The Lessans Family Literary Series

LESSANS FAMILY Literary Series

All year long, we will bring you the best and brightest authors and artists from around the country for special events!


 

BYOB with Ron Balson, Eli’s Promise Wednesday, January 27th - 4:00 PM
BYOB with Elayne Klasson, Love is a Rebellious Bird Tuesday, February 9th - 4:00 PM
A Conversation with Jonathan Kaufman, The Last Kings of Shanghai Thursday, February 11th - 7:00 PM
Dr. LaNitra Berger, Irma Stern and the Racial Paradox of South African Modern Art Wednesday, February 24th - 4:00 PM

The Lessans Family Literary Series Presents: BYOB with Ron Balson, Eli’s Promise

Wednesday, January 27 | 4:00 PM | $10

In observation of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Lessans Family Literary Series presents a special BYOB (Bring Your Own Book) with Ron Balson author of Eli’s Promise.

Join our first BYOB of 2021 with National Book Award-winning, bestselling author, Ron Balson. Bring questions and opinions to share with fellow book lovers and the author himself. Ron will give a short presentation on his newest book, Eli’s Promise, and then we will open it to our participants to continue the conversation.

Eli’s Promise is a masterful work of historical fiction spanning three eras—Nazi-occupied Poland, the American Zone of post-war Germany, and Chicago at the height of the Vietnam War, all tied together by a common thread. Award-winning author Ronald H. Balson explores the human cost of war, the mixed blessings of survival, and the enduring strength of family bonds. Balson’s meticulous historical detail, vivid prose, and unforgettable characters further solidify his place among the most esteemed writers of historical fiction today.

RONALD H. BALSON is an attorney, professor, and writer. His novel THE GIRL FROM BERLIN won the National Jewish Book Award and was the Illinois Reading Council’s adult fiction selection for their Illinois Reads program. He is also the author of Karolina’s Twins, The Trust, Saving Sophie, and the international bestseller, Once We Were Brothers. He has appeared on many television and radio programs and has lectured nationally and internationally on his writing. He lives in Chicago.

Eli’s Promise can be ordered through Politics & Prose, a local bookstore in Washington, DC. Books ordered through Politics & Prose will include a signed bookplate. Click here to order the book and use the Bender JCC’s 10% discount, SPECIAL10.

The Lessans Family Literary Series Presents BYOB with Elayne Klasson, Love is a Rebellious Bird

Tuesday, February 9 | 4:00 PM | $10

Join our February BYOB program with debut novelist, Elayne Klasson. Bring questions and opinions to share with fellow book lovers and the author herself. Elayne will give a short presentation on her first novel, Love is a Rebellious Bird, and then we will open it to our participants to continue the conversation.

In her bold book, author Elayne Klasson, dives into what it means to sacrifice everything you’ve ever known for a chance at happiness. Love is a Rebellious Bird follows Judith, a smart and strong woman, who is driven to pursue a man she has loved since childhood. This tale of a sixty-year love affair examines the age-old question of why we love the people we do. A beautiful, charismatic and wildly successful man is adored by a woman. Even as children growing up together in Chicago’s Jewish north side neighborhoods, attending Jewish youth groups and summer camps, he held the power. Never married to each other, but bound throughout their lives by tragedy and friendship, Elliot defined the terms of their relationship, until finally, in old age, the power shifts. Kasson explores the depth, the passion, and the unreliability of a fierce young love aged over time in the life of a bright and complicated woman.

ELAYNE KLASSON grew up in Chicago. She graduated from Ohio State University and the University of Michigan—where she earned a Masters of Public Health and a Ph.D. in Psychology. For several years she lived in Barbados, West Indies, working as a health care consultant with Project Hope; then returning as a writer and columnist for the Barbados Daily Nation. Her professional career has largely been in academia at San Jose State University, with her research and clinical area of expertise being the severely mentally ill. A recent transplant to the Santa Ynez Valley, near Santa Barbara, California, she is a popular lifestyle newspaper columnist there. Elayne has appeared on San Francisco public television as a restaurant critic. She’s been awarded several writer’s residencies, including Hedgebrook Writers’ Colony on Whidbey Island, Washington, and Villa Montalvo in Saratoga, California. Her debut novel, Love is a Rebellious Bird, is her first to be published. She daily walks her young dachshund and aged fluffy white rescue through nearby vineyards. Married to David, a scientist, they have five children between them, all grown.

