Pho­to­graph of Alex­is Lan­dau (left) by Daniel Sahlberg and of Don­na Rifkind (right) Julie Brown Photography

Before and dur­ing World War II, many of Europe’s pre­mier writ­ers, actors, artists, and intel­lec­tu­als fled their home­lands and set­tled in Los Ange­les — a world com­plete­ly unfa­mil­iar to them. In their most recent books, Don­na Rifkind and Alex­is Lan­dau evoke this Weimar on the Pacif­ic” through two com­pelling female Jew­ish emi­grés. Rifkind’s biog­ra­phy The Sun and Her Stars: Sal­ka Vier­tel and Hitler’s Exiles in the Gold­en Age of Hol­ly­wood details the life of Gali­cian-born actress and screen­writer Sal­ka Vier­tel; Alex­is Landau’s nov­el Those Who Are Saved (a fol­low-up to the 2015 The Empire of the Sens­es) focus­es on a Russ­ian French writer, Vera, who must leave her young daugh­ter behind when she escapes France with her hus­band. In con­ver­sa­tion, Rifkind and Lan­dau dis­cuss por­tray­ing the com­mu­ni­ty of exiles in Los Ange­les through fic­tion and nonfiction.

Don­na Rifkind: Alex­is, I’m fas­ci­nat­ed to see the ways in which you, a nov­el­ist, and I, a non­fic­tion writer, used the same piece of his­to­ry — that of the Euro­pean immi­grants who came to Los Ange­les in the 1930s and 1940s to escape fas­cism — to craft two very dif­fer­ent nar­ra­tives. It’s such a vast and com­plex world, span­ning not just geog­ra­phy but also cul­tures and philoso­phies. I’m impressed by the way your research gives such rich dimen­sions and tex­ture to your nov­el — with­out show­ing in any ungain­ly way at all! — and I won­der if you could tell me where your research start­ed and where it led you.

Alex­is Lan­dau: The ini­tial spark to research this world came from my dis­cov­ery of Weimar on the Pacif­ic” as it’s some­times called — the lit­tle uni­verse that the exiles cre­at­ed here in Los Ange­les between the late 1920s and the ear­ly 1950s. The main fig­ures that opened doors to research were Sal­ka Vier­tel. I read Sal­ka Viertel’s mem­oir The Kind­ness of Strangers, and even though her cir­cum­stances are very dif­fer­ent from my pro­tag­o­nist Vera’s, as a woman strug­gling to adapt to this new Amer­i­can cul­ture liv­ing in San­ta Mon­i­ca Canyon, she pro­vides won­der­ful back­ground infor­ma­tion and small details that were very help­ful as I shaped Vera’s world.

Addi­tion­al­ly, it was thrilling to find out that this rich his­to­ry exist­ed in the very places where I grew up: Pacif­ic Pal­isades, Brent­wood, and San­ta Mon­i­ca Canyon. Then I was get­ting my grad­u­ate degree at USC, I dis­cov­ered the Feucht­wanger Memo­r­i­al Library and met Michaela Ull­mann, the head of exile stud­ies at USC. She helped me delve into the archives of pho­tographs and let­ters, and direct­ed me to Mar­ta Feuchtwanger’s oral his­to­ry, which illu­mi­nat­ed exil­ic life in LA through a female lens. Then of course I vis­it­ed the his­tor­i­cal land­marks where the exiles lived and gath­ered, such as Vil­la Auro­ra and Thomas Mann House. I tried to see Salka’s house on Mabery Road, too, but it’s a pri­vate res­i­dence so that proved hard­er to do.

Pho­to­graph of Vil­la Auro­ra by Boris Schaarschmidt 

AL: Through my research, I dis­cov­ered that some of the exiles who came to LA, such as Sal­ka Vier­tel and Lion Feucht­wanger, were ded­i­cat­ed to not just sur­viv­ing but thriv­ing. They were armed with a steely deter­mi­na­tion to car­ry on as they had in Europe, whether that meant host­ing Sun­day salons and cock­tail par­ties for the refugees at their homes and recre­at­ing, for an evening, a lost Vien­na or Berlin — or forg­ing ahead with their careers, dis­al­low­ing lan­guage bar­ri­ers or new audi­ences from stop­ping them.

