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Mission Remembrance: Publishing Personal Stories That Keep History’s Lessons Alive

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In the film Les Invasions barbares, a terminally ill professor laments: “If only I had written something.” Beach Lloyd Publishers, LLC, is trying to fulfill that wish to leave something lasting behind. Although we have been in existence for only two-and-a-half years, what began as a translating project has morphed into a company with five titles, including World War II memoirs, Holocaust survivor testimony, and the story of a Hidden Child. Each of our books appears in both French and English. In addition, we distribute some related books, videos, and DVDs.

Remembrance was built into our name: Rex Beach Lloyd, my father, was a Navy medic who landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944. On that very day, Armand Idrac, then 14 years old, sought refuge near Caen for himself, his recently widowed mother, and his younger sister. Almost exactly 56 years later, in the summer of 2000, when Armand and I had been friends for 30 years, he unceremoniously handed me a manuscript–”Mémoires d’Armand,” which he had written just for friends and family.

Armand’s memoir was in French; I was near the end of my 28-year career teaching French, and I offered to translate and publish his book. Since he writes with dry humor and an engaging style and since he had survived the Allied landings and those months before the Liberation as a 14-year-old de facto head of family, the riveting facts were there for the telling. Together we decided on the illustrations, and I requested a short epilogue. After writing it, Armand confessed, “You have no idea what this cost me emotionally; this is proof of our friendship.”

Reaching Teachers

Not nearly as thrilled with the processes involved in setting up and maintaining a business as with rendering his humor and expressions in English, I nevertheless decided to form a corporation. While this was a low-risk undertaking, I wanted the liability protection, to remove the shadow of worry that a friend or descendant might decide to be displeased with the publication of some hilarious story. There have been no such reactions, as Armand had assured me.

The published translation, renamed Memoirs from Normandy: Childhood, War and Life’s Adventures, was a hit at our rented booth at the 2003 American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages Conference in Philadelphia. With Armand and his wife, Yvonne, chatting in French with teachers, this was a very special, exciting time, and our sales were almost nonstop for the three-and-a-half-day event.

Demand for the original French version was strong, so we added that to our list. Armand and I exchanged many transatlantic emails. We are thrilled to have a foreword by the well-known historian Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, whose family sheltered the Idracs in their chateau. In his foreword, he includes excerpts from his 16-year-old sister’s journal about the hardships, heartbreaks, and hopes from June 6 through the Liberation of Paris on August 25, 1944.

Armand continues to sell his book in Normandy, where he still lives next to his ancestral home, as we continue to sell it in the United States. We use Amazon.com, direct mailings, ads, telephone sales, exhibiting at world language conferences with author signings (or signed books if the author is not available), and Holocaust organization contacts. If we cannot be at an exhibit, we ask if we may send flyers; to date, no one has said no. We distribute through Baker & Taylor and maximize long-standing collegial relationships. And we never fail to visit libraries as well as museum, independent, and hospital bookstores while traveling for pleasure. We are always ready to talk about what we have to offer, because we are passionate about our philosophy.

Adding Titles

Fortunately for our list, managing Beach Lloyd Publishers (BLP) has not interfered with my role as secretary-treasurer of the American Association of Teachers of French (AATF), and when Barbara P. Barnett, a colleague, asked about publishing the script of her award-winning documentary Faces of the Holocaust: Marcel Jabelot, I recognized an exciting opportunity to explore the same period through very different eyes–those of a Holocaust survivor from Paris.

Barbara and I worked closely to create Visages de la Shoah: Marcel Jabelot, a book in French that will help anyone, teachers and students included, understand that time. The English version, Faces of the Holocaust: Marcel Jabelot, followed, for the general public and for teachers of history, reading, and social studies. BLP is distributing the bilingual documentary Faces of the Holocaust in both VHS and DVD formats as well.

Barbara’s friendship with Ruth Kapp Hartz, a colleague in the AATF, led to BLP’s next publication, Tu t’appelles Renée, the French version of Ruth’s story as a hidden child in Vichy France. We also distribute Your Name is Renée, the story in English, which has been widely sold in the United States for several years by a well-known university press.

Ronald Silver, my husband, is the absolutely indispensable in-house advisor, technical director, and graphics expert, and also staffs exhibit booths. We subcontract final French proofreading, cover design, and Web site design and management.

Beach Lloyd Publishers recognizes that World War II stories in French and English are a specialty in the United States, but we are now pursuing sales and distribution in Canada, where books in French are not a specialty and should have wide appeal. And we remain committed to promoting our publications with heart, for we believe in the importance of learning from history’s stories, and choose to accomplish this by sharing the experiences of extraordinary individuals–survivors of world-changing events.

Joanne Silver met her first author on a homestay program in Normandy, France, with the Experiment in International Living. She holds a Master’s degree in French, taught French and Spanish for 28 years, and worked briefly as a publicist before founding Beach Lloyd Publishers, LLC. To contact her, email BEACHLLOYD@erols.com.

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