Author Louise Steinman speaks at SMC

Louise Steinman, Director of Cultural Programs for the Library Foundation of Los Angeles, author of two books, numerous essays and articles, and curator of Los Angeles Public Library’s popular ALOUD series spoke last Thursday at an event part of Santa Monica College’s fall Literary Lecture Series. As English professor and organizer Hari Vishwanadha puts it, the ten-year tradition brings in “interesting, fascinating, creative people who reconnect us with the essential, necessary mystery and exhilaration of reading.”

Since 1993, the award winning ALOUD program has brought the city over a thousand events featuring artists and prominent figures in topics from politics to science.

The purpose of these events is to stimulate dialogue and teach tolerance of different points of view to Angelinos.

Steinman spoke of how her 2002 memoir The Souvenir: A Daughter Discovers her Father’s War spawned with her discovery of about 500 letters that her father wrote to her mother during World War II, illustrating her use of “biography, geography, and time” in writing.

“Writing was his lifeline,” said Steinman. “Just as writing is mine today.”

Steinman went on to explain how these letters, which painted a portrait of a version of her father that she never knew, led her on an enlightening journey to the places where this young man had listened to guns booming, kept puppies and monkeys as pets with his comrades, dreamed of Dagwood sandwiches, and fought a war that would leave him forever changed.

Steinman research for the memoir also gave her a chance to meet the enemy.

Steinman's discovery of a Japanese flag with an inscribed personal message that her father had sent home as a war souvenir set her off on a mission to Japan in order find the family of the Japanese soldier, and gave her the opportunity to provide the surviving family members of this young man with a sense of closure.

Steinman also gave the audience a glimpse into her new book, The Crooked Mirror: My Conversation with Poland, in which she delves into another untold family story; the story of her Polish ancestors.

This upcoming work will tell the tale of how, inspired by her mother’s unwillingness to speak of her grandparents’ lives in a small Polish town, she set off to explore her history and wound up spending a powerful week at Auschwitz where she overcame her “inherited prejudice” against Poles.

The next lecture in the series, which takes place Nov. 8, in HSS 165 at 11:15 a.m., will feature internationally noted science writer Margaret Wertheim, and will explore the role of outsider science and the role of imagination in theoretical physics.

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