Oth­er exiles, such as Hein­rich Mann and Bertolt Brecht, had a much hard­er time adjust­ing to life in Los Ange­les, cit­ing every­thing from the insuf­fer­able sun­shine and the lack of a real café cul­ture,” to, more sig­nif­i­cant­ly, their inabil­i­ty to pro­duce work and find an audi­ence for their work. Of course each person’s expe­ri­ence was dif­fer­ent in terms of how they adapt­ed, but it seemed as if there were two cat­e­gories of refugees (and almost all of them hailed from a sim­i­lar intel­lec­tu­al Euro­pean milieu); those who thrived and those who lan­guished once they arrived here. Were there var­i­ous deter­min­ing fac­tors that shaped their suc­cess ver­sus fail­ure to assim­i­late to their new cul­ture? Or one qual­i­ty in par­tic­u­lar that helped cer­tain exiles sur­vive while oth­ers floundered?

DR: I think the key here, as you say, is that every person’s expe­ri­ence was dif­fer­ent. Sal­ka Vier­tel, for instance, was not orig­i­nal­ly an exile, hav­ing vol­un­tar­i­ly arrived in Los Ange­les in 1928, before Hitler’s rise to the chan­cel­lor­ship in Ger­many in 1933. By that time, Sal­ka was estab­lished in Hol­ly­wood and had already writ­ten her first film for MGM, the clas­sic Queen Christi­na, with the studio’s biggest star, Gre­ta Gar­bo, as the lead. Salka’s posi­tion at the stu­dio made it pos­si­ble for her to advo­cate for the many refugees who were lucky enough to escape from Europe and find their way to Los Ange­les. Once they arrived, she host­ed them at her house, intro­duced them to poten­tial employ­ers, and helped them nav­i­gate an exot­ic new cul­ture and landscape.

This led to an amaz­ing con­flu­ence of per­son­al­i­ties at Salka’s Sun­day after­noon par­ties in San­ta Mon­i­ca, where movie stars like Char­lie Chap­lin, John­ny Weiss­muller, and Har­po Marx min­gled with Euro­pean writ­ers and musi­cians includ­ing Franz Wer­fel and Arnold Schoen­berg. The kind of hos­pi­tal­i­ty Sal­ka offered was cru­cial for the new émi­grés, many of whom did not speak Eng­lish or know how to dri­ve a car, much less under­stand how to trans­late their pro­fes­sion­al skills to a for­eign milieu. Most of them did not end up suc­ceed­ing in Amer­i­ca. The ones who did, for the most part, had inter­na­tion­al rep­u­ta­tions that they were able to main­tain after they left Ger­many: Lion Feucht­wanger and Thomas Mann, for exam­ple, whose books sold well around the world. Thomas Mann’s broth­er Hein­rich, once a huge­ly pop­u­lar nov­el­ist in Ger­many, was not able to have his books trans­lat­ed, and very few peo­ple in Amer­i­ca knew who he was. He was sev­en­ty years old by the time he reached Los Ange­les and his life there was a strug­gle — in a sad coun­ter­point to his Nobel-prizewin­ning, end­less­ly cel­e­brat­ed younger brother.

Bertolt Brecht was a dif­fer­ent case: while he was an inter­na­tion­al celebri­ty, he was ide­o­log­i­cal­ly opposed to Amer­i­can cap­i­tal­ism, espe­cial­ly in its Hol­ly­wood iter­a­tion. So his strug­gle came from his absolute unwill­ing­ness to adapt. He did write one suc­cess­ful Hol­ly­wood movie, Fritz Lang’s Hang­men Also Die!, which came out in 1943. In 1945, he and Sal­ka col­lab­o­rat­ed on a screen­play togeth­er about Joan of Arc, but it was nev­er pro­duced. And he mount­ed a leg­endary pro­duc­tion of his play Galileo at the Coro­net The­atre on La Ciene­ga Boule­vard in 1947, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the great British actor Charles Laughton. But Brecht engaged only min­i­mal­ly with Amer­i­ca, and only because he had no oth­er choice. He returned to East Ger­many in 1947, after tes­ti­fy­ing at the HUAC investigations.

The kind of hos­pi­tal­i­ty Sal­ka offered was cru­cial for the new émi­grés, many of whom did not speak Eng­lish or know how to dri­ve a car, much less under­stand how to trans­late their pro­fes­sion­al skills to a for­eign milieu.

