Crossing the Borders of Time in Amsterdam

I had a happy tourist experience when I stopped into the American Book Center in Amsterdam yesterday and spotted Crossing the Borders of Time on the New Non-fiction display:

When I purchased and signed a copy to give to a Dutch friend, the bookseller, Tiemen Zwaan, realized I was the author, brought me a stack of copies to sign, and placed “signed copy” stickers on each. He told me the book was selling very well in their store. Great fun! The shop is a lovely one, at Spui 12.

American Book Center, Amsterdam

Meeting Huberta von Voss-Wittig

Huberta von Voss-Wittig, a journalist who is the wife of Germany’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Dr. Peter Wittig, graciously hosted a dinner party in their Manhattan residence to celebrate the publication of Crossing the Borders of Time. It was an extraordinarily meaningful and memorable moment for me to be there as she spoke eloquently about the history evoked in the book. I only wished that my German-born grandparents, Sigmar and Alice Gunzburger, could have been with me to hear her.

My grandparents traced their roots in German soil back through several centuries, and it was with deep regret that they fled their home in Freiburg im. Breisgau in 1938. I know they would have been proud to see Ambassador and Mrs. Wittig celebrate my book, which delves into their German heritage and experience under Hitler.

Ambassador Wittig, who has represented Germany in the United Nations since 2009, earlier both studied and taught as an assistant professor at the University in Freiburg. Huberta von Voss-Wittig attracted public attention this past spring, when she and her British counterpart, Sheila Lyall Grant, released a video calling on Asma al-Assad, wife of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, to stand up for peace in her country.

Blackstone Audio’s Grover Gardner in conversation with Leslie Maitland

Blackstone Audio, which produced the AudioFile Earphones award-winning version of Crossing the Borders of Time, has posted an interview with Leslie on its blog. Listen to Leslie and Blackstone’s studio director, the renowned narrator Grover Gardner, as they discuss the book and Leslie’s experience narrating her own text. “I think I might have put in more periods and used shorter sentences,” she jokes, “if I’d realized that I was going to read it aloud!”

Listen to the full interview here.


‘Crossing’ wins AudioFile Magazine Earphones Award

Happy to share the news that the audio version of Crossing the Borders of Time won an AudioFile Magazine Earphones Award. It will be announced on their website in July and in their print magazine in the August/September issue. As described on the AudioFile website, the awards are presented to “truly exceptional presentations that excel in all the following criteria:
• Narrative voice and style
• Vocal characterizations
• Appropriateness for the audio format
• Enhancement of the text”

The AudioFile Review:

A True Story of War, Exile, and Love Reclaimed
Leslie Maitland
Read by Leslie Maitland

Within minutes of pressing “play,” the listener may forget this is a work of nonfiction—so engrossing is its story and so vividly is it told. As the author, Maitland crafts the story of her mother’s life as a young Jewish woman during WWII. Her writing exhibits the detail of a reporter and the narrative skill of a novelist. As the performer, Maitland provides smooth pronunciation of French and German terms, as well as various European accents, and superb pacing. The story is vast in scope, but the blend of facts about the time period and the personal love story between Maitland’s mother and a young Frenchman make the production engrossing. L.B.F. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine [Published: JUNE 2012]

Leslie Blogs as “Visiting Scribe” for the Jewish Book Council

Leslie was the “visiting scribe,” writing for the Jewish Book Council’s blog, The ProsenPeople, in the week starting June 27.  In three posts, she wrote about the “Stumbling Stone” Holocaust memorial project in Europe, about the dilemma involved in choosing an epigraph for Crossing the Borders of Time, and about the American Joint Distribution Committee’s new online archives. Links to her pieces here.

The PBS NewsHour

The PBS NewsHour presented a wonderful segment on Crossing the Borders of Time on Friday evening, May 11. Host Margaret Warner visited my home and conducted a thoughtful interview with me about my mother’s story. Producer Peggy Robinson provided an excellent introduction complete with numerous extra photographs that do not appear in the book itself.

Link: The PBS NewsHour

Through My Eyes: Leslie Maitland on Writing her Mother’s Story first published this Mother’s Day post on April 30, 2012. View the issue here.

Recently, returning things to a box of my mother’s memorabilia that I had used in my research for the nonfiction book I wrote about her life, I came across a Mother’s Day card that I had made for her many years ago, when I was in college. In view of the depth and breadth of all my previous rummaging through the artifacts of her past, I was surprised to have overlooked this card. Now I admit to taking a little belated pride in the passable watercolor of a pot of violets that I had painted on the cover. But what stunned me was a statement in the message that I, her first child, had penned to Mom inside:

“On the day that you became a mother, I entered life to mirror your life through my eyes.”

I read the words again, and a storm of emotions overwhelmed me. Having just finished years of work writing about her life in CROSSING THE BORDERS OF TIME, I was taken aback by the sentiment expressed here by my younger self. Had I truly known so long ago that I would dedicate myself to a concentrated mission as my mother’s biographer? Even before embarking on a journalist’s career — indeed even before setting off on any sort of adult life — had I already embraced the goal of telling my mother’s story? The simple clarity of the card’s avowal surpassed my conscious understanding. Did that mean that I had done what I was always meant to do? There could be satisfaction in believing that.

At the same time, it seemed disturbing to read a declaration that implied I’d seen my very reason for existing as bound up in that loving mission of recording and transmitting my mother’s story. Perhaps, the daughter of a survivor, I’d felt it as a duty. Or had I meant it was essential, ordained, engrained in my identity? As much a part of me as I was part of her.

Mom herself, of course, has always been an enthusiastic storyteller, and her accounts of life in prewar Germany, in occupied France, in Batista’s Cuba, and in New York City of the 1950s have enthralled me always. Cruelty, war, love, and escape were themes that filled my daily life even as a child. But the residue of longing and regret that lay like dust on my mother’s romantic memories made me share her wistfulness for a period that I myself had never known. Everything that truly mattered seemed to beckon from across a border of time that barred me from experiencing personally the sort of life that gave rise to stories worth retelling for generations.

History grew very real to me. Her history. Her story. I knew every character in every tale by name; I saw their fates spin out before me; and ultimately, when I decided to write about them, I knew exactly where to go to track them down. Because I was also my father’s daughter, trained against assuming the truth of anything not verified, I would retrace my mother’s steps and, as that Mother’s Day card predicted, mirror her life through my own eyes. Still neither Mom nor I could have possibly imagined where that journey of rediscovery would lead me, when I went in search of her lost first love, and how thoroughly it would change her world.

Meanwhile, just last month, as we eagerly anticipated the publication of my book about her, Mom was precipitously hospitalized with pneumonia. For several weeks, plagued by complications, she was seriously ill, and I deeply feared an outcome that would take her from us and rob us of a moment I had counted on our sharing. I gave her the bound galley with an inscription, prayed that she would live to see the finished book, and am profoundly grateful that she is now on the road to full recovery.

In the anxious hours I spent at her bedside, however, I gained another understanding of what I’d aimed to do in documenting the dramatic story of the mother I adored. Not only would I make her real to unfamiliar readers, as to her own descendants yet to come, but I myself would know her with an extraordinary degree of intimacy and insight. The pages of my mother’s life would remain with me forever and permit me to hold on to her. On Mother’s Day and always.