balances the ups and downs, shares humor and heartbreak. Her sentences are beautiful: sometimes emotional, sometimes making you laugh out loud.” –Mayim Bialik on GrokNation.com, Inaugural book club pick
“Told in a style that is anxiously charming, Batalion’s memoir asks what it means to both love our parents and to be free from their wreckage.” —LA Review of Books
“Beautifully written… White Walls is a sophisticated, daring take on the effects of the Holocaust, and Batalion represents an important voice on contemporary Jewish identity.” –The Jerusalem Post
“Reeling, esoteric wit.” –The Believer
“A pitch perfect memoir.” –The Forward
WHITE WALLS, a poignant and humorous tale of “stuff and survival,” considers four generations of Jewish women as they navigate hoarding and antihoarding, the search for home, and the emotional legacy of the Holocaust. The book has been featured on the Today Show, the New York Times Sunday Review, LA Review of Books, The Believer, the New York Post and the Forward.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
A memoir of mothers and daughters, hoarding, and healing.
Judy Batalion grew up in a house filled with endless piles of junk and layers of crumbs and dust; suffocated by tuna fish cans, old papers and magazines, swivel chairs, tea bags, clocks, cameras, printers, VHS tapes, ballpoint pens…obsessively gathered and stored by her hoarder mother. The first chance she had, she escaped the clutter to create a new identity—one made of order, regimen, and clean white walls. Until, one day, she found herself enmeshed in life’s biggest chaos: motherhood.
Confronted with the daunting task of raising a daughter after her own dysfunctional childhood, Judy reflected on not only her own upbringing but the lives of her mother and grandmother, Jewish Polish immigrants who had escaped the Holocaust. What she discovered astonished her. The women in her family, despite their differences, were even more closely connected than she ever knew—from her grandmother Zelda to her daughter of the same name. And, despite the hardships of her own mother-daughter relationship, it was that bond that was slowly healing her old wounds.
Told with heartbreaking honesty and humor, this is Judy’s poignant account of her trials negotiating the messiness of motherhood and the indelible marks that mothers and daughters make on each other’s lives.
PRESS & MEDIA:
Reviews, features, Q&A’s, interviews, excerpts and Judy’s related essays have appeared in the national media (Today Show, New York Times, Washington Post, Salon, Vogue, People, Parents, Cosmo), literary pubs (The Believer, LA Review of Books), Jewish pubs (Forward, Tablet, Jerusalem Post), Canadian outlets (CBC, Global, Globe and Mail, Chatelaine), and many others. Here are some links:
TV & Radio
An interview with me (and my mom!) on the Today Show.
An interview on CBC Fresh Air.
A chat about the relationships between people and things on Word of Mouth, NHPR.
An interview on CBC All in a Weekend.
Chatting on Global’s The Morning Show.
En français! — on CBC Radio Canada.
An interview on the Charlie Brennan show – KMOX CBS Radio.
Talking about walls and wishes on WMPR, NPR Affiliate, Jackson, MS, Conversations Live!
A long chat and a reading on Iowa’s KRUU FM Writer’s Voices.
Talking about mental health and writing on Mom Talk Radio.
A chat about mothers and millennials on Unspoken Words.
Talking moms and daughters on Good Day Rochester.
An interview on A Town and Village Two.
Newspapers, Magazines & Blogs
My essay about hoarding, minimalism and cleaning one’s room in the New York Times.
“Bubbe vs Bubbe” – my essay about grandmothers, love and meat in Tablet.
“My mother was a hoarder” – my essay about learning to live with others in Cosmo.
A feature on my book (with photos!) in the New York Post.
“Learning to Make Room for a Sibling” – my essay in the Washington Post.
A Q&A about walls, walls, walls in The Believer.
WHITE WALLS in People Magazine.
WHITE WALLS is one of “12 Nonfiction Books Every Woman Needs to Read” in Bustle.
On the dangers of decluttering… A short essay in Vogue.
“The Messiness of Hoarding and Motherhood”: a profile in the Forward.
WHITE WALLS in the LA Review of Books.
A review in the Jerusalem Post.
A quick mention in the New York Times Well Blog.
WHITE WALLS on the new release list in Chatelaine.
I’m featured in “Ask the Author” in Chatelaine.
My essay on moms, daughters, speaking and silence in Salon.
An eloquent, comprehensive review in The Jewish Week.
A series of excerpts in the Globe and Mail.
“Celebrating my Bat Mitzvah” – an adapted excerpt in the Forward.
WHITE WALLS is a “Mom Must-Read” in Parents Magazine.
An essay on hoarding, healing and growing up in Redbook.
WHITE WALLS is on a list of inspiring memoirs in Bustle.
A Q&A about the Holocaust and mental health in Kveller.
“How I Wrote it” on CBC Books.