AL: Did you see a gen­der dif­fer­ence in these attempts to assim­i­late? For exam­ple, did the women adapt bet­ter than the men or vice ver­sa? Dur­ing my research, I read that female exiles on the whole adapt­ed bet­ter than their male coun­ter­parts because they were less attached to their for­mer iden­ti­ties, or at least appeared to be, and were more will­ing and able to recre­ate them­selves in their new home­lands. For exam­ple, they learned the lan­guage faster, or took jobs far beneath their edu­ca­tion­al lev­el to sup­port their fam­i­lies. Their hus­bands were much more immo­bi­lized by the sud­den change of life cir­cum­stances and status

DR: I do think that for the most part the women were bet­ter at adapt­ing than the men, for some of the rea­sons that you men­tion. To me, that stems from the con­di­tion­ing of these men and women with­in the struc­ture of the patri­archy. Men were encour­aged to devel­op giant egos, which made them resis­tant to crit­i­cism and reluc­tant to com­pro­mise. Women were raised to be more self-effac­ing and ser­vice-ori­ent­ed, which made adap­ta­tion and accom­mo­da­tion eas­i­er. Of course there were excep­tions on both sides, but for women the stakes were some­what low­er than for men, at least pro­fes­sion­al­ly, and fre­quent­ly they were used to fly­ing under the radar. So they could often make them­selves more mal­leable in the face of dras­tic change.

Speak­ing of every case being dif­fer­ent, I was so inter­est­ed to see quite a wide diver­si­ty of immi­grant expe­ri­ences with­in this milieu depict­ed in your nov­el. Could you tell us a bit about this diver­si­ty as embod­ied by two of your pro­tag­o­nists, Vera and Sasha (both of whom, inter­est­ing­ly, are writ­ers)? Vera arrives in Los Ange­les as a refugee from France, while Sasha has vague mem­o­ries of his ear­ly child­hood in East­ern Europe, though he grew up on New York’s Low­er East Side and works in Hol­ly­wood. Although both are Jew­ish, their respons­es to cat­a­clysmic events in Nazi-dom­i­nat­ed Europe are influ­enced by their vast­ly dif­fer­ent indi­vid­ual his­to­ries. Is their chem­istry a mat­ter of oppo­sites attract­ing, or are there oth­er more com­plex rea­sons for their intense connection?

AL: Yes, I want­ed to explore dif­fer­ent types of immi­grants even when they came from the same coun­try. Vera and Sasha both come from Rus­sia, but their vast­ly dif­fer­ent cir­cum­stances real­ly change their expe­ri­ences of exile and assim­i­la­tion. Sasha immi­grates with his moth­er from Riga (in cur­rent-day Latvia) to New York’s Low­er East Side in the late 1920s, when he is about sev­en. He grows up assim­i­lat­ing into that par­tic­u­lar Amer­i­can Jew­ish cul­tur­al milieu of peo­ple striv­ing to sur­vive and make it through a mix of grit, sta­mi­na, and chutz­pah that was often­times passed down to the next gen­er­a­tion. His immi­grant expe­ri­ence con­trasts sharply with that of Vera, who arrives in the US about thir­teen years lat­er, in 1940, under vast­ly dif­fer­ent cir­cum­stances. Vera’s child is still in France, and she clings fierce­ly to her iden­ti­ty as a French writer, and to the cul­tur­al sta­tus she had enjoyed. It proves much hard­er for her to adapt to Amer­i­can cul­ture, espe­cial­ly the glitz and glam­or of LA in con­trast to the hor­rors she knows are unfold­ing in Europe. She also resents the brisk look for­ward not back” atti­tude which is some­thing that Sasha actu­al­ly loves and trea­sures about his new country.

They are both writ­ers, but while Sasha is pro­pelled to write and tell sto­ries infused with the ener­gy of the streets and his back­ground as a crime reporter, Vera fal­ters once she leaves France. I want­ed to show how exile affects cre­ativ­i­ty in var­i­ous ways through these characters.

And despite their unlike­ly pair­ing, their wounds dove­tail each oth­er, as they are both deal­ing with grief and loss. Vera’s painful sep­a­ra­tion from her daugh­ter is recent and raw. She is so mired in guilt and alien­at­ing grief she can bare­ly get through the day, where­as Sasha’s loss of his father is buried deep in his past — so far back that he repress­es it until Vera opens the door to the past for him, and he opens the door to the future for her. Vera needs Sasha to look for­ward, so that she can hope for a future that includes her daugh­ter, Lucie, in it, and he needs her to help him con­front his own com­pli­cat­ed past.

Why did so many Euro­pean exiles flee to Los Ange­les or end up here, as opposed to New York, Chica­go, or oth­er places in the US? I real­ize that Hol­ly­wood was a big draw, as it was a place where they could put their tal­ents to use and secure employ­ment as well as orga­ni­za­tions such as the Euro­pean Film Fund that found jobs for refugees in Hol­ly­wood. But was there some­thing else, beyond the finan­cial incen­tives, that drew them out west?

