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Vashti speaks to Michael Rosen

A few months ago, Aron Keller spoke to the author and broadcaster Michael Rosen about his new book, ‘The Missing’, and much else besides.

Like many other 90s kids, I was brought up on a diet of 10p Freddos and Michael Rosen books. While my love for We’re Going on a Bear Hunt lives on, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve also come to admire Rosen as a political campaigner. Michael’s recent battle with coronavirus (he’s currently recovering in hospital) has been a reminder of how nationally beloved he is.

A few months ago, I had the great pleasure of interviewing Michael. While we were mostly there to talk about his new book, The Missing – a poignant family memoir about the Holocaust – our conversation strayed into environmentalism, the paradoxes of Jewish identity and much else besides. 

In a cramped north London office stuffed with books, Michael told me he admired the Labour peer Lord Dubs, for dedicating his latter years to campaigning on immigration. “This is a man who could have just quietly done as Voltaire says: ‘Just grow your garden,’” said Michael. Instead, “he’s taken up the issue of Syrian children and other refugees.” Having used his own platform to advocate for many worthy causes over the years – including ones that haven’t always been popular – I thought about how the same could be said for the man sitting opposite me.

Aron Keller

Michael on the importance of Holocaust education:

“My Dad, when I was growing up, would just say, ‘I had two French uncles, and they were there at the beginning of the war, and they weren’t there at the end.’ … How can people just disappear?”

Michael explains how the story of his missing relatives inspired him write a book about the Holocaust for younger people.

Michael on Jewishness:

“One of the paradoxes and ironies of Jewish life is: well what are you? But I mean you try and explain that to someone, “Well being Jewish is going around saying, ‘What am I?’” and they go “Well, that’s not an identity”. Well actually, it is, and it’s perfectly alright”.

Here Michael talks about his Jewish identity means and how it diverges from more traditional ideas of Jewishness.

Listen to the full interview on Soundcloud, Spotify or Apple Podcasts.