NEW HISTORICAL NOVEL
From Black Opal Books:
When a teenager inherits the contents of her Great Grandmother’s Michigan farmhouse, she has no idea what awaits her—except for piles and piles of hoarded junk. However, after fiddling with an amber necklace she discovers in a locked room, she finds herself suddenly whisked back in time to the court of the last ruling Romanovs and a Russia in the midst of World War I. As the events of 1916-17 kindle a flame that becomes the roar of Revolution, they not only touch her life and that of her new family, but force her to cope with new ways of seeing the world, her cultural heritage, and even the complications of a unique and complicated love.
This is the subject of AMBER BEADS, a historical time slip/travel novel set in Russia during the Soviet Revolution.
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In The Amber Beads by Judith Rypma, 16-yr-old Julie inherits the contents of her -great-grandmother's farmhouse in Michigan. To Julie, most of it is junk and she spends some time sorting it all into boxes to be given away. But when she finds a key, she remembers the secret room whose door was always locked. She tries the key and the door opens. Inside, she finds a necklace made from beads of amber. She puts the necklace on, passes out, and wakes up in her great-grandmotherâ€™s house in Russian in 1916, where she seems to be living her great-grandmotherâ€™s life as a teenage girl. Julieâ€”now Olga, her great-grandmotherâ€”knows what is coming in October 2017. She wants to warn Olgaâ€™s family, who are members of the Russian nobility, but how can she? For one, they would not believe her, and two, how could explain how she knows what she knows? Impossible. All Julie can do is play along and hope that amber beads will take her back to 1995 before the rebels take over Russia in 1917.Rypma has created a history lesson in vivid detail, giving us much more than just the events, but the attitudes and emotions of the people at the time as wellâ€”a glimpse into the past so real, it makes you think youâ€™ve gone back in time with Julia. A wonderful read.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: The Amber Beads by Judith Rypma is the story of Julia, a sixteen-year-old American in 1995. Julie and her great-grandmother Olga were close, much more so than Olga and Julie's mother, so when Olga dies, she leaves the entire contents of her Michigan farmhouse to Julie. Julie knows Olga was from Russia, and as she sorts through the debris of Olga's life, Julie thinks about her Russian roots, and decides that it doesn't matter where you are from, we are all Americans. That is, until she unlocks Olga's secret room and discovers a necklace made of amber. When she puts the necklace on, she is whisked back in time to 1916 Russia and thrust into sixteen-year-old Olga's life. At first, Julie thinks it is all a dream, but when she doesn't wake up, she slowly accepts the situation. She is really back in the past, living her great-grandmother's ife in Russia. Then, to her dismay, Julie discovers that she is in Russia in the winter of 1916, less than a year before the Bolsheviks revolt, take over the government, and kill off the aristocracyâ€”which includes Olga and her family. How can Julie persuade her â€œnewâ€ family to flee what is coming, when Olga could not possibly know the future? And how can she get the amber beads to take her back to 1995 where she belongs?The Amber Beads is both a coming-of-age story and a cunning history lesson. With vivid descriptions, charming characters, and a solid ring of truth, Rypma pulls you in until you feel as if you are right there in the scene with Julia/Olga, struggling to survive in war-torn Russia. It takes a talented author to do that.
WORSHIPPING AT LENIN’S MAUSOLEUM
Two decades after racing in terror during an elementary school air raid drill to escape the “dreaded Commies,” the poem’s speaker finds herself battling the restrictions of “Soviet-Style Touring.” In poems that provide a lyrical witness to a Russia in flux, from glasnost to the embattled 1990s to 21st century pride, Rypma offers not only touching and often humorous observations, but portrays a deep love for a country Churchill once called “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.”
Whether exploring Stalin’s bunker, the logistics of Lenin’s preserved corpse, or the witch Baba Yaga, the poems provide delightful and keen glimpses into a place often seen as the Big Bad Wolf on the world stage. Like nested dolls, the nation and these poems slowly reveal themselves the way “colored glass and beads / rearrange themselves / with each twist / of the kaleidoscope’s wheel.” Worshipping at Lenin’s Mausoleum invites you to open each and every one.
Poet Katie Manning, whose most recent collection is Tasty Other, points out that “these poems not only engage with Lenin, Stalin, and Catherine the Great, but also Raggedy Ann, Dorothy Gale, and Baba Yaga. This short collection is at once historical and immediate, political and spiritual, familiar and surprising.”