My essay about Passover, festival of cleaning, in Tablet.
“A Survival Story from the Daughter of a Survivor” – feature in the Times of Israel.
My essay on how being a mother made me a better daughter in Salon.
My minimalist gift picks – in the Observer.
A short review in Booklist.
WHITE WALLS reviewed in Lilith Magazine.
My Visiting Scribe series at the Jewish Book Council.
A Q&A about feminism, fear and the chaos of writing with Jewish Women’s Archive.
A write-up of one of my lectures (plus crazy photo) in the Sarnia Observer.
An interview about hoarding and parenthood in Diary of a First Time Mom.
A quirky (possibly crazy) Q&A in the Debutante Ball.
A hoarding book round-up in Bookforum.
My essay on bad love, comedy and better love in BlogHer.
The Strand panel was a featured listing in Time Out.
An excerpt in the Canadian Jewish News.
A review in The Reporter.
My round-up of art books about maternal bodies in Oxford Art Journal.
A feature in the Montreal Suburban.
Some nice things people have said:
“White Walls is a beautiful memoir about being the daughter of a hoarder, becoming a mother, and how to heal through it all. … [it] tells a story of mother-daughter relationships in a way that is fresh, honest, sad, and funny all at the same time.” – Bustle
“Batalion writes in a clear, confiding tone, and her stints as a stand-up comic lend a graceful humor to her writing…. An absorbing, touching read.” – Booklist
“[Batalion’s] memoir is in perfect pitch: The reader feels compassion for these characters, and appreciates the author’s ability to see humor as well as darkness.” – The Jewish Week
“… the triumph of White Walls is the rigorous yet tender sorting process Batalion committed herself to—separating herself from her mother, separating her mother from her pathology, and separating them both from the teetering pyramid of furniture sets with one chair missing. It would be a difficult story to read if it weren’t for Batalion’s reeling, esoteric wit and her unflinching capacity for self-examination.” – The Believer
“… beautifully written… White Walls is a sophisticated, daring take on the effects of the Holocaust, and Batalion represents an important voice on contemporary Jewish identity…. White Walls is an engaging, moving story, fueled by fresh humor and crisp, unexpected writing.” – The Jerusalem Post
“Judy Batalion is a talented writer who balances the ups and downs, shares humor and heartbreak. Her sentences are beautiful: sometimes emotional, sometimes making you laugh out loud.” – Mayim Bialik on GrokNation.com, Inaugural book club pick
“The memoir discusses Batalion’s childhood with sharp humor and an almost reverence for her mother’s monuments of stuff…. Told in a style that is anxiously charming, Batalion’s memoir asks what it means to both love our parents and to be free from their wreckage.” — LA Review of Books
“This is a modern woman’s look at how we construct who we are—both through conscious, painstaking effort, as well as through acknowledging and embracing the comforting, familiar, and routine flows of our family histories.” – Library Journal
A “Mom Must-Read” – Parents Magazine
“…a compelling, raw narrative about the strength of the mother-daughter relationship. … an enjoyable, rewarding read.” – The Jewish Book Council
“More than a marvelous coming-of-age tale of one woman’s journey toward motherhood, White Walls is a delightful, delicious, and daring account of how, seemingly trapped forever within the wild absurdities of a mad Canadian family, she learns how a frightened and loving daughter can become a loving and happy wife and mother. This is a gorgeously textured, beautifully crafted book that touches the heart, tenderly, with laughter and with wonder, even as it reminds us of the strange, unyielding, often magical force of family in our lives.”—Jay Neugeboren, author of Imagining Robert and Transforming Madness
“Sharp, quick, funny, but the kind of funny that sometimes has you feeling kicked in the stomach and teary with the delight of recognition. For the girl who leaves Montreal for Harvard, a room with white walls was a dream of order after the panicked hoarding of her mother, the daughter of a Holocaust survivor. But hang on for memoir as romantic comedy—part Nora Ephron, part Woody Allen—and the hilarious resilience of a heroine who ends up in Manhattan with a husband, two daughters, and, yes, white walls, starting the world anew.”—Honor Moore, author of The Bishop’s Daughter
“In this terrific and powerful book about hoarders, antihoarders, parents and children, Judy Batalion tells a laugh-out-loud story about her own mother and daughter—and shows how profoundly all of us are shaped by events before we were born, how trauma moves through families, and how responsibility can be the most meaningful path to freedom. Anyone who has ever had a parent, or been one, needs to read this hilarious, beautiful book.”—Dara Horn, author of A Guide for the Perplexed
“White Walls is an unforgettable trip into a truly original mind—from Montreal to London to Manhattan, from childhood to adulthood, and from worrying about parents to worrying about children, with many strange, uncomfortable, and beautiful points in between. You won’t read another memoir quite like this one.”—Matti Friedman, author of The Aleppo Codex
“Clear-eyed and compassionate, Judy Batalion’s White Walls is a sharply funny, evocative, and moving memoir chronicling her voyage from daughter to mother as she finds her place in the world amidst the shifting currents of history, religion, time, and place. The wisdom of how to move forward while caring for the past emanates from every page. Batalion brings a palpable warmth to difficult subjects that will leave her readers inspired to contemplate the construction of their own stories and how transformation is possible.”—Ruth Andrew Ellenson, winner of the National Jewish Book Award for The Modern Jewish Girl’s Guide to Guilt
“This relatable multigenerational tale of stuff and survival moved me equally to tears and to laughter. It is funny, wise, and real.”—Jessie Sholl, author of Dirty Secret: A Daughter Comes Clean About Her Mother’s Compulsive Hoarding
“This book is honest, difficult, and perfect. Batalion’s sharp wit and hard-earned wisdom provide the reader with hope that we can all somehow find it in ourselves to embrace the inevitable chaos and change that comes with living an imperfect life.”—Nicole Knepper, LCPC, author of Moms Who Drink and Swear
“Batalion has a great sense of humor. … a well-done, absorbing work.” – The Reporter
“[A] candid, touching and very funny account of Batalion’s struggle to find an identity apart from the disorder and dread of her young life. She tells this intimate story without self-pity and with love and compassion for her mother.” – The Canadian Jewish News
“[A] pitch perfect memoir.” – The Forward
I’ve presented on topics including: contemporary parenting and Jewish identity; trauma, the Holocaust and humor; memory and authenticity; mental illness and motherhood; writing and selling memoir; and hoarding, minimalism and our relationship to stuff.
Book Clubs: I love participating in book club discussions, in person or virtually. Please contact me to arrange an appearance.
Apr 25 – 730pm – Manhasset – Temple Judea
April 28 — 915am — New York City — Congregation Emanuel Nursery School
May 2 – 12pm – New York City — Hadassah-Brandeis Institute “Conversations” series
May 10 — 7:30pm — New York City — The Lantern reading series at HiFi
May 16 – 7pm – Bridgewater, NJ – JCC
Jan 7 — 6pm — New York City — Book Launch Reception at The Corner Bookstore
Feb 16 — 7pm — Toronto — “Koffler Salon: In Retropect” at the Koffler Centre of the Arts
Feb 23 — 4pm — Boston — “The Writing Life” Talk at Harvard University
Feb 23 — 730pm — Boston — Reading and Talk at the Jewish Women’s Archive
Mar 17 — 7pm — New York City — Brotherhood Synagogue
Mar 21 — 130pm — New York City — American Jewish Museums Conference Plenary
Apr 3 — 1pm — New York City — Signing at JCC Manhattan Book Fair
Apr 12 — 12pm — Virtual — Bronftalk: Passover Cleaning in the Age of OCD
Apr 14 — 6pm — New York City — Jumpstart Scribbles to Novels Event
Apr 17 — 7pm — London, UK — Reading and Talk at JW3
May 4 — 6pm — New York City — Memoir Panel at The New School
May 18 — 10am — Sarnia — Keynote at the Home Response Collaborative Conference
June 19 — 11am — Montreal — “Sunday @ the Segal” Reading and Talk at The Segal Centre
June 20 — New York City — Talk at the Jewish Women’s Archive / Bronfman Fellowships
Aug 3 – 630pm — NYC – With Brenda Janowitz & Susan Shapiro at Eldridge Street Museum
Sept 27 — 7pm — Boston — Hadassah-Brandeis Institute “Conversations” series
Sept 28 – 9am — Boston – Hadassah-Brandeis Institute “Conversations” series
Sept 28 — 7pm — Boston — Hadassah-Brandeis Institute “Conversations” series
Oct 21 — 11am – Montreal — Allan Memorial Grand Rounds
Nov 16 – 11am – Cherry Hill – Katz JCC Festival of Arts, Books, and Culture
Nov 20 — 7pm — Montreal — Jewish Public Library
Nov 22 — 7pm — Ottawa — Ottawa Public Library
Dec 1 – 630pm – Vancouver – JCC Jewish Book Festival
Dec 5 — 7pm — Philadelphia — Temple Sinai Sisterhood
Jan 8 — 2pm — New York City — Publishing Seminar for Comedians
Jan 12 – 630pm – West Bloomfield – Temple Israel Mother and Daughter Book Club Dinner
Feb 8 – 1pm – Naples, FL – Collier County Jewish Book Festival
Mar 1 – 7pm – Columbia, MD – Hadassah-Brandeis Institute “Conversations” series
Mar 5 — 1030am — Tenafly, NJ — JCC on the Palisades “Sunday of Strong Women”
Mar 23 — 7pm — Minneapolis — The Loft Literary Center