Alvin Abram says he learned early in life that if you have a lemon, you have to learn to make lemonade.
The 67-year-old author, speaker, businessman and award-winning volunteer has coped with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) since childhood and has faced a number of crises head on.
He married Marilyn Epstein in 1960, and together they have handled Alvin’s five heart attacks, Marilyn’s bout with breast cancer and other challenges.
But he has emerged as a success in his personal, business and creative endeavours. Abram’s most recent book, The Unlikely Victims: A Gabe Garshowitz Mystery (AMA Graphics Incorporated, Toronto), was shortlisted by the Crime Writers of Canada for the Arthur Ellis Award for the best first novel in 2002.
In The Unlikely Victims, Abram’s fourth book, six cases are solved by Detective Gabe Garshowitz, a hard-boiled, arthritic, chauvinistic 30-year veteran of the Toronto police force who is partnered with Detective Iris Forester, an attractive young divorcee half his age who is driven to prove herself in a field of tough-minded men.
The readers are thrown into local Toronto street scenes where they come across characters with familiar names and learn about Garshowitz’s personal conflicts as he attempts to cope with his guilt over the suicide of his wife, a Holocaust survivor, and to deal with his daughter who holds him responsible.
Abram’s ADD allows him to concentrate for only up to 20 minutes at a time. At school, he was labelled a dreamer by his teachers. “I had to learn very early in life how to cope.” Things must be visual for him, he says.
“Over the years, I lived my life in books,” he says. “My mind is like a firecracker. It is always lighting up.”
His interest in literature came partly from his father, Herman Abramovitz, who was the editor of Vochenblatt, the workers’ newspaper.
However, Abram says his mother, Annie Abramovitz, who worked in a Spadina Avenue sweatshop, had the most profound influence on him.
“Never forget your dreams, Alvin,” she told him. “But you must learn to live in today’s world as well. Maybe, someday, you’ll be able to use your gift so everyone can enjoy your dreams.”
The dreamer and loner attended Charles G. Fraser Public School where, he says, “I got strapped at least once a month because I was in la la land.”
He went to Central Technical High School, and, “after four years, I got my diploma on condition that I promise never to come back,” he says.
He then opened his business, AMA Printers, in a room in Parkdale Press in downtown Toronto, and later moved to Finch Avenue, where he ran the company until 2000.
In 1995, Abram decided he wanted to put his dreams on paper, and he took a creative writing course at York University.
Since then, he has written poetry, short stories and a collection of true tales of courage and survival.
More than 30 of his stories and articles have been published, including Why, Zaida?, the story of a Holocaust survivor who answers his grandson’s questions about the Holocaust by using metaphors from nature.
His first full-length book, The Light After the Dark, was published in 1998. All the royalties from that book, more than $16,000, have been donated to Jewish community charities.
Abram is currently compiling a new book, an anthology titled Stories I Wrote, containing 18 of his stories that were published in newspapers and magazines since 1995.
His books are available at most book stores throughout Canada, or by e-mail at email@example.com. ♦
© 2003 by Cynthia Gasner. Appeared originally in the Canadian Jewish News.