Rypma, who has travelled to Russia and the former Soviet Union over 25 times, has published over 150 poems in literary journals, as well as six chapbooks and three full-length poetry collections.
"Worshipping at Lenin's Mausoleum" is a collection of poems tracing an American child's fear of air raid drills during the 1960s an adult's experiences from the Soviet through the glasnost, perestroika, and Russian Federation eras. Published 2017 by FutureCycle Press.
LOOKING FOR THE AMBER ROOM
POET PUBLISHES COLLECTION ABOUT FAMED RUSSIAN AMBER ROOM MYSTERY
As Prof. Wolfgang Eichwede once put it, “Some people have princesses and fairies. Others have the Amber Room.” Often referred to as the “Eighth Wonder of the World,” the Amber Room was commissioned by Prussia’s Frederick I in the early 18th century. With over 100,000 pieces of various shades of amber inlaid with mosaics, the room caught the eye of collector and amber aficionado Peter the Great, who would eventually receive it as a gift from Frederick’s son.
In its new Russian home, the room fascinated Empresses Elizabeth and Catherine the Great, so much so that the latter commissioned artisans to add additional elaborate mirrors, Romanov crests, gemstones, and 70 objets d’art that dazzled all who saw it in its presumably permanent home in a palace outside St. Petersburg.
But the story, far from ending here, evolved into one of the greatest mysteries of the 20th century. It is this story of the world’s most famous missing treasure that Western Michigan University English Associate Professor Judith Rypma explores in her poetry book, Looking for the Amber Room.
“It’s a tale of stolen art, but it’s also a legend that has enthralled—and continues to frustrate—armies of treasure hunters who at this very moment are scouring four countries in search of it,” Prof. Rypma says. “In fact,” she notes, “the past few months have been pretty exciting with the discovery of a train in Poland that is rumored to contain the missing chamber of amber.”
As Rypma explains, the room remained in Catherine’s Palace at Tsarskoe Selo (now Pushkin) until 1941, when the Nazis marched into the area, disassembled and seized the room’s panels, transported them to Prussia, and displayed the Amber Chamber there until 1945. But as the Allies advanced on Könisgsberg (now Kaliningrad), the room “simply vanished.” Since then, endless questions, investigations and books have pursued the mystery, which, according to Rypma, “involves possibilities ranging from sunken ships and underground bunkers to hidden salt mines and billionaire collectors. There are even murders associated with the search.”
These mysterious possibilities and theories play a role in Rypma’s poems, which also trace amber from its prehistoric origins through its medieval popularity (so much of it that fishermen who stole a piece of amber were hanged) and its development as a room that played a role in the lives of three Russian rulers. She also tracks the theft, the room’s curators, attempts to hide it, and even Hitler’s fascination with it.
The poems, ranging from lyric free verse to haiku to prose poetry, reflect Rypma’s deep love for her subject in a way that almost makes the reader forget how much research went into the book. “I’m accustomed to doing research for poetry, but I had never envisioned that I would spend years doing it for this book. But the material out there is voluminous,” Rypma admits.
She is justifiably proud, therefore, of internationally renowned amber expert Dr. Patty Rice’s “seal of approval” in terms of accuracy, as well as quality. “I loved the book and the way Rypma cleverly manages to work in everything in poetic form,” Rice notes.
Russian diplomat Dr. Vyacheslav Moshkalo agrees: “She has managed not only to penetrate deeply into our culture, but to share her inner world, as well.” The book opens and closes with poems reflecting Rypma’s personal search for and fascination with the room’s restoration, corresponding with the thirty-year period during which a team of Russian artisans devoted their lives to painstakingly restoring a facsimile of the room in its original location. The Catherine Palace and the Amber Room’s restoration workshop in Pushkin (Kalamazoo’s Partner City), was closed to the public on Rypma’s first several visits to the Soviet Union and then the Russian Federation. But since its unveiling in 2003, she has travelled to see it four times.
In fact, Rypma has visited her favorite country over 25 times. She holds an undergraduate degree in Russian Studies (from GVSU), and is currently at work on a novel set during the Soviet Revolution. Her latest poetry collection, Amber Notes, was recently released by FutureCycle Press and also features aspects of amber and ways in which it metaphorically connects to our lives. As Elizabeth Kolbert points out in the Los Angeles Times, “The Amber Room is exquisite and precious and lost. Like all great objects of desire, it is unattainable.”
Yet if there is a way to bring it back, at least for the time it takes to savor these lyrical, imagistic poems, Rypma’s poetic search has discovered it.
“In my teaching, I always manage to incorporate Russian literature and history,” Rypma says. “Americans are generally uninformed about Russia, and I try to remedy that as much as I can with my own students.” Professor Rypma has travelled to Leningrad State University in Pushkin to present a paper and to teach classes, and directs a Study Abroad Program each summer that takes WMU students to St. Petersburg.
Looking for the Amber Room is available at Kazoo Books, 2413 Parkview Ave., KALAMAZOO, MI USA PHONE 269-553-6506. Rypma is available for readings and appearances. Contact www.kazoobooks.com for additional information.
"Rypma's AMBER NOTES is a world traveler's homage to the dance of permanence with transience. An insect in amber is the perfect emblem for this dance, and the image recurs throughout the book. Rypma's poems recount a happy girlhood, the joys and terrors of sexuality, and a mature woman's wanderlust. These poems are charming and wise."
Richard Katrovas, author of 14 books, including Swastika to Lotus and Raising Girls in Bohemia: Meditations of an American Father.
Full-length collection of poems published by FutureCycle Press. Dan Veach, editor of Atlanta Review and author of Elephant Water as well as several other collections of poetry, describes the book: "Forbidden Fruit, ancient memory, healing talisman, comforting touch; Judith Rypma's AMBER NOTES is all of these in turn. As she transports us across a lifetime and around the globe, from the domes of the Kremlin to the coral gardens of Fiji, we grow ever more grateful for this mineralogist's gift of 'polished agate for the mind.'"
In this most recent collection of poems, Amber Notes, (FutureCycle Press), Rypma “recounts a happy childhood, the joys and terrors of sexuality, and a mature woman’s wanderlust,” according to internationally known poet Richard Katrovas. He goes on to observe that “Amber Notes is a world traveler’s homage to the dance of permanence with transience. An insect in amber is the perfect emblem for this dance, and the image recurs throughout the book.” Author of 14 of his own books, with a poetry collection forthcoming from Carnegie Mellon University, Katrovas is the recipient of numerous grants & awards.
As renowned poet and Atlantic Review editor Dan Veach puts it, “Forbidden fruit, ancient memory, healing talisman, comforting touch: Rypma's Amber Notes is all of these in turn. As she transports us across a lifetime and around the globe, from the domes of the Kremlin to the coral gardens of Fiji, we grow ever more grateful for this mineralogist's gift of ‘polished agate for the mind.’”
Many of Rypma’s poems reflect her background as a travel journalist and an amateur geologist. Other poems explore the benefits and disappointments of old age, yet by the closing poem, the speaker seems to have found that peace that we all covet and “has finally acquired / all the hues of her life.”
In Sewing Lessons (from FutureCycle Press), Rypma weaves word tapestries that reveal and respond to the patterns of our lives. Weaving and embroidering have served as creation metaphors for centuries, and each poem beautifully follows that tradition. Rypma’s tightly crafted poems trace women’s progress from ancient looms and spindles to more modern struggles with pleated skirts and botched home economics classes. Like the Three Fates, the speaker measures and cuts the threads of life in a poignant and powerful examination of how the lives of women and, just as importantly, female artists, are stitched together.
Please note that most photos (except those of the author) are by Judi A. Rypma and under copyright. An acknowledgment should accompany any use of them.
EXTRAORDINARY EMBROIDERIES of Anastasia Romanov, Nicholas and Alexandra Romanov, Catherine the Great, and "Back in the USSRY" are done in tiny miniature pieces embroidered totally from sock threads. Thanks to Ray Materson for use of them. For more on this talented, internationally known artist, go to his website:
When a teenager inherits the contents of her Great Grandmother's Michigan farmhouse, she has no idea what awaits herâ€”except for piles and piles of hoarded junk. However, after fiddling with an amber necklace she discovers in a locked room, she finds herself suddenly whisked back in time to the court of the last ruling Romanovs and a Russia in the midst of World War I. Â As the events of 1916-17 kindle a flame that becomes the roar of Revolution, they not only touch her life and that of her new family, but force her to cope with new ways of seeing the world, her cultural heritage, and even the complications of a unique and complicated love. This is the subject of AMBER BEADS, a historical time slip/travel novel set in Russia during the Soviet Revolution.
Am I available for readings, lectures, and school visits? ABSOLUTELY