EntertainmentLibby Says

Bending Toward The Sun / Review

About the Book:
A miraculous lesson in courage and recovery, Bending Toward the Sun tells the story of a unique family bond forged in the wake of brutal terror. Weaving together the voices of three generations of women, Leslie Gilbert-Lurie and her mother, Rita Lurie, provide powerful—and inspiring—evidence of the resilience of the human spirit, relevant to every culture in every corner of the world. By turns unimaginably devastating and incredibly uplifting, this firsthand account of survival and psychological healing offers a strong, poignant message of hope in our own uncertain times. 
A decade-long collaboration between mother and daughter, Bending Toward the Sun reveals how deply the Holocaust remains, in the hearts and minds of survivors, influencing even the lives of their descendants.  It also sheds light on the generational reach of any trauma, beyond the initial victim.,  Drawing on interviews with the other survivors and with the Polish family who hid five-year-old Rita, Leslie and Rita bring together the stories of three generations of women – mother, daughter and granddaughter – to understand the legacy that unites, inspires, and haunts them all.

Aurthor, Leslie Gilbert-Lurie

Want to know more?  Visit the website: Bending Toward the Sun -HERE

My Review:
I cannot even begin to fathom, the physical and emotional horror, of living through the Holocaust.
I would hope to think, that I would have been brave and done everything possible
to help to shelter families in need… but human nature is a very strong, and I’m afraid that I may have made protecting my own, a first priority.

Bending Toward the Sun, is an emotional, often gut wrenching and painful, but beautifully written novel. I found, at times, that I would be holding my breath, and biting my lower lip, while reading Rita’s description of hiding out in the small cramped attic with 14 other members of her family.
Can you imagine?  
15 people in one small dank room.  
Bitter cold in winter.  Swealtering in summer.
2 years of not being able to bathe. 
2 years of eating little more than raw potatoes, bread, beans 
and the occasional taste of watered down soup.
2 years of only whispering, breathing stale air, and nothing more to sleep on, than moldy straw.
And losing both a mother and a baby brother.
Then years of moving from one place to another. 
Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Austria, Italy.
Living in a series of DP camps.
And then finally, coming to the U.S., and finding that the streets weren’t paved with gold…
jobs and decent housing were scarce…
and that opportunity didn’t come knocking.
Strange foods, sites, smells.  A new language to master.
Bitterness between families.  Broken promises.
To me, one of the most tragic things, was losing her “identity”…
…having her name changed from Ruchel to Rita.
Written in three parts,
1. In Mom’s Voice – Rita (1937-1960)
2.  My Own Voice – Rita’s daughter, Leslie (1960 – 1997)
3. A Joint Venture – Rita, Leslie, and Mikaela – Rita’s grand daughter (1997 – 2008)
Bending Towards the Sun is a memoir of trials and triumphs.
A story of hurt and healing.
A raw past.
A hopeful future.
Fears passed down from mother to daughter to grand daughter.
But overall, Bending Towards the Sun is a story of healing and of strength.
As the title of the last chapter…a Legacy.
Thank you FSB Associates, Rita Lurie, and Leslie Gilbert-Lurie,
for giving me the opportunity of reading Bending Toward the Sun.
Julie, from FSB Associates has given me permission to include the following – enjoy!



by Leslie Gilbert-Lurie

Author of Bending Toward the Sun: A Mother and Daughter Memoir

"Mommy, I was afraid that you died."
"I didn't die. Sleeping. I was sleeping." Holding my cell phone, I
propped myself up on the pillow and regained my bearings. I was in an
elegant hotel room in Washington, D.C. Judging from the burning
sensation in my eyes, I had not been asleep for long.
"I was so worried when you didn't answer the phone." My daughter's
small voice trembled.
"Not until the fourth ring."
Her sadness and the demands I knew were soon to follow sent blood
rushing to my temples. "Mikaela, I'm fine."

"I can't stay here, Mommy."
I took a deep breath and thought fast. My voice softened. "I just
dropped you off a few hours ago. We talked about the fact that the
first night might be an adjustment. What did you do this evening?"
"Nothing. I didn't eat. I just cried."

