Upcoming Special Event

I am proud to be included in this event at the West Vancouver Memorial Library

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For immediate release
In My Own Words to chronicle four memorable memoirs at Memorial Library
Thursday, June 11, 2015, West Vancouver, B.C. – One grew up off the grid in the wilds of BC. Another helped a woman with Down’s syndrome write her Cinderella story. One spent her formative years in East Germany during the Second World War. Another wrote lovely letters to his children about his experiences as a father and lawyer. Join us for these and other stories at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, June 24 at In My Own Words, a memoir panel featuring four eclectic and fascinating local writers, moderated by celebrated author E.R. Brown.
“We’re always excited to celebrate literary talent,” says Information Services Department Head Pat Cumming. “For this panel, we gathered an entertaining range of personalities, adventures and stories. Having the always enigmatic E.R. Brown on hand to moderate the panel is the icing on the cake. It’s going to be a great night.”
– In North of Normal, Cea Sunrise Person recounts the story of her wilderness childhood, her unusual family and how she survived both.
– David Roberts wrote Letters to His Children from an Uncommon Attorney after his daughter convinced him to write his stories down “before he dies.” The result is this at times humorous, at others harrowing, memoir of a father, husband and attorney.
– Writing with Grace, by Judy MacFarlane, explores the challenges and perseverance of an aspiring writer with Down’s syndrome as she tries to fulfill her dream of writing a book.
– In We don’t Talk About That, Giselle Roeder tells the often hushed story of growing up in Second World War Pomerania and her post-War move to East Germany.
– Moderator E.R. Brown is the author of the Edgar-nominated Novel Almost Criminal.
All of the authors participating in the panel are available ahead of time for interviews and photos. Please contact David Carson at the phone number or email address below to make arrangements.
More information about the Memoir Panel is available on our website.
Media Contact David Carson, Communications and Event Coordinator 604.925.7407 dcarson@westvanlibrary.ca

Learning to Kayak #Kayaking #EastGermany

Getting that balance right

Getting that balance right

It was probably the best thing that could have happened to me: Afred, a young man in charge of the kayak racing team, came to my office to get the permission stamps for the team to go to a regatta taking place in a different city. As I asked him questions he invited me to come to a training session and see if I would like to join the club. Well, I said ‘yes’ right away and his girlfriend Christa showed me how to get in and out of a kayak. Balancing wasn’t easy as I was trying to sit in that narrow nut shell. When I mastered it without tipping over I was in love, – in love with the novelty of it and in love with the water. Christa also let me try out the KII. I became obsessed with kayaking, I was determined to be in the top group and secretly even promised myself to become better than all the other girls. And, you know what?

image1It was only a year later that I won the District Championships in the KI over 500 and over 3.000 meters. Mind you, after the 3.000 meter race I fell out of the kayak as soon as I crossed the finishing line. Christa, my trainer and also my KII partner was disappointed because up to now she had won all the races. But we won the 500 and the 3000 meters in the KII, it made up for it.

image3We became very close friends. Even now, more than sixty years later we are still close but mostly in telephone contact since we live on different continents. She saved nearly forty five years of the letters I wrote to her from Canada after my emigration. She gave them to me last time I saw her. To read them again was quite a revelation for me. In my memoir “We Don’t Talk About That” you’ll enjoy reading about my kayaking and the great love I had for my own paddle boat “Max”. The best years within my first 30 years I cover in that book have to do with the water, my boat and my desolation in leaving it behind when I had to escape from East to West Germany. As it happened, my racing abilities helped me to find a job in West Germany. I am sad to say that I never reached the top groups again. I just had to work too many hours and did not have as much time for the necessary training.

image2You might find it interesting that in East Germany every sport was very highly promoted and financially supported, it hardly cost anything for either memberships or competitions,– but in West Germany you were on your own. And as I made very little money I could not really afford to participate anymore either. When I was 5th once at a competition I dropped out. I thought it was better if people remembered me and said “oh, she was good” rather than “yaaah, she got too old and had to drop out”!


start 'em early

Start ’em early!

Did you know they now have real racing kayaks for kiddies? And train them very early? Just like Austrian kids start to ski as soon as they can walk, at the Baltic Sea where I lived the kids can start at two or three years old getting into a kayak. Amazing! Start to train early for future Olympics? Yes, the children are our future in more ways than one. Kayaking is healthy, you breath fresh air, develop muscles but mainly around the upper body. So training included running, all-body exercises and during the winters we went to gymnastics and played competitive table tennis. One more thing: The comradery. I give it ten points out of ten. It’s wonderful and becomes a big part of your life. I just LOVED it.