DR: The com­mon response is that the visu­al artists tend­ed to end up in New York or Chica­go, while the writ­ers and musi­cians came to Hol­ly­wood where they were more like­ly to find jobs. I think this is gen­er­al­ly true, but I also think that then, as now, you tend to go where you know there are peo­ple who can help you. That could mean help through a coor­di­nat­ed grass-roots net­work like Hollywood’s Euro­pean Film Fund, and it also could mean per­son­al help from com­pas­sion­ate indi­vid­u­als like Sal­ka Vier­tel. She had a nat­ur­al tal­ent as a con­nec­tor of peo­ple and she used it in this case to save and sus­tain lives.

The Euro­pean Film Fund plays a role in Those Who Are Saved, as the hero­ism of Var­i­an Fry, a real-life res­cuer who ful­fills a key func­tion in the nov­el. Did you use any amount of nov­el­is­tic license when you wove these ele­ments into the nov­el, and/​or did you feel a respon­si­bil­i­ty to stay close to the facts? Was it free­ing or restrict­ing to work with­in the require­ments of fic­tion as opposed to nonfiction?

AL: Yes, I did rely on a degree of nov­el­is­tic license in terms of research but at the same time, I felt that stick­ing to the main facts and dates/​timelines proved nec­es­sary for the integri­ty of the book. For exam­ple, the escape from the Gurs intern­ment camp, and trek over the Pyre­nees and then reach­ing Lis­bon to board the ship was sim­pli­fied in the nov­el to keep the pace mov­ing. In real­i­ty, that par­tic­u­lar escape route took much longer with var­i­ous stops and starts and moments of rever­sal. In real life and in my nov­el, escape from France involved not just the help of Var­i­an Fry but also the aid of Uni­tar­i­an min­is­ter Wait­still Sharpe, who played a role in help­ing Fry get refugees to safe­ty, as well as Amer­i­can vice con­sul Har­ry Bing­ham Jr., who actu­al­ly hid Lion Feucht­wanger in his home for a peri­od of time. But I also took cer­tain free­doms, using the facts as a jump­ing-off point to under­stand­ing the character’s emo­tion­al states in reac­tion to the real­i­ty of their escape.

DR: Your char­ac­ter Leon Freuden­berg­er, who is, it seemed to me, inspired by the Ger­man Jew­ish nov­el­ist Lion Feucht­wanger, says at one point in the book that His­tor­i­cal nov­els should reflect the present state of things. If not, why write them?”I won­der whether you, as a his­tor­i­cal nov­el­ist, agree with this sen­ti­ment. If so, was it a moti­va­tion for writ­ing this nov­el in particular?

AL: Yes, Leon Freuden­berg­er is clear­ly based on Lion Feucht­wanger — and I agree to a cer­tain extent with his state­ment about his­tor­i­cal fic­tion. When I set out to write this nov­el, I was more moti­vat­ed by the com­plex rich his­to­ry of the exiles in LA and how being exiled in par­adise” cre­at­ed a jar­ring dis­so­nance with what they had left behind in Europe, and I want­ed to explore how they dealt with that grief and rage over what was hap­pen­ing to their home­lands. But I didn’t real­ize that the nov­el would also come to reflect the cur­rent state of affairs, specif­i­cal­ly the pain of chil­dren and par­ents being sep­a­rat­ed at the bor­der here in the US. The sim­i­lar­i­ty to Vera’s sto­ry shows how his­to­ry echoes across decades and con­ti­nents and con­tin­ues to be relevant.

In his­to­ries of the world of the exiles, the men — such as Lion Feucht­wanger, Bertolt Brecht, Thomas Mann, Arnold Schoen­berg, and Theodore Adorno — loom large. But what about their wives? Even when their wives, such as Sal­ka Vier­tel, did remark­able things and paved the way for oth­er artists to come live and work in LA, they didn’t receive much cred­it. Was this just because of the misog­y­ny of his­to­ry that dic­tat­ed this nar­ra­tive (and that you are won­der­ful­ly chal­leng­ing and recast­ing with your book) or was there also an inher­ent misog­y­ny with­in the exile com­mu­ni­ty despite it being more avant-garde in many ways (i.e., open mar­riages, women work­ing out­side the home, and a tol­er­ance for same-sex cou­ples, etc.) than the rest of Amer­i­can culture?

DR: I think those two forms of misog­y­ny are fun­da­men­tal­ly the same. You can’t help being caught in your time peri­od and its pre­vail­ing beliefs, even if you’re on the more pro­gres­sive end of those beliefs. It was pos­si­ble for these Euro­pean exiles to have open mar­riages, a wife work­ing out­side the home, and a tol­er­ance for sex­u­al dif­fer­ences (as Salka’s hus­band, Berthold Vier­tel, did) while at the same time believ­ing (as he also did) that women are pure­ly emo­tion­al while men are ratio­nal and intellectual.

