Bending Toward the Sun (Paperback)

A Mother and Daughter Memoir

By Leslie Gilbert-Lurie

Harper Perennial, 9780061776724, 368pp.

Publication Date: September 7, 2010

Other Editions of This Title:
Hardcover (9/1/2009)
Paperback, Large Print (12/13/2013)

List Price: 17.99*
* Individual store prices may vary.


“Here is a memoir that takes us through many worlds, through heartache and noble hopes, through the mysteries of family love and toward a beautiful, light filled conclusion. Read Bending Toward the Sun and enrich your life.”  — Rabbi David Wolpe, author of Why Faith Matters and Making Loss Matter-Creating Meaning in Difficult Times

A beautifully written family memoir, Bending Toward the Sun explores an emotional legacy—forged in the terror of the Holocaust—that has shaped three generations of lives. Leslie Gilbert-Lurie tells the story of her mother, Rita, who like Anne Frank spent years hiding from the Nazis, and whose long-hidden pain shaped both her daughter and granddaughter’s lives. Bringing together the stories of three generations of women, Bending Toward the Sun reveals how deeply the Holocaust lives in the hearts and minds of survivors and their descendants.

About the Author

A writer, lawyer, and former executive at NBC, Leslie Gilbert-Lurie is a member and former president of the Los Angeles County Board of Education and a teacher of Holocaust studies. A founding board member and past president of the nonprofit Alliance for Children's Rights, she has worked at a major Los Angeles law firm, served as a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals law clerk, and is a member of the board of directors for several nonprofit organizations, including the Los Angeles Music Center. Recently Leslie was appointed by the mayor of Los Angeles to a panel to devise a new cultural plan for the city. She is a recipient of the American Jewish Congress's Tzedek Award for Outstanding Commitment to Civil Rights, Civil Liberties, and Justice, and the Alliance for Children's Rights Child Advocate of the Year Award. She lives in Los Angeles, California, with her husband, two children, and stepson.

Praise For Bending Toward the Sun: A Mother and Daughter Memoir

“A captivating memoir that explores a complicated, loving, and enduring mother-daughter bond, and reveals how doubts, hopes, and dreams are handed down from generation to generation. As both a mother and a daughter, I found it deeply touching.”
— Arianna Huffington, author, syndicated columnist, and founder of The Huffington Post

“Here is a memoir that takes us through many worlds, through heartache and noble hopes, through the mysteries of family love and toward a beautiful, light filled conclusion. Read Bending Toward the Sun and enrich your life.”
— Rabbi David Wolpe, author of Why Faith Matters and Making Loss Matter-Creating Meaning in Difficult Times

“Gripping, exhausting, exciting, devastating--this book is at times hard to read but always impossible to put down. ”
— Rabbi Irving Greenberg, Founding President, Jewish Life Network; former Chairman of United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

“BENDING TOWARD THE SUN is . . . bolstered by writing that is compelling and sensitive, the book transcends the holocaust genre with its multi-generational point of view on the ultimate effect of fear and evil on young minds.”
— Dick Wolf, Emmy Award-winning creator and Executive Producer of Law and Order; Law and Order: Special Victims Unit; and Law and Order: Criminal Intent

“[An] affecting memoir. . . . Vivid. . . . Riveting. . . . An amazing story of wartime survival.”
— Kirkus Reviews

“The lasting impact of the Holocaust on a survivor and her daughter emerges in this joint account. . . . The voices and experiences expressed are valuable.”
— Publishers Weekly

Conversation Starters from

  1. If you could have chosen to read the perspective of another character in the book, whose would you have chosen and why? 
  2. If you had the opportunity to ask your father or mother any question about his or her past, what would you ask? 
  3. What about Rita's past influenced her own mothering style? What about Rita's past contributed to Leslie's and Mikaela's determination and competitive spirits? 
  4. In what ways do you consider Rita to be a survivor? What factors do you believe contributed to Rita having been able to survive and overcome so many obstacles in her life? 
  5. How did Rita's parenting influence the way Leslie mothered her own children? 
  6. Do you consider Stashik and Maria Grajolski to be heroes and if so, why? Who were the other heroes in this story? 
  7. Would you have invited Rita's family to hide in your home? What do you think you would have done in that situation? 
  8. Why might children from the same family be impacted differently by trauma that their parents experienced? What traumatic event in your parent's life or your own impacted you or one of your children? 
  9. How might the limits of the human memory have influenced the story? 
  10. Is Bending Toward the Sun an appropriate title for this book? Why did Rita and Leslie select this title? 
  11. Do you feel sympathy for Rita's step mother, Clara? 
  12. Do you suspect that the impact of the Holocaust will diminish as the years go by? Will future generations be less affected by their ancestor's experiences? How can one limit the perpetuation of trauma to future generations? 
  13. What is unique about the bond between mother and daughter? In what ways do you think the mother daughter relationship between the authors in this book is like most mother-daughter relationships? In what way do you think it is different from them? 
  14. What is the significance of telling the story from the perspectives of three generations? Do you believe that the cycle of trauma explored in Bending Toward the Sun will inevitably continue beyond the third generation? 
  15. How is trauma transferred from generation to generation? Are there social or cultural factors that might perpetuate the transfer? 
  16. If Bending Toward the Sun became a movie, what actors and actresses would you cast to play the roles of the characters in the book? 
  17. How do you believe Rita's relationships would have been different were it not for the Holocaust? What key event that you experienced altered one of your primary relationships?