Two Interviews #BookPromotion #SkinCare

I want to thank Tracy Koga and Shaw TV in Winnipeg for sharing two interviews made during my recent book promotion in Winnipeg. They appear on my YouTube page but you can also see them here:

Interview 1First interview about “We Don’t Talk About That”


and here:

Interview 2


Second interview about Giselle’s Skin Care

Interview with Fiona McVie #BookInterview

Fiona McvieI was recently interviewed (on-line) by Fiona Mcvie who posts her interviews with authors on her web site. She lives in Scotland and likes to learn more about the authors of books she has read. She poses some interesting questions. Thank you, Fiona, for this great opportunity to describe how my book “We Don’t Talk About That” came to be written.

You can find the full interview here.

This Happens When You Talk About It! #Winnipeg #BestSeller

I was on a book promotion in the prairie city of Winnipeg which owns the reputation of being one of the coldest cities in Canada. Can you believe it was 15°C above on March 13th when I arrived, 18°C two days later and reasonably warm during the whole week I was in “Friendly Manitoba”. No snow in sight but lots of sand used to sprinkle the slippery streets earlier and now the wind blew it around. Everything was muddy and grey and holy. Sorry, I mean to say “pot-hole-y”! The day after I left it snowed again. The snow makes everything look so clean. It makes a beautiful cover-up – at least for a while.

One thing the Winnipeggers still do is read a lot of books: real books, not e-books. Many told me “I like to feel a book, look at a book, leaf through it, put it down and pick it up again. I like to have it on my book shelf or on my night table.” I hardly ever saw one person walking out of one of the three enormous book stores where I was autographing my book with fewer than two, three or more books. The stores where open ‘til 10.00 PM and people walked in as late as two minutes to ten and shopped. Does the climate have something to do with this? Do the prairie people still know how to relax at home with a glass of wine and a good book? You tell me!

I was interviewed on CJOB Radio and had a lively conversation with the charming host, Greg Mackling. An hour long TV interview was taped by the Shaw crew of “go! Winnipeg” and it will soon be available on YouTube. Book readings, autographing and lots of discussions about my memoir “We Don’t Talk About That”, the story of ordinary German families before, during and after WWII filled my time. The members of a Rotary Club where I was the luncheon speaker were very attentive and another Rotary Club wanted me at their meeting as well, but my time was already totally booked.

Best sellerWhen I came home I had lost my voice. But I had lots of fun. In one of the biggest and architecturally most beautiful and largest book stores, McNally Robinson’s my book became a “Bestseller” and I hope it will remain so and be displayed on the bestseller table for a while longer. In both the very large Chapter Book stores, people were already waiting for me despite the fact that I always come half an hour earlier than expected. And they stuck around, wanting to catch every word of every discussion I had with one of them. Amazing! For seventy years I “Didn’t talk about it” and now I can hardly “shut up” with people around me.

Everybody wanted to know more. Did I open a can of worms? Is it based on real interest or is it rather the sensation “Thank God it didn’t happen to me”? After reading my book they write to me. “It reads like a Spielberg movie” said one. Another said “I look at my eleven year old granddaughter and just shiver to think…what, if, when, how can I protect her?” Still another sent me an e-mail “Are you alright? I just need to know…”

And dozens of readers of “We Don’t Talk About That” are telling me their own or their parents’ or grandparents’ stories of their life during WWII – how little they were told and now they can relate and want to hear more. “I wasn’t interested when I was younger and THEY wanted to talk about it, and now they are gone and I have nobody to ask anymore. Your book is a huge eye opener. While reading it I was with you every step of the way.” Still another says “When they talk about the probability of WWIII on the News I switch the TV off. I don’t want to hear or think about it.”

The last comment came from one of those Europeans who had experienced ‘close encounters’. To stick one’s head in the sand like an ostrich will not help to avoid or protect any one. It’s like the few of the leading Germans who knew how futile World War II was likely to be, knew what was happening all around them and still did not believe it. To save their life they did not talk about it. One of their mottos was something like “I know it’s better not to know what I think I know or might not even know.” I found this phrase in one of Lyn Alexander’s books “The Schellendorf Series,” – four books spanning the time from before WWI to the Nueremberg Trials after WWII. For us today it is not healthy to be ignorant or pretend not to know.

