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Author Talk with Lisa Gruenberg of "My City of Dreams"

Author Talk with Lisa Gruenberg of "My City of Dreams"

Author Talk with Lisa Gruenberg of "My City of Dreams"

Lisa Gruenberg, is a physician and medical educator. Dealing with her own depression, she first began writing in 2004 when her father, a Viennese Holocaust survivor, began having nightmares and flashbacks about his past. At the center of his distress was his sister, Mia, who disappeared into Germany in 1941 at the age of fifteen. He would not say her name out loud until a year before his death. In 2006, Lisa traveled to Austria and Germany to trace the fates of Mia, her father’s extended family, friends and neighbors. She revisited her own childhood to recast her father’s old stories about his wonderful Vienna. She inhabited Mia’s life, and wove Mia's story with her father’s and her own, linking them together with photographs, archival documents, family letters, diaries, her father’s writing, his genealogy research, and the joyful tales he told her long ago.

My City of Dreams is a Holocaust tale, but also very much the modern-day story of the relationship between one daughter and her father, about how trauma travels down through generations, and how we all find meaning in our lives.

Lisa Gruenberg 

This is a virtual event. Registration is required. A Zoom link will be sent to registrants. For Adults. 

Saturday, February 12, 2022
10:30am - 11:30am
Library Branch:
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Praise for My City of Dreams:

The late Loring Mandel, Emmy award winning screenwriter of Conspiracy, wrote in Michigan Quarterly Review: “. . it seems far more pertinent to note the emotional heft My City of Dreams can evoke. Whatever it reveals of the lives of these characters, there is surely enough to touch at the history of any reader.”

Full review:

Alex Beam, author of Gracefully Insane, Life and Death Inside America’s Premier Mental Hospital writes: “The past is a foreign country; sometimes best left unexplored. But Gruenberg takes the trip, figuratively and literally, in an attempt to recreate her father’s Vienna and the events that exterminated his sister, his parents, and 65,000 other Austrian Jews. My City of Dreams is a moving chronicle of hard work: hard literary work, psychological challenges, and the journey through the endless lists of names, the soulless archives of the dead. Gruenberg wields all the tools in the writer’s armamentarium—memoir, fiction, poetry, dream journals and reportage—to rebuild the lost city of her past. This is the city we all live in, but very few of us have the courage to explore the crooked streets, the blind alleys, and uncharted byways of how we came to be who we are.”

Dr Sabine Hildebrandt, author of Anatomy of Murder, Ethical Transgressions and Anatomical Science during the Third Reich writes: “In this carefully researched and hauntingly written memoir, Gruenberg not only records her own life, but also that of relatives long lost to darkness, terror, and murder.  In dreamlike sequences she weaves known facts of the lives of those lost into tableaus of imagined family dinners, conversations and leisure activities set in the Vienna landscape.  She embodies her aunt Mia as she walks in her shoes, sees with her eyes, and speaks with her voice.  These flights into the past are presented within the framework of Gruenberg’s own family, her husband and daughters, and her elderly father, who escaped from Vienna in 1939 and shared few of his more harrowing memories with her.  Trauma and the feelings of guilt often described in Holocaust survivors is reflected in this memoir, also the burden shared by so many of their children and grandchildren. At the same time, this tale is one of lightness and finding balance in all of these difficulties and trials. At the center of this memoir stands the author’s ability to look at the truth unflinchingly, including the truths apparent in herself. She shares her insights in all their nakedness, starkness and, yes, hilarity.  This together with the author’s luminous prose, make My City of Dreams an important landmark in 21st century testimony of the Holocaust.”

Jessamyn Hope, author of Safekeeping :When Gruenberg sets off to uncover what happened to her now elderly Austrian Jewish father during the Holocaust, she gains not only a deeper understanding about her father’s past, but about her own growing up. This moving book is both expansive and personal: while it grapples with perhaps the most sweeping and incomprehensible crime in human history, it also takes a poignant look at the intimate and relatable story between one father and his daughter.

Jane Brox, author of Brilliant and Silence writes: Gruenberg’s search for coherence becomes a journey of both discovery and imagination, and ultimately brings her to an understanding that proves also to be a form of healing. My City of Dreams is a gift—an honest and thoughtful book, beautifully written and full of compassion.

Joseph S. Nye Jr., University Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus at Harvard Kennedy School and author of Do Morals Matter? Presidents and Foreign Policy from FDR to Trump: This beautifully written book takes you from America to Vienna and back as it explores the meaning of the Holocaust, memory, mortality and life.

Tony Eprile, author of The Persistence of Memory, and Temporary Sojourner & Other South African Stories:  “A heartfelt and authoritative contribution to the literature of memory and Jewish history.”

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