I Am the Storm
My Odyssey from the Holocaust to the Frontiers of Medicine
Morrell Michael Avram
Skyhorse Publishing, New York, 2021, 256 pages
Book Review published on: December 2, 2022
I Am the Storm: My Odyssey from the Holocaust to the Frontiers of Medicine is an autobiographical work written by Morrell Michael Avram, MD, which covers his life from his birth in Bucharest, Romania, and ending ninety-one years later as a semiretired doctor living in Brooklyn. Avram’s life has been one of extraordinary adventure, incredible contributions to society, and a desire to always learn and help his fellow man. While this is not a book about the Holocaust as the title implies, it is a book about how one man who has made a difference was influenced by the Holocaust. Avram was a soldier, but this book is not about soldiering. Readers will not change their perspective on some critical national security matter. What they may get from this book is inspiration as they read about one man’s resilient, relentless pursuit of learning and serving others.
Avram uses a chronological, storytelling style to relay his life story controlled by the arc of his life as he navigates through many personal changes, events, and extreme situations across ninety-one years. He writes short, almost simplistic, easy-to-read chapters. He leaves out connections between events as he moves rapidly from one story to the next, sometimes even shifting in the middle of a paragraph. The format and writing style work but the result is shallower than I expected. However, that should not discourage anyone from reading this book.
Avram was born in Bucharest in 1929, and he describes his life, up to age nine, in a short chapter, which was more about the family than himself. Here the reader finds out that Avram is Jewish and that his family was large, loving, and generally happy. This sets up the transition to the first major event in Avram’s life, World War II, and the incredible changes Europe underwent during the latter part of the 1930s and 1940s.
Several chapters are devoted to the family’s desire to escape from Europe and move to the United States. The description of their movement is familiar to those who have read about other families who experienced the Holocaust. What makes Avram’s take different is his focus on education and learning that permeates the pages of his story. An example of this is found in an interaction between Avram and his father after the Nazis and the Romanian Iron Guard came to power and Bucharest had turned into what he refers to as “a partially active concentration camp” (p. 18). In this interchange, the elder Avram tells his son to study because he never did, and it turned out badly for him. He replied, “Dad, what’s the point of studying when we’re all going to get killed” (p. 19)? Other than the life story arc, the importance of learning becomes the most important idea described throughout the book.
Avram describes many parts of his life. He describes how the Soviet army entered Bucharest and forced the Germans out. He tells of the trials he experienced in getting to the United States and his mother’s immediate push for his education in their new country. He relates his service in the U.S. Army where he first heard the phrase “You are the storm” (p. 86) from a drill sergeant, how he was drafted in 1951 but never served in Korea and his time stationed in Europe. Avram goes into detail about finishing college and enrolling in medical school in Europe. He also describes other tragedies and happy times in his life. For example, he tells the story of his mother’s death when the airliner she was traveling in was shot down by a Romanian MiG. But he also relays the story of his courtship and marriage, the birth of his children and grandchildren, and the many successes he had in the medical field.
I Am the Storm begins in 1929 and continues through the COVID-19 pandemic. Along the way, Avram describes major points in human history that intersect with his life. In the ninety-one years detailed in the book, his accomplishments have been numerous. His impact in his field of medicine is seemingly without peer. His service to others extraordinary. The story has not ended. At ninety-one years of age, he is still active and serving others. In the end, this story is a story of two ideas how a person can be resilient in the face of adversity and how a desire to continually learn can lead to exceptional outcomes. That is the benefit for anyone, no matter the profession, in reading this book. Avram’s story, while not beautifully written, is a beautiful story of how one person can make a difference and have a significant influence on others by remaining resilient and by always learning.
Book Review written by: Lt. Col. Kevin Gentzler, DM, U.S. Army, Retired, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas