Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Fern Schumer  

Pen Name: Fern Schumer Chapman

Genre: Non-Fiction

Audience: Adult; Young Adult;

Born: Chicago, Illinois

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Illinois Connection

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

Biographical and Professional Information

Critically acclaimed Chicago-based writer Fern Schumer Chapman has written several award-winning books. Her memoir, MOTHERLAND is a popular choice for book clubs. Her other books, IS IT NIGHT OR DAY?, LIKE FINDING MY TWIN, and STUMBLING ON HISTORY are used in middle school classrooms. In 2004, the Illinois Association of Teachers of English (IATE) named Chapman the "Illinois Author of the Year." Twice, Oprah Winfrey shows have featured her books.

IS IT NIGHT OR DAY?, explores immigration, Americanization, and identity formation through a little-known program that rescued 1,400 youngsters from the Holocaust. LIKE FINDING MY TWIN showcases how 8th graders reunited two Holocaust refugees. Teachers Guides aligned to the new Core Curriculum State Standards are available for all of her books at Fern Schumer Chapman gives many school speeches each year, sharing these remarkable stories with students.

As a journalist and reporter, her work has appeared in many publications including the Chicago Tribune, Forbes, 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 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.

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.

Is It Night or Day?: A Novel of Immigration and Survival, 1938-1942
ISBN: 1250044219

Square Fish. 2014

It's 1938, and twelve-year-old Edith is about to move from the tiny German village she's lived in all her life to a place that seems as foreign as the moon: Chicago, Illinois. And she will be doing it alone. This dramatic and chilling novel about one girl's escape from Hitler's Germany was inspired by the experiences of the author's mother, one of twelve hundred children rescued by Americans as part of the One Thousand Children project.

This title has Common Core connections.

Is It Night or Day? is a 2011 Bank Street Best Children's Book of the Year.

Like Finding My Twin: How An Eighth-Grade Class Reunited Two Holocaust Refugees
ISBN: 0996472509

Gussie Rose Press. 2015

* Finalist, Society of Midland Authors 2015 Award (Children's Non-fiction)
* Independent Publisher 2016 Bronze Medal Winner
(Juvenile-Young Adult Non-fiction)

On the ship that brought her from Nazi Germany to America, young Edith Westerfeld met Gerda Katz. Both 12-year-old girls were traveling alone and immediately became best friends. Unfortunately, the two unaccompanied minors lost touch after their arrival in 1938. Decades later, after a northern Illinois middle-school class read Is It Night or Day?, a historical novel that captures the two girls friendship, 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 Seattle, Washington, in 2011.

Through historical documents, photographs, and storytelling, Like Finding My Twin captures the friendship of the two Holocaust refugees, the students' research, and the remarkable reunion 73 years after Gerda and Edith shared their immigration journey. Like Finding My Twin fulfills Common Core State Standard (CCSS) requirements for Holocaust, Diversity, Character Education, and Service Learning mandates, and it can be read with Is It Night or Day? as paired fiction/non-fiction texts. A Teacher's Guide is available.

Stumbling On History: An Art Project Compels A Small German Town to Face its Past
ISBN: 0996472525

Gussie Rose Press. 2017

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 the readers along on this journey, as Edith joins the ceremony of Stolpersteine -- Stumbling Stones. Watching her former neighbors and descendants struggle to right their nation's past wrongs, she realizes at last the power of hearing, "I'm sorry."

Three Stars in the Night Sky
ISBN: 0996472541

Gussie Rose Press. 2018

A 2018 Junior Library Guild selection At the age of 12, Gerda Katz fled Nazi Germany and came to America all by herself. Decades before the label gained recognition, she became what's now known as an "unaccompanied minor." Gerda's story of family separation reflects the dislocating trauma, culture shock, and excruciating loneliness many unaccompanied minors immigrants experience. As Gerda becomes an American, she never stops longing to be reunited with her family. Three Stars in the Night Sky illuminates the personal damage of racism in three countries -- Nazi Germany, the Dominican Republic, and the United States during the 1930s and 40s -- and the emotional devastation of a child coming to a new country alone.



  • Discover New Great Writers Selection, Barnes & Noble
  • Recommended Pick, BookSense76
  • Finalist, National Jewish Book Awards
  • Read for Lifetime Selection, Illinois State Library 2008
  • Is it Night or Day?

  • Junior Library Guild selection
  • Other Awards:

  • Illinois Author of the Year, Illinois Association of Teachers of English, 2004
  • Fern was honored at the 2005 Illinois Authors Book Fair sponsored by the Illinois Center for the Book and the Illinois State Library in Springfield, Illinois.

    Speaking Engagements

    Speaking Engagement Availability: (Yes)

    To schedule an interview with the author, please call Bruce Wasser at 510-468-7815