A WWIII with sophisticated weaponry will not be happening in just certain areas of the globe, – all continents will be affected. Don’t say “what can we do about it?” – think! You have voting power; but I’m with you. I also think that we, the ordinary people, will be caught in the middle as always, will not be able to stop the politicians if they put their minds to it. After all, we don’t go around shooting the people whom we don’t like or with whom we do not agree. Like the Texan in the bar pointing to three others and saying “I don’t like that guy.” When asked “which one” he shot two and said “See the one sitting there? That’s the one I don’t like”. Sorry. Just a joke I heard. Life isn’t like that.


Cuba, Cora and Secrets Revealed #Cuba #Adoption #Secrets

It was just a year since I had moved myself and part of my business from Winnipeg in the Canadian Prairies to beautiful British Columbia and, to top it off, to the coveted city of West Vancouver. It was 1986 and during those years not everybody had a copier, a fax machine and certainly not a computer. I was lucky because around the corner from my office an elegant, beautiful white haired lady had a small business providing all those services to other small businesses like mine. We started visiting over a cup of coffee when I came. One day I told her that I was flying to Cuba.


Former cottages of rich Americans

“Cuba? Really? That’s interesting. When are you going?” When I answered “tomorrow” she sat back in her chair and asked “do you go by yourself or share a room with someone? Or don’t you do that kind of thing? In case you do, would you mind if I tag along if I can still get a ticket?”

An hour later she phoned me and said “It’s settled. I got the last seat in the plane”. And that is how I got to know one of the most interesting and unforgettable woman in my life. Cuba had opened up for Canadian visitors in 1966 and this was my second visit. I knew it would be appreciated to bring pencils and pantyhose because these things were rare and the Cuban maids doing our room were delighted. We stayed in the (former) Beach House of the Kennedy family, shared a very large room and my only complaint about Cora was that she read all night. I need it dark, but we also talked a lot. She told me about her incredible life in South Africa and that she emigrated to Canada because of an affair with a married man. She needed desperately to get away from him since she saw no joint future and just heartache if she stayed. As you can imagine, we got to know each other quite well.

Suitcase collection, time to leave

Suitcase collection, time to leave

Back in Vancouver I developed terrible back pain. She referred me to her massage therapist whom she had seen for years. “He has the magic touch”, she told me, and she was right. I became a regular in his practice. He had two stepdaughters and his tales often reminded me of my similar former life.

West Vancouver had a famous vegetarian Health Food Store with a Restaurant. “Capers” served the most delicious food and at lunch the crowds where lining up. Often I met there with other business ladies, sharing jokes and laughing our heads off. On one of those occasions I saw Cora standing there, looking around as if searching for someone. I jumped up, greeted her and she said “I am supposed to meet my son here…” I was dumb founded because she had never mentioned she had a son. At that moment my massage therapist came in, saw us, greeted us and then also looked around and said “You two won’t believe it, but I am to meet my birthmother here. I was adopted and I have been searching for her.”

Cora paled, stared at him and said “YOU? I am to meet my long ago adopted son here…”

Phil, the massage therapist who had massaged her for years, also cried out “YOU? YOU are my birth mother?”

Cora, who had told me so much of her life when we shared a room on Cuba but this she had never, ever, talked about. She had sadly confessed that she had absolutely no family. Now, when we met the next time, she smiled her beautiful smile, lighting up her whole face:

“Giselle, first I had nobody for about 50 years and now I have a son, a daughter in law and grandchildren. Can you believe it?” She organized a big celebration on her large deck and all her small business customers were invited. Talking among us we were all incredulous and just kept looking at her, our beaming and gracious hostess, Cora.

For another “adoption” story see “My first train trip”, page 35, in my book and learn how my aunt and uncle hid a Jewish boy in Nazi Germany during World War II, or see “Gerhard’s Story” on YouTube.

Book Launch – #Winnipeg

Book Promotion in Winnipeg for “We Don’t Talk About That”

March 13. to March 20, 2015

will find me negotiating the frozen, hopefully not too snowy streets, in my old hometown, Winnipeg, Manitoba.

McNallyBook reading/signing – McNally Robinson, March 15th from 2:00 p.m.

I look forward to meeting a number of you when I visit the McNally Bookstore on Sunday, March 15th to read selections from my book and sign copies. – http://www.mcnallyrobinson.com/event-14067/Giselle-Roeder—-Book-Launch/#.VOyrCi4eorg

CJOB Radio, Dahlia Kurtz will interview me on March 16th from 2.00 to 3.00

Dahlia Kurts is scheduled to interview me on her afternoon radio program “The Show With No Name” on CJOB Radio 680 AM

Dahlia KurtzShe will remind you that I was the founder of ‘Giselle’s Professional Skin Care’ years ago and also the host of the Cable TV Show “Giselle’s for Skin & Health’ which run for 9 ½ years! CJOB was also the station where I was interviewed after my “Health Books” were published.

 Chapters Polo Festival in Polo Park – hosting the book launch/signing March 19th 6-9 PM

Cahpters logo“We Don’t Talk About That” has made quite a splash internationally and dozens of readers have told me “I couldn’t put it down.”. I would like to see many of you come and help Chapters and me make this event festive and exciting.


Do you belong to a group who might need a speaker for a meeting during the above mentioned dates? Any other bright ideas to make my week in Winnipeg successful? Please contact me by e-mail: giselleroeder@hotmail.com  I appreciate your input.

Updates to this announcement will be posted here. Please click on “Follow” to receive updates by email.


Winnipeg – Photo Credit: AJ Batac via Compfight cc

Dutch Clogs and a Nazi Flag Dress

Several years after WWII ended life ever so slowly had returned back to a bit more normal and I had become a teenager. We lived in the eastern sector of Germany, a country without shops of any kind. I had outgrown the clothing my mother had made from rags and “one dress out of two”. Would it ever have been nice if jeans had been invented already because then all the kids would have looked more alike and there would not have been so much heartbreak with the teasing and bullying for the weird clothing I and my sisters had to wear to school. I will never forget the three winters I had to wear an old torn black form-fitted ladies coat with green patches and a huge big bust typical Dutch designline, stuffed with horse hair. I was only eleven, starved and thin as a stick. There was no choice: I was lucky to have found the coat under a bush where someone had discarded it. At least I had a coat at all during the winters 1945, 1946 and 1947. Uncle Fritz did a deal by exchanging fish for some Dutch clogs and those wooden shoes kept my feet very warm. But imagine the picture:

A small, starved thin eleven year old kid with a big busted fitted ladies coat and Dutch clogs! I wish I had a photograph! Today I can smile or laugh about it but back then it caused me many tears and I refused to go to high school when the time came. I had nothing to wear. The teasing was already bad enough in the small village where we lived, – but going to a city school? I’d have died…


Modelling my “Nazi flag” dress

I got a chance to learn to sew but I had to bring my own material. You couldn’t buy anything, but a kind neighbor gave me a big Nazi flag she had found in an old trunk in her basement or attic. Her family and mine would have been arrested if anybody would ever have found out about it. To own a Nazi flag was forbidden after WWII. I undid all the seams, took the white center and the black stitched on swastika apart and my seamstress teacher helped me to design a pretty kind of ‘country dress”. The body of the dress was fashioned out of the red material with a wide swinging skirt, a white insert around the neck and small strips out of the swastika around the skirt and the insert and a black belt. It wasn’t quite Bavarian style, but very similar. I was proud and wore that dress happily. When I grew out of it my third sister Ingrid wore it. Well, – look at the pictures taken a few years down the road with my first camera, a very simple box camera. To find out how I got such a treasure

Ingrid modelling her "hand-me-down" dress

Ingrid modelling her “hand-me-down” dress

you’d have to read my book “We Don’t Talk About It”. (Chapter: ‘Berlin – here I come’)

I wish I could share several letters from a lady who picked my book up on impulse at Chapters just a few days ago. She read several hours in her car in the parking lot, “I couldn’t put it down” she writes, – “went to the gym, read while doing a workout on the bike, drove home, read some more, couldn’t sleep, and finished it the next morning”. I know that she really read every word of it because she asks questions about different things she couldn’t have known had she just ‘skimmed’ through it. So, – click on the links to the bookstores and order it now! You will be looking at the present world problems a little differently and have hours of reading to keep those little “grey cells” (as Hercule Poirot says) very stimulated.

Paris Shooting #Paris #CharlieHebdo


When I switched the TV on this morning – seeing the photo reportage from Paris, I felt shock. Outrage. Frustration. Anger. Helpless.

