Guest Post & Giveaway: Leanne Lieberman Talks About Author Fan Letters, Books

Lauren Yanofsky Hates the Holocaust by Leanne Lieberman is about a young woman who is caught up in typical teenage drama, but it’s more than that and told with humor.  According to Amazon’s description, “Lauren Yanofsky doesn’t want to be Jewish anymore. Her father, a noted Holocaust historian, keeps giving her Holocaust memoirs to read, and her mother doesn’t understand why Lauren hates the idea of Jewish youth camps and family vacations to Holocaust memorials. But when Lauren sees some of her friends—including Jesse, a cute boy she likes—playing Nazi war games, she is faced with a terrible choice: betray her friends or betray her heritage.”

Today, I’ve got a giveaway and guest post to share with you from the author, Leanne Lieberman.  Please give her a warm welcome.

When I finish a book I love I often think, I must write a letter to compliment the author. However, by the time I sit down to write the letter, I’ve forgotten what I want to say, or I wonder if the author actually cares what I think. Most of the time, I’m just too busy.

To date, I have only written one fan letter. When I was eight I wrote to Sydney Taylor, the author of the “All-of-A-Kind-Family” series. The books were the first chapter books I read on my own. I was delighted with the tales of a Jewish family of five girls growing up on the lower east side of Manhattan at the turn of the last century. The stories describe the girls going to the library, shopping at the market for the Sabbath, saving their penny allowance for a birthday present for their Papa, and helping their Mama clean the front room. At the end of the five books the girls’ Mama is pregnant with another child. I couldn’t believe the author would leave readers in such suspense and not write another book. When my mother suggested I write Sydney Taylor a letter, I was fascinated by the idea that authors were real people you could write to. I remember leaving the dinner table and rushing to my room to find pen and paper. I needed to know if the baby would be a girl or a boy. Was Taylor going to write another book?

I received a letter back a few months later from Ralph Taylor, Sydney Taylor’s husband. He explained that Sydney had passed away, but that the baby was in fact a boy as Taylor’s All-of-A Kind-Series was based on Sydney’s own family. I treasured that letter. I remember showing it to my teacher and the school librarian and gluing it into my Little Twin Stars diary. I even wrote Ralph Taylor a second letter with a picture of my family tree, assuming he would be as interested in my family as I was in his wife’s.

I didn’t think about Sydney Taylor or the All-of-Kind-Family Books for many years until I published my first novel, Gravity about an orthodox Jewish girl who falls in love with another girl in 2008. The novel was reviewed positively by the American Jewish library, and named a Sydney Taylor Notable Book for Teens. Of all the reviews of my books, having my name linked with Sydney Taylor’s gave me the most pleasure. It allowed me to imagine people reading my books the way I had read Taylor’s works: absorbed in her world. It made me feel like an author, the way I had first dreamed of becoming a writer when I read Taylor’s books as a child.

Since publishing Gravity I have pulled my old copies of All-of-A-Kind- Family out of the dusty box at my parents’ house and started reading them to my two sons. Like me, they are delighted to read about children celebrating Passover and other Jewish holidays the way they do. They are also fascinated by the descriptions of Manhattan Jewish life from a long time ago. At the same time I started reading Taylor’s books to my kids I received an email with the subject: “Are you the same Leanne Lieberman?” The same as whom, I wondered. The email was from June Cummins, a professor of children’s literature at the State University of San Diego. Cummins wrote that she had read Gravity and liked it. She also explained that she was writing a biography of Sydney Taylor and had been going through Taylor’s fan letters. She had found a letter from someone named Leanne Lieberman written in 1983. Was I that same Leanne?

Goose bumps ran down my forearms. I had written to Sydney Taylor when I was eight, which was 1983, and as far as I knew, I was the only Leanne Lieberman. Through subsequent emails with Cummins I learned that Taylor, the middle child of five girls, wrote the All-Of-A-Kind-Family stories for her daughter Jo who was an only child. Cummins was staying with Jo at the time, and offered her regards. Cummins had also met Jerry, Jo’s uncle, who was the unborn child at the end of the series that I had originally wanted to know about. Knowing that the All-of-A-Kind Family was based on real people, people who were still alive, made me feel an even greater kinship to the stories. Even though Sydney Taylor had never received my letter, I was part of her story as she was part of mine.

Eventually Cummins offered to send me a copy of my original letter. My writing in 1983 was more legible that it is now, although my spelling has improved. “Dear Sydney,” I wrote, “I have an important question for you.” I have none of the trepidation that the author will be too busy or think my questions unimportant. I cherish the memory of what I was like at eight: curious, obsessed with stories, full of my own childish self-importance, and my overwhelming secret desire to write my own stories. Despite the eighty plus years between Taylor’s books and my own life, I saw myself reflected in Taylor’s stories. Her characters lose their library books, get their ears pierced, celebrate Shabbat, and dream of being on the stage, all things I experienced. My own books also deal with the Jewish experience, but because I write for teens, they explore more difficult questions: how to be gay and Jewish, what to think about the Israeli occupation of Palestine, and in my recently released book, Lauren Yanofsky Hates The Holocaust, how to deal with anti-Semitism and the legacy of the Holocaust. I like to imagine that somewhere there is a young girl reading my books, feeling them resonate in her life, and dreaming of the books she will write too.

Do you write fan letters to authors?

author photoAbout the Author:

Leanne Lieberman is the author of three YA books: Gravity (a Sydney Taylor Notable Book), The Book of Trees and Lauren Yanofsky Hates The Holocaust. She also writes adult fiction and is working on a collection of linked short stories entitled, Open Your Heart. Leanne is a graduate of The University of Windsor’s MA in in Creative Writing. Originally from Vancouver BC, Leanne now lives in Kingston ON with her husband and two sons.

To enter to win a copy, you must be 18 and older and living in the U.S. or Canada. Please leave a comment below with an email. Deadline to enter is 11:59 pm EST Aug. 8, 2013.


  1. Glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for having my on your great blog, Serena.

  2. Anita Yancey says

    It sounds like a great story, and I’m glad there is some humor in it. I would love to read the book and find out what decision Lauren makes.

  3. I was very interested in learning abut the author, Canadian, as am I and her writing. This book is compelling and unusual.

  4. What an amazing story!

  5. I am captivated with this wonderful book. A invaluable and special book that I would share with family and friends.

  6. This book would be a unique and cherished treasure for me. Thanks for this great feature and giveaway.

  7. Great post! And how wonderful about the letter. (I wrote a letter to the Pope when I was little and never got an answer, but it started almost the same way: I just HAVE to know! LOL) The subject off uses and changes of Holocaust in memory are so interesting. I just finished a book by Ruth Wisse on Jewish humor and she talks (in part) about how now it can be the subject of humor which is a way of “owning” it, so to speak. Anyway, I think I have to read this book! :–)

    nbmars AT yahoo DOT com