Hon­est­ly, I think women were left out of this sto­ry for decades because men were the ones writ­ing it. I def­i­nite­ly want­ed to give Sal­ka Vier­tel the spot­light after she had been rel­e­gat­ed to the shad­ows for so long. There’s now a lot more atten­tion in exile stud­ies direct­ed toward the women, and thank good­ness, because they — not just Sal­ka, but also women like Mar­ta Feucht­wanger, Hel­li Brecht, Katia Mann, and Alma Mahler-Wer­fel — are every bit as fas­ci­nat­ing, if not more so, than the men.

On the sub­ject of women being emo­tion­al, in your nov­el there are huge dif­fer­ences in the ways that men and women process trau­ma, guilt, shame, and PTSD — most notably in the case of Vera and her hus­band, Max. Can you tell us about that? Did the dif­fer­ences come pure­ly from the imag­i­na­tive evo­lu­tion of these char­ac­ters, or did your research into spe­cif­ic real-life sit­u­a­tions affect the dynamic?

AL: The dif­fer­ences in the way that Max and Vera react to their sep­a­ra­tion from Lucie came from per­son­al expe­ri­ence, research about how fathers and moth­ers process grief dif­fer­ent­ly, and the fact that gen­der roles were much more tra­di­tion­al and man­dat­ed then they are now, espe­cial­ly around the expres­sion of painful emo­tions. In the research, I found with the loss of a child in par­tic­u­lar, moth­ers become much more sub­sumed by grief, and par­a­lyzed by it, where­as men repress it — but inter­est­ing­ly, their depres­sion often emerges years lat­er, when it’s not as expect­ed. And on a mytho­log­i­cal and nar­ra­tive lev­el, the trope of the griev­ing moth­er is very ingrained in old sto­ries. The two that come to mind is the ancient Gre­co-Roman myth of Deme­ter mourn­ing and rag­ing over the loss of her daugh­ter Perse­phone, and Mary weep­ing at the cross on which Christ, her son, was crucified.

But to return to the nov­el, I also felt empa­thy for Max because he couldn’t allow him­self to feel grief and he had to keep going for Vera’s sake and for their eco­nom­ic sur­vival, where­as in some ways, Vera sucked all the oxy­gen up in the room with her grief. If there’s a next book, I think we will learn that Max suf­fered much more than he could express, and that, years lat­er, he reck­ons with these painful emo­tions that he kept bot­tled up for too long.

The end of WWII brought with it the begin­ning of the Red Scare, HUAC, the black­list, etc. and the grow­ing silence, con­for­mi­ty, and para­noia of the1950s. Do you think this pen­du­lum was inevitable giv­en the ini­tial seeds of this hys­ter­i­cal­ly anti-com­mu­nist polit­i­cal cli­mate that the refugees already sensed dur­ing the 1940s?

Even today I feel more at home’ in an unfa­mil­iar envi­ron­ment because that’s what I’m used to. That feel­ing reminds me of Thomas Mann’s won­der­ful state­ment that you cite in your book: When the home­land becomes for­eign, the for­eign becomes the homeland.’

DR: Yes, the seeds of that polit­i­cal cli­mate had been plant­ed long before they bloomed. Both Sal­ka and Berthold Vier­tel had exten­sive FBI files and were under sur­veil­lance through­out the 1940s because of their asso­ci­a­tion with out­spo­ken left­ists such as Brecht and Hanns Eisler. By 1950 it was clear that Sal­ka was more or less unem­ploy­able in Hol­ly­wood, though she was nev­er offi­cial­ly black­list­ed. Many of the Los Ange­les exiles, includ­ing Thomas Mann, felt that the same fas­cist head­winds that had dri­ven them out of Europe were now threat­en­ing them once again in the U.S., and they left the coun­try for good. Sal­ka her­self, with enor­mous regret, moved to Switzer­land in the ear­ly 1960s, though she remained an Amer­i­can cit­i­zen until her death in 1978. She nev­er stopped miss­ing her house in San­ta Mon­i­ca, which she called a port of entry” for so many refugees who had lost their own homes.

Your nov­el con­tains beau­ti­ful, heart­break­ing evo­ca­tions of the feel­ing of hav­ing lost one’s home for­ev­er, of not belong­ing any­where: not in rav­aged Europe after the war, and not in the US, either. What helped you chan­nel those emo­tions for your char­ac­ters — per­son­al con­nec­tions, lit­er­ary inspi­ra­tions