She was in Bethesda, about twenty minutes away. "Honey, it was a big
honor to be chosen for this leadership conference. You were so excited
about going, you have a good friend there, you'll learn all about
government, and -- "

"Mommy, please! Take me home! I'm only eleven years old, and I'm not
ready for this. Please."
"Mikaela, you are ready. You'll be so proud of yourself for sticking < br />it out. What do you want to bet you'll love it there by the end of the
five days?"

She was sobbing now. "I won't. I hate it! I don't even feel like
myself here. I'm hiding in the bathroom so I don't wake up my
roommates, worrying that you're going to die!"
"I'm not going to die. Not for fifty more years at least."
"You don't know that for sure."

I was afraid she would say that. "You're right, I don't. But I eat
healthy foods, I exercise, I wear sunscreen, and I don't drink and
drive, so I should live for a very long time, right?"

"Can you at least come over here to give me a hug goodnight?"

It's a trap. She'll never let me leave without her. If I had just
flown out of town this afternoon, we would not be having this
negotiation. "It won't help, sweetie. You'll just miss me more if you
see me." By now my head was aching.

"I won't. I swear."

I was not surprised by her determination, but I held firm. "No."
"You just don't understand," she said angrily.
"Yes, I do." I did understand. She was in pain, a kind with which I
was all too familiar, and I could alleviate her anxiety just by jumping into a taxi. 
But it would be a mistake. Even though she had  
always been apprehensive about being away from me, she had made
significant strides as of late. She'd been nervous about a recent two-
night class trip to20northern California, but had gone anyway and had
ended up having a great time. I was certain that this new adventure
would also surprise her, and provide further evidence that she could
survive without me. After all, she was a survivor. She came by that

I grew up in 1960s suburban Los Angeles, part of a family who was
living the American Dream. My parents raised my siblings and me in a
friendly, safe, and well-kept community. Every home on the block and
every kid looked more or less the same, with a smattering of ethnic  
diversity to break the monotony. I loved sports, especially baseball,
made friends easily enough, and was a good student. My family ate
dinner together nearly every night and took occasional vacations, just
like the other families we knew.

Yet some things were different in our family. My mother believed that
I could be president of the United States, but she hoped I could make
the leap to high office directly from my cozy bedroom, where she knew
I was safe. My mother didn't like me to smile at strangers, play
outside after dusk, visit friends whose parents weren't nurturing
enough, and most importantly, be far away from her. While I bristled
at these restrictions, I lived by them. I knew that my mother's fears
were birthed by tragedy. She carried wounds whose power I could never

I think of my mother as a modern-day Anne Frank. Both my mother and
Anne Frank spent two years in hiding during the Holocaust, while the
Nazis searched for them. Both were forced to live in an attic with
their families, which was highly unusual. Jewish children were rarely
able to hide with their families during the Holocaust, and typically,
hidden Jews spent only a short time in any one place. My mother and
Anne Frank both were kept alive, in large part, because of the courage
and kindness of gentile friends. In my mother's case, a Polish farmer
and his wife sheltered a bewildered five-year-old girl and fourteen
members of her family, including an infant.

There were many similarities between my mother and Anne Frank. But my
mother was the only one fortunate enough to survive. For decades,
readers have wondered what Anne Frank might have become, had she
survived. My mother's coming-of-age story may provide some indirect
insight, as well as a glimpse of the long-term impact of the Holocaust
on the children who were directly affected by it.

I've begun this book with my mother's story. Her memories from early
childhood are unusually detailed, although surely idealized at times.
I've taken some creative liberties in reconstructing dialogue, but
always with an eye toward accurately reflecting the spirit of the
conversations my mother recalled, and the manner in which she
remembered family members speaking to one another. In addition to
relying solely on the memory of my mother, I was also able to
interview six other relatives who hid with her in the attic.

I will never forget the evening my mother and I spent in the living
room of my mother's first cousin Sally. Four women, all in their
sixties, who had hidden together in an attic as young children, a half
century earlier, were sharing recollections. Given how rare it was for
children to survive the Holocaust, such a family reunion was highly
unusual. And then there was my mother's eighty-six-year old uncle,
Max. He had never wanted to share his memories, but that evening, he
found himself leading the discussion.

