The Forgetting River: A Modern Tale of Survival, Identity, and the Inquisition Doreen
Carvajal Riverhead Books, 2012
(Description from Amazon)
The unexpected and moving story of an American journalist who works to uncover her
family’s long-buried Jewish ancestry in Spain.
Raised a Catholic in California, New York Times journalist Doreen Carvajal is shocked
when she discovers that her background may actually be connected to conversos in
Inquisition-era Spain , Jews who were forced to renounce their faith and convert
to Christianity or face torture and death. With vivid childhood memories of Sunday
sermons, catechism, and the rosary, Carvajal travels to the south of Spain, to the
centuries-old Andalucian town of Arcos de la Frontera, to investigate her lineage
and recover her family’s original religious heritage.
In Arcos, Carvajal is struck by the white pueblo's ancient beauty and the difficulty
she encounters in probing the town's own secret history of the Inquisition. She comes
to realize that fear remains a legacy of the Inquisition along with the cryptic messages
left by its victims. Back at her childhood home in California, Carvajal uncovers
papers documenting a family of Carvajals who were burned at the stake in the 16th-century
territory of Mexico. Could the author’s family history be linked to the hidden history
of Arcos? And could the unfortunate Carvajals have been her ancestors?
As she strives to find proof that her family had been forced to convert to Christianity
six-hundred years ago, Carvajal comes to understand that the past flows like a river
through time –and that while the truth might be submerged, it is never truly lost.
(What also makes this book so fascinating is that, in addition to her story, she
describes topics ranging from bell ringing to local festivals to unemployment to
music (including flamenco and saeta), to how names changed, to the story of local