Love is a Rebellious Bird can be ordered through Politics & Prose, a local bookstore in Washington, DC. Books ordered through Politics & Prose will include a signed bookplate. Click here to order the book and use the Bender JCC’s 10% discount, SPECIAL10.

The Lessans Family Literary Series

A Conversation with Jonathan Kaufman, The Last Kings of Shanghai I Thursday, February 11 | 7:00 PM | $10

Join the Bender JCC for a conversation with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. Jonathan Kaufman, the author of The Last Kings of Shanghai: The Rival Jewish Dynasties That Helped Create Modern China.

An epic, multigenerational story of two rival dynasties who flourished in Shanghai and Hong Kong as twentieth-century China surged into the modern era

By the 1930s, the Sassoons had been doing business in China for a century, rivaled in wealth and influence by only one other dynasty—the Kadoories. These two Jewish families, both originally from Baghdad, stood astride Chinese business and politics for more than 175 years profiting from the Opium Wars, surviving Japanese occupation, and losing nearly everything as the Communists swept into power.

In The Last Kings of Shanghai, Jonathan Kaufman tells the remarkable history of how these families participated in an economic boom that opened China to the world. The book lays bare the moral compromises of the two families—and their exceptional foresight success and generosity. At the height of World War II, they joined together to rescue and protect 18,000 Jewish refugees fleeing Nazism. As the United States confronts China’s rise and China grapples with the pressures of breakneck modernization and global power, the long-hidden odysseys of the Sassoons and the Kadoories hold a key to understanding the present moment.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jonathan Kaufman is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter who has written and reported on China for thirty years for The Boston Globe, where he covered the 1989 massacre in Tiananmen Square; The Wall Street Journal, where he served as China bureau chief from 2002 to 2005; and Bloomberg News. He is the author of A Hole in the Heart of the World: Being Jewish in Eastern Europe and Broken Alliance: The Turbulent Times Between Blacks and Jews in America, winner of a National Jewish Book Award. He is the director of the School of Journalism at Northeastern University in Boston.

The Lessans Family Literary Series Presents: Dr. LaNitra Berger, Irma Stern and the Racial Paradox of South African Modern Art

Wednesday, February 24 | 4:00 PM | $10

 

Part author talk, part art history presentation, Dr. LaNitra Berger will discuss South African artist, Irma Stern, one of the nation’s most controversial modern figures. Dr. LaNitra Berger’s new book explores how Stern became South Africa’s most prolific painter of black, Jewish, and coloured (mixed-race) life while maintaining a neutral position on apartheid. Presented in partnership with the Pozez JCC of Northern Virginia.

Irma Stern and the Racial Paradox of South African Modern Art can be ordered through Politics & Prose, a local bookstore in Washington, DC. Books ordered through Politics & Prose will include a signed bookplate. Click here to order the book and use the Bender JCC’s 10% discount, SPECIAL10. Order Link: https://www.politics-prose.com/book/9781350187498

LaNitra Berger, Director, Office of Fellowships, Honors College. Photo by: Ron Aira/Creative Services/George Mason University

LANITRA M. BERGER is an award-winning scholar, educator, and social justice advocate working towards making higher education accessible to low-income, first-generation, and minority students. Her scholarly interests are in art and social activism in the African and Jewish diasporas. For over 15 years, her work as an educator focuses on creating and expanding education abroad opportunities for underrepresented students, particularly in international education. As a social justice advocate, she supports student activism by teaching, advising, speaking, and supporting students. LaNitra is the author of Exploring Education Abroad: A Guide for Racial and Ethnic Minority Participants (NAFSA, 2016) and the monograph, Irma Stern and the Racial Paradox of South African Modern Art: Audacities of Color (Bloomsbury, November 2020). She is also the editor of Social Justice and International Education: Research, Practice, and Perspectives (NAFSA, 2020).