Where most Holocaust narratives conclude, this one gathers momentum.
Some of my mother's most unsettling recollections stemmed from the 
period right after Germany surrendered to Allied forces during World  
War II. My mother's story illuminates the fallout of the Holocaust as
her family wandered throughout Europe for five heartbreaking years
before coming to America. Her spirit, deep faith, and endurance
against all odds provide powerful -- and inspiring -- evidence of the
resilience of the human spirit.

In the second and third parts of this book, my mother's story becomes
our joint account, narrated in my voice, and eventually includes my
daughter, Mikaela. The stories of three generations merge in these
pages, just as our hopes and dreams have so often in my life. Although
my mother's and my experiences bear virtually no similarity, it is in
the overlapping shadows that we find common ground. My mother's
traumas became my nightmares. Not a day went by in balmy Los Angeles
that I didn't feel lashed by what she suffered through in Poland
during the war. On the other hand, my mother's hopes and aspirations
also sowed the seeds for my ambition and my achievements.

Over countless breakfasts as a child I asked my mother the same
questions about her past -- the few that I knew to ask. What was it
like to wake up that morning and see tanks outside your house? What
did you eat inside the attic? Did you have meals with your mommy and
daddy when you were hiding? If the answers could ever make sense to
me, I believed, my world would finally feel safe. After traveling back
to Poland to meet the family who hid my mother, to sit in the attic
where her childhood disappeared like an ice cube on a feverish brow,
and then spending nearly a decade writing this book, I finally began
to understand where my mother came from and how her experiences
transformed her. I had to research further, however, to see just how
the trauma of my mother's past had been transmitted to me, and then to
my children.

My husband and I had always encouraged our children to be adventurous.
I worked vigilantly to prevent my fears from interfering with the
messages I communicated to them. Even my daughter, who was more
tentative than my son and stepson about separating from me, had always
cheerfully rebounded as soon as we were reunited. I was surprised,
therefore, when her anxiety did not diminish after she returned home
from her leade rship trip to Washington, D.C.

There was something particularly resilient about the strain of fear
Mikaela seemed to have inherited. I came to see that while scientists
had found a way to prevent the virulent AIDS virus from passing, in
utero, from mother to daughter, no such barrier had yet been
discovered to prevent the effects of trauma from being transmitted
across generations. I learned that as a result of trauma passing from
one generation to the next, it was not unusual to find children of
Holocaust survivors, or the "Second Generation," as we came to be
known, weighed down by feelings of loss, guilt, and anxiety, and
trapped in a dynamic of mutual devotion and overprotection between
parent and child. And clearly the fallout extended to a third
generation. Like me, Mikaela, too, seemed to be trapped in the vortex
of a tragedy that had taken place a half century before she was born.

As for exactly how such trauma might be 
transferred from one generation to the next, researchers have proposed 
a variety of theories. Psychoanalytic approaches suggest that emotions that  
couldn't be consciously dealt with by Holocaust 
urvivors themselves  have been passed down to their children. Sociological
theories focus on the connection between a survivor's beliefs and fears and their  
child-rearing practices. Other researchers have looked to the family
unit as a whole to ascertain the impact of the Holocaust survivors'
experience on their children. They found, for example, that in tightly
knit survivor families, attempts by children to establish boundaries
are often viewed as a threat to the family's unity.

Finally, other researchers have proposed that memories of fear can
actually be carried across generations through biochemistry. Children
of Holocaust survivors have been found to have lower than average
levels of the stress hormone cortisol, just like their traumatized
parents. They also are more likely than average to suffer from
post traumatic stress disorder when exposed to a traumatic event, and
more likely to view a non-life-threatening event, such as illness or
separation from a loved one, as traumatic. This approach helps explain
why children growing up in the same household but with different
combinations of genes could be affected so differently by a parent's
trauma -- why I was more fearful of leaving home than my sister, 
why  my daughter was more fearful of separation than my son. These various  
theories regarding the intergenerational transmission of posttraumatic
stress left me hopeful that we might find new ways to lessen its most
harmful effects.

For my mother, at seventy years old, completing this book was
bittersweet. Just after she had stoically finished taking me through
her life, barely flinching at the most intimate, disturbing details,
she plunged into a deep depression. I was left wondering if this
project had been a mistake. Thankfully, my mother recovered, and her
optimism and hunger for adventure returned. She reminded me that her
primary motivation for creating this memoir had never been to help her
cope. This book was intended to help others better understand the
Holocaust and its impact, and hopefully to also shed light on the
potential complications resulting from other tragedies taking place
today, around the world. This book was written with the hope that
children and grandchildren of trauma survivors -- as well as others
facing their own challenges -- might find inspiration in my mother's
courageous story.

