Last night Word Bookstore in Jersey City hosted a reading and discussion of Dagmara Dominczyk’s debut novel The Lullaby of Polish Girls. She was joined by her husband, actor Patrick Wilson, who helped moderate the discussion and read an excerpt of the novel. The Lullaby of Polish Girls centers on protagonist Anna, who at age 7 immigrated to the United States with her family in the 1980s as political refugees from Poland, due to her father’s role in the Solidarity movement. After the fall of the Soviet Union, she returned to Poland each summer to visit family, befriending two Polish girls with whom she spent most of her lively summers. The novel follows their coming of age and adulthood, as well as Anna’s struggle to find belonging in the countries with which she split her time and identity.
Anna is a shadow of Dominczyk who uses her personal experience as a refugee and visits to Poland as the foundation of her novel, clearly a very personal creative endeavor. She spoke openly about herself and treated us to poetry she wrote in college, providing a glimpse into the novel’s very origins. The Lullaby of Polish Girls also dips into aspects of her acting career. Dominczyk, who appeared in The Count of Monte Cristo as Mercedes talked about regaining her self confidence through the writing of the novel. After she gave birth to her children, Dominczyk gained weight and became disillusioned by the acting world’s obsession with body image. This is distilled in an excerpt which her husband read of Anna being confronted by her agents to lose weight.
The reading had a very lively and touching atmosphere. I attribute this to the chemistry between Dominczyk and her husband, who seemed at home in front of us because they are at home with each other. She praised her husband’s support and he praised his wife’s talent. She cried when she recalled hearing her son read in Polish for the first time and when she delved deeper into her childhood. Mother Dominczyk sat behind me and before it all started, showed off the Polish edition of the book, and bragged about Dagmara’s incredible talent. I began to feel like guests in their home which was refreshing since readings can at times feel too formal. Being a first generation Polish-American, I identified with Dominczyk’s story, but her novel has a little bit for everyone.
Word Bookstore did a great job putting on this event. I look forward to what they have to offer in the future.