Riva’s Journey: a Memoir

Riva’s Journey

Now available in Paperback at Amazon.com.

Everyone in the United States today is an immigrant or descended from immigrants, with the exception of Native Americans whose ancestors were here before Columbus. Between 1880 and 1920, people from Eastern and Southern Europe poured into the United States by the millions. They were Russians and Poles, Czechs and Romanians, Italians, Greeks and Ukrainians. All of our ancestors came from someplace else. Riva’s Journey explores the reasons why one large group of people, Jews who’d been born in the Russian Pale of Settlement, decided to leave their homes and immigrate to the United States, and how they adjusted to becoming Americans. Riva’s Journey tells the story of one woman, and one family, who made the trip.

There’s a curse, erroneously attributed to the Chinese, that goes, “May you live in interesting times. Riva’s Journey is the fictionalized memoir of a woman whose life spanned the start of the Industrial Revolution in Tsarist Russia to the post-war prosperity of the United States—my grandmother. She lived in very interesting times.

It was a time of vast social and political changes in the area defined as the Pale of Settlement, established by Catherine the Great of Russia about 1791, after Russia took over large parts of what had been Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, and more, and incorporated those areas into the Russian Empire. Jews were forbidden to establish new settlements outside the Pale, nor could they live in most major cities such as Moscow.  The May Laws of 1881 further severely limited Jewish rights to own land, to access education, and to engage in business. The majority of Jews relocated to various large towns and cities, pursued livelihoods in trades and small businesses, or found jobs in the newly established factories that sprouted up as industrialization of Russia progressed.

And many immigrated to America….

Available in Paperback & E-reader versions.

Riva’s Journey: a Memoir

By Barbara Lipkin

Now available for pre-order on Amazon. Get the book delivered directly to your E-reader on September 29th.

Everyone in the United States today is an immigrant or descended from immigrants, with the exception of Native Americans whose ancestors were here before Columbus. Between 1880 and 1920, people from Eastern and Southern Europe poured into the United States by the millions. They were Russians and Poles, Czechs and Romanians, Italians, Greeks and Ukrainians. All of our ancestors came from someplace else. Riva’s Journey explores the reasons why one large group of people, Jews who’d been born in the Russian Pale of Settlement, decided to leave their homes and immigrate to the United States, and how they adjusted to becoming Americans. Riva’s Journey tells the story of one woman, and one family, who made the trip.

There’s a curse, erroneously attributed to the Chinese, that goes, “May you live in interesting times. Riva’s Journey is the fictionalized memoir of a woman whose life spanned the start of the Industrial Revolution in Tsarist Russia to the post-war prosperity of the United States—my grandmother. She lived in very interesting times.

It was a time of vast social and political changes in the area defined as the Pale of Settlement, established by Catherine the Great of Russia about 1791, after Russia took over large parts of what had been Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, and more, and incorporated those areas into the Russian Empire. Jews were forbidden to establish new settlements outside the Pale, nor could they live in most major cities such as Moscow.  The May Laws of 1881 further severely limited Jewish rights to own land, to access education, and to engage in business. The majority of Jews relocated to various large towns and cities, pursued livelihoods in trades and small businesses, or found jobs in the newly established factories that sprouted up as industrialization of Russia progressed.

And many immigrated to America….

Click here to pre-order.

Special Offer This Week

A Wonderful Good Morning!

Special Offer, 1 week only – September 1 to September 8

Take advantage of the Kindle Countdown deal to purchase A Wonderful Good Morning at a discount price, only on Amazon. A Wonderful Good Morning is a mystery with a bit of science fiction thrown in. If you enjoyed Groundhog Day, you’ll love A Wonderful Good Morning.

Sometimes every day seems just like the one before.  Sometimes, it really is the day before.

Strange things have been happening to Tim for a while now.  Lately, his friends have learned to treat him very gently until he comes out of one of  his spells. His girlfriend, Natalie, decides a Rhine River cruise will be just what the two of them need to get things back to normal, but at the last minute, Tim is left to sail on his own. That’s when things get really weird. While he stares, yet again, at the very same clumps of algae in the very same stretch of the Rhine he’s been looking at for days, something finally clicks. Now the only problem is – how to fix it.

Meanwhile, Natalie and her artist friends back in Chicago wonder why Tim hasn’t returned from his vacation and why he doesn’t answer his phone. It’s not like him to just disappear;  he’s normally super responsible. They have no choice but to set off for Europe to find out what’s going on.

Click here to purchase.

Another Word About Genre

A little while ago, I wrote about the importance of establishing genre when marketing your novels. A similar factor comes into play when peddling paintings. One of the first things an artist learns when creating a body of work  is that it needs to be consistent, i.e., the viewers/prospective purchasers need to know what to expect when they hear your name. That’s fine, except if you’ve ever been to a retrospective of the work of a well-known artist, you’ll notice that their work has gone through many stages both before and after emerging into the characteristic style for which they’re known. It almost goes without saying that an artist is, by the very nature of the craft, an experimenter. So how to reconcile the demands of the artist with the demands of the public?

I’ve always loved abstract design, so although most of my paintings are representational to some extent, they’re also colorful, whimsical, and sometimes purely abstract. There’s nothing more fun than grabbing a nice, fat brush and smearing paint on a canvas, watching the colors and patterns develop, until you have either a big mess or a delightful new piece of art. (Naturally, you never show anybody the big messes. You just paint over them, and the mess becomes part of the ‘history’ of the new painting.) But at other times, I enjoy carefully designing a composition and slowly making it come to life with deliberate, well-placed strokes. At this stage of my life, I’ve pretty much stopped worrying about whether or not a new piece ‘fits’ consistently in my body of work. I just go with whatever I want to try next.

My two most recent pieces couldn’t be more different. But I enjoyed both of them.  

   Dreaming, Acrylic, 24 x 20
A River Runs Through It, Acrylic, 20 x 24

A Wonderful Good Morning

I’m excited to announce that my new Science Fiction novel is now available on Amazon in both Kindle and print versions. Thanks to everyone who pre-ordered the Kindle version, which you should have received yesterday. I hope you enjoy it, and will take a minute to write a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads.

I have to say, I never saw myself as a Science Fiction writer before. But like creating mysteries, writing sci-fi is a matter of asking yourself “what if?” In A Wonderful Good Morning, the what if? is–what if our world is changing even more than we realize? What happens to an ordinary person then?

A Wonderful Good Morning by [Barbara Lipkin]

Sometimes every day seems just like the one before. Sometimes, it really is the day before.


Strange things have been happening to Tim for a while now. Lately, his friends have learned to treat him very gently until he comes out of one of his spells. His girlfriend, Natalie, decides a Rhine River cruise will be just what the two of them need to get things back to normal, but at the last minute, Tim is left to sail on his own. That’s when things get really weird. While he stares, yet again, at the very same clumps of algae in the very same stretch of the Rhine he’s been looking at for days, something finally clicks. Now the only problem is – how to fix it.


Meanwhile, Natalie and her artist friends back in Chicago wonder why Tim hasn’t returned from his vacation and why he doesn’t answer his phone. It’s not like him to just disappear; he’s normally super responsible. They have no choice but to set off for Europe to find out what’s going on.

Click here to order A Wonderful Good Morning

Abstract Expressions, ca. 2021

My paintings and designs have been taking a whimsical turn for a while now, using a variety of different paints and applicators. Here I’ve used the marvelous Golden Fluid Acrylics, plus a variety of paint markers, to see what would happen if I just let ‘the spirit move me.’ My three most recent results say go with the flow and enjoy! Framed very simply, & ready to brighten up a corner of your room.

The Publishing Game

I finished revising Riva’s Journey, the fictionalized memoir of my grandmother’s life from the time she came of age in the Jewish Pale of Settlement to the time she came to feel like a real American, after the second World War. So now, I’m on Round #2 of searching for an agent to help me get my manuscript published.

As I mentioned with regard to my Science Fiction novel, A Wonderful Good Morning, searching for an agent is probably one of the most tedious endeavors I’ve ever attempted, but therein lies the route to traditional publishing. I’ve given myself a deadline of June 30th. If I don’t have a positive response by then, I will self-publish with the help of Kindle Direct Publishing, as I have done with my Bella Sarver Mystery Series. But it would certainly be nice to have the backing of a traditional publisher, with its many resources for marketing and promotion.

So one way or the other, watch for my two newest novels, out later this year.

Still Life

Still Life with Turkish Pot, acrylic, 20 x 16

I bought this Turkish coffee pot in Istanbul years ago, in a little bazaar filled with rugs and leather jackets and the aroma of exotic spices. Today seemed like a good day to put it into a painting, using autumn tones but hopeful little flowers to help us get through the winter that’s almost upon us. When Spring comes again, we can hope that most of us will have been vaccinated, and we can begin to emerge into the light again.

Art Fair Covid-19 Style

Obviously, arts and crafts fairs were very few, if any, this summer. I was very lucky to have been able to participate in one in my own community last month. It turned out to be pretty successful for me, since I sold a lot of my books. It was also a lot of fun.

I met some neighbors I hadn’t known before, and had a chance to chat with plenty of others, everyone appropriately masked and distance, of course. I think we’re all finding out just how creative we can be in meeting the challenges of new situations. They say that whatever doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, right?

Riva’s Journey: a Memoir

Exit visa from Poland, 1921–Bennie, Meyer, & Riva

I’ve been researching and writing the fictionalized memoir of my Grandmother Riva’s life since the beginning of this crazy year. Since I have scant documentation, there are enormous gaps in my knowledge, so I’ve resorted to extensively researching the history of the times and places she knew as a girl and young woman. While I can’t know many of the details of her actual experiences, at least I’m now able to put what I do know into an accurate context.

This experience is endlessly fascinating for me, especially since I’m old enough now to have a broader perspective on history and life than I would have had as a young woman. I’m telling myself the story I wish she could have told me when she had the chance, if only life and language barriers hadn’t intervened. I’m hoping the end result will be something my own adult grandchildren will be able to appreciate as the story of where they, themselves, began.

On the most basic level, my grandparents always said they came from Russia, but when I looked at a map, the towns they were born in are in present-day Ukraine. However, delving into the history of the area, I discovered that this was known as the Pale of Jewish Settlement, originally part of the Kingdom of Poland, which was partitioned by the great powers of the late eighteenth century between the Prussian (or German) Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the Russian Empire. Suddenly, previously inexplicable aspects of my grandmother’s life, such as her education in an Austrian gymnazia, began to make sense. My grandmother lived in at least three different countries before she left home to come to America, even though she never moved from the Tarnopol Oblast! The borders of those countries remained in nearly constant flux for well over a hundred years.

So with this, my latest book, I’m on a journey of my own, only now, it’s personal. I know how the story ends, but it’s the in-between parts that are making this a journey of discovery for me. It’s challenging but it’s also an exciting adventure. I’m just going along for the ride!

Americans, mixed media on paper (Barbara Lipkin)