Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Fern Schumer  

Pen Name: Fern Schumer Chapman

Genre: Non-Fiction

Born: 1954 in Chicago, Illinois



Illinois Connection

Schumer was born in Chicago and currently resides in Lake Bluff.

Biographical and Professional Information

Fern Schumer is an author and accomplished journalist and former reporter for the Chicago Tribune and Forbes, whose work also has appeared in The Forward, The Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report, Fortune, USA Today and The Wall Street Journal. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Journalism and Communications, with a master's degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, she has taught magazine writing and other seminars at both Northwestern and Lake Forest College.Fern's first book is titled: Motherland: Beyond the Holocaust: A Mother-Daughter Journey to Reclaim the Past. Motherland is the compelling true story of Edith Schumer, orphaned by the Nazis, and her return 52 years later to Germany with daughter Fern, who knew almost nothing of her mother's past. Motherland was named a Barnes & Noble Discover New Great Writers title, recommended by Book Sense 76 and a finalist for the National Jewish Book Awards. Hallmark Entertainment has optioned film rights and the book was featured on the June 2, 2000 Oprah Winfrey Show.In 2004, the Illinois Association of Teachers of English named Ms. Chapman, Illinois Author of the Year. Fern was also honored at the 2005 Illinois Authors Book Fair presented by the Illinois Center for the Book and the Illinois State Library in Springfield, Illinois.Prestigious honor, positive reviews for Is It Night or Day?February 22, 2010 Weeks before release, Fern Schumer Chapman’s new novel Is It Night or Day? has received a prestigious honor, a starred review, and exciting notice.The Junior Library Guild (JLG), a literary review and selection service for children’s and young-adult books serving more than 17,000 school and public librarians nationwide, has selected Is It Night or Day? as a featured title for the spring 2010 season.In addition, the book has received a starred review in the American Library Association's influential magazine, Booklist. In the February 1, 2010 issue, Booklist reviewer Hazel Rochman calls the narrator's voice powerful and eloquent, adding that, as with the best writing, the specifics about life as a young immigrant are universal. Kirkus calls the book moving, adding that this empathetic historical novel rings with authenticity. Publishers Weekly calls the book well worth reading, and acclaims the book for its honesty.Recognition from the Junior Library Guild comes after editors choose just 180 titles from more than 3,000 submissions. Selected before publication, these noteworthy titles typically go on to gain other honors and to appear on critics' and librarians' award lists.Is It Night or Day? tells the story of a 12-year-old girl (the author's mother) who escapes certain death at the hands of the Nazis by traveling alone to a new life in a foreign country. Young Edith's bewildered efforts to assimilate in America are as poignant as her struggle against constant feelings of abandonment and isolation. Through the prism of one girl's story, readers experience urgent themes that resonate with today's headlines: families torn and children threatened by immigration issues, war, natural disasters, and the daunting work necessary to rebuild a life in the face of unspeakable loss. A prequel to Chapman's first book, Motherland, the new book explores the little known One Thousand Children project which rescued some 1,200 youngsters from the Holocaust. Both haunting and inspiring, Is It Night or Day? is a rich and rewarding work of historical fiction accessible to readers of any age.To learn more about Is It Night or Day? please visit []. To schedule an interview with the author, please call Bruce Wasser at 510-468-7815. See the reunion of Edith and Gerda on the show LOST & FOUND on the Oprah Winfrey Network. On the ship that brought her to America, my mother, Edith Westerfeld became best friends with 12-year-old Gerda Katz, but the two hadn’t seen each other since their arrival in 1938. After a Naperville, Illinois middle-school class read Is It Night or Day?, the students were so moved by the story that they made it a class project to reunite the two women. Fulfilling a shared life-long dream, the two women, now in their 80s, finally saw each other again in 2011.Edith and Gerda's story is the very first episode on the OWN series, LOST & FOUND, which originally aired on January 3rd exclusively on the OWN network.Below is a link to a the show from the OWN website. []ABC-7 News Story This TV news feature ties Edith's story as an unaccompanied minor in the 1930s to the Dreamers of today. The story ran on January 12, 2018 on ABC-7 news in Chicago on newscasts at 4, 5, 10 and again on the January 13th Saturday morning show. []

Published Works Expand for more information

Titles At Your Library

Motherland: Beyond the Holocaust: A Mother-Daughter Journey to Reclaim the Past
ISBN: 0140286233

Penguin Books. 2001

One woman's moving story of her journey with her mother to find their past and the tragedy that haunts it

In 1937, Edith Westerfeld's parents--before being killed by the Nazis--sent her from Germany to live with relatives in America. Fifty-four years later, Edith decided that it was time to, with her grown daughter Fern, revisit the town she had left so many years before. For Edith the trip was a chance to reconnect and reconcile with her past

for Fern it was a chance to learn what lay behind her mother's silent grief. On their journey, Fern and her mother shared many extraordinary encounters with the townspeople and--more importantly--with one another, closing the divide that had long stood between them.

Stumbling On History: An Art Project Compels A Small German Town To Face Its Past
ISBN: 0996472517

Gussie Rose Press. 2016

A Junior Library Guild spring 2017 selection

Edith Westerfeld, an 89-year-old Holocaust refugee, wonders if the memory of the Nazis murdering her parents, along with millions of other victims, will outlive the survivors. Now -- 76 years after Edith's parents saved their daughter's life by sending her, alone and terrified, to America -- she returns to the small German town where her family had lived for hundreds of years. Invited to witness the installation of a memorial to her family --

part of an effort throughout Europe to confront the genocide of World War II -- she experiences how art is helping today's generation face and atone for crimes of the past. Stumbling On History carries readers along on this journey, as Edith joins the ceremony of Stolpersteine -- "Stumbling Stones." Watching former neighbors and their descendants struggle to right their nation's past wrongs, she realizes, at last, the power of hearing, "I'm sorry."


-- Motherland

Discover New Great Writers title, Barnes & Noble

Recommended Book, Book Sense 76

Finalist, National Jewish Book Awards

Illinois Read for Lifetime Pick, Illinois State Library, 2008Is it Night or Day?

ILLINOIS READS Book, Illinois Reading Council, 2013

Junior Library Guild selection, spring 2010

Top Ten Historic Fiction title for Youth, Booklist, 2010

Starred Review, Booklist

5th Grade Summer Reading List,, 2010

Moonbeam Gold Medal – Young Adult FictionBest of the Best, Historical/Cultural, Chicago Public Library, 2010Teaching Tolerance Teaching Tool, Southern Poverty Law Center

Notable Book, Sydney Taylor, 2010

Maine State Student Book Award Title List, Best Children’s Books of the Year Master List, Bank Street College

Tennessee YA Volunteer State Book Award Master List

Honorable Mentions List, Garden State Teen Book Awards, 2012

One Book/One Community program, Waseca, MN and Libertyville/Vernon Hills, ILLike Finding My Twin

Finalist, Children’s Non-fiction, Society of Midland Authors, 2015

Bronze Medal Winner, Juvenile-Young Adult Non-Fiction Category, Independent Publisher Book Award, 2016 Three Stars in the Night Sky

Junior Library Guild selection Body of Work:

Illinois Author of the Year, Illinois Association of Teachers of English, 2004

Honored at the Illinois Authors Book Fair, Illinois Center for the Book and the Illinois State Library, 2005