What is it that drives some people to horrific acts that easily could lead to another war? Shooting people does not help any cause. Intelligence, education and sharing ideas or belief systems might do a better job, NOT ‘my way or the highway’. THAT only builds resentment. I lived through WWII – was just a child but old enough to remember…I wrote the book “We Don’t Talk About That” to show the younger generation what it was like. Create ‘awareness’. Scare them. Maybe even shock them into reality. Useless?

Wars have been fought throughout history and each side has always thought “God”, by any name, was on their side. It did not make any difference. Remember the “enemies” during WWI Christmas 1914 stopped fighting and played soccer together knowing the next day they have to shoot at each other again? On this evening they were all just ordinary people with the wish to have peace and go back home. .It had nothing to do with God. It’s always the people in power who pull “the strings.” Soldiers obey or they get shot by their own. Is there not a way we can live next to each other – in peace?

See: One nation alone can’t address terror issue: Germany’s Merkel


E – Day?

No idea what “E – Day” is? For me it is a very special day in my life: Emigration Day.

I stepped into an airplane at the Frankfurt Airport. The plane lifted off and I saw the fields of Germany, seemingly laid out with a giant ruler getting smaller and smaller, the many little villages with the steepled church towers always right in the middle of the surrounding houses placed like toys out of building box. I saw the endless grey line of the autobahn reaching out through endless forests finally giving way to floating clouds and then there was nothing. We were “above it all”. Above the Earth! I had left the land of my ancestors. I was on the way to a new life on a different continent. I had escaped all my troubles I thought… it is hard if not impossible to explain my feelings: Weightless? Floating like a feather in the wind? It had nothing to do with FLYING; – no, I am talking about myself: my emotions, my feelings, even my physical body. When I drifted off into semi-consciousness I had an out-of-body experience: I had no emotions, I had no feelings and I had no physical body. I looked down on myself sitting in the airplane, eyes closed with a crease between the eyebrows, hands folded in the lap. And all of a sudden a desperate small voice woke me up and brought me back to reality:

“Lady, can I have a drink?” My new daughter. The four year old girl cuddled next to me knew I did not speak much English. She did not want to wake up her “new mommy”. She was calling the stewardess. She couldn’t sleep. Her dad was waiting in Vancouver. She was like a pebble on the beach, rolled around by wind and waves. Her mother had left her. For several years she had lived with her dad in room and board, for the last nearly three months with her paternal grandparents in Germany. When I came “home” on weekends she wouldn’t let go of my hand. She was desperate for motherly love and would proudly introduce me to anybody who would stop by: “My new mommy!”

It was December 13th 1963. We had a refueling stop at the International Airport Keflavik in Reykjavik, Iceland. Holding her little hand tightly in mine we seemed the only people on the planet. We walked the frozen grassy airfield for almost an hour before they let us board again and start the long flight over the green fields and mountains of Iceland and the white icy peaks of Greenland occasionally visible through the clouds towards North America.

That’s when I learned that Iceland is green and Greenland is white! I have looked down on Greenland many times thereafter and it always irked me that I did not see any green…but incredibly beautiful white peaks and valleys. It’s hard to believe that there are places for people to live and to make a living.

Lions Gate cropped

Heading towards Lions Gate Bridge

December 14th: One of the most special days of my life: Arrival in Canada. The Vancouver International Airport was a shadow of what it is today. The Vancouver Hotel was the highest building in the city. Halfway across the Lions Gate Bridge my Canadian Husband asked me: “Well? What do you think?”

“This place is too beautiful to live here. It is more like a holiday destination…”

He laughed: “You better get used to it. This is where you will live.” Five months later we moved to Winnipeg and while driving through the Rockies my little girl asked her dad: “Why is mom crying so much?”

And now my friends, I have given away part of the sequel to “We Don’t Talk About That”!

It would make sense for you to read that book to understand WHAT it was that drove me to leave the land of my ancestors, marry a pen friend and have an ‘instant family’. At one point in “We Don’t Talk About That” I had told my parents: “That’s what I want, I want ‘later children’because neighbours had mentioned that ‘later children’ are easier when my third sister was born. She had been such a quiet, easy going kid.

E – Day. 14th of December is my E-Day. It’s also my second sister’s birthday and the birthday of her first daughter, – but for me, the 14th of December is and always will be like