Last summer, I agreed to teach a course on the Holocaust at my son
Gabriel's high school. One of the teachers at the school, a friend who
had grown up in Sri Lanka, came to our house for dinner before the
semester began. Between margaritas and20slices of homemade pizza, he
casually asked me, in his perfect Oxford-bred English accent, if I
knew the Latin root of the word holocaust. "Some of my students will
be in your course, and they'll quiz you on this right 
off the bat," he explained.

I searched my memory. In the past decade I had read scores of books
and viewed countless documentaries on the Holocaust. I knew dates of
Allied bombings, numbers of victims at each camp, and the names of
heroes, villains, and those in between. I was certain I had come
across the origins of the word along the way, but it escaped me. If I
confessed ignorance, my erudite Sri Lankan friend, who had left behind
a successful investment banking career, would be convinced that his
Oxford education was superior to my American one. For the sake of the
team, I took a guess. I deduced that holo sounded like whole, and that
caust had to do with destruction.

"Something like total destruction?" I asked.


Yes, I thought."But not quite." He told me that holocaust, in Latin, means "burned
offerings." It stems from the Greek words holo (which as I had guessed
did mean "whole") and caust("burned"). In ancient times, the priests
of the Hebrew Temple in Jerusalem would offer animal sacrifices to God.
Holocaustum, in biblical Latin, referred to those offerings to God that were 
burned in their entirety at the altar, leaving no meat  
for consumption. Centuries later in the United States, the crematoria
of Auschwitz brought the word holocaustto mind. It became synonymous
with the destruction of European Jews by the Germans.
Thinking about that ancient definition, I realized it was not an  
entirely accurate description of what took place during World War II.
The fire of hate that the Nazis lit did not consume everything. The
earth was scorched, but from the blackened ground new seeds sprouted.
Their genes had been affected by the intensity of the heat, but grow
they did, and thrive they would, as my mother would put it, "bending
toward the sun." This book is for those whose hopes have been dashed,
or burned beyond recognition. It is for those who may have been born
too late to witness the most traumatic event they would ever
experience. And it is for those who are interested in exploring the
blurry lines between good and evil, hope and despair, and mothers and
daughters. I is evidence that despite the depth of pain and horror we
may experience, the will of the human spirit is irrepressible, and the
blessing of life, of a new day in the sun, will ultimately prevail.

The above in an excerpt from Bending Toward the Sun: A Mother and Daughter Memoir
There may be some errors due to the scanning process. Please refer to the 
finished book for accuracy. 
Copyright © 2009 Leslie Gilbert-Lurie, author of 
Bending Toward the Sun: A Mother and Daughter Memoir<

Author Bio

Leslie Gilbert-Lurie, author of Bending Toward the Sun: A Mother and
Daughter Memoir, is a writer, lawyer, teacher, child advocate, and a
member and past President of the Los Angeles County Board of Education.
Gilbert-Lurie also is a founding board member and immediate past
President of the Alliance for Children's Rights, a non-profit legal
rights organization for indigent children, chair of the education
committee for the Los Angeles Music Center, and a board member of
several schools including Sierra Canyon and New Visions Foundation.
Finally, she has just completed serving as a member of the mayor's
task force charged with developing a new cultural plan for the City of
Los Angeles.

Previously, Leslie spent close to a decade as an executive at NBC,
where, at various times, she oversaw NBC Productions, Comedy, wrote
television episodes, and co-founded a new NBC in-house production
company, Lurie-Horwits productions. As a lawyer, Leslie worked briefly
at the law firm of Manatt, Phelps, Rothenberg and Tunney and served as
a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Law Clerk. She is a graduate of UCLA
and UCLA School of Law.

Leslie lives in Los Angeles with her husband, son, 
daughter and step- son.

For more information please visit http://www.bendingtowardthesun.com/

0 thoughts on “Bending Toward The Sun / Review

  • Great review. I love the cover of this book!

  • brings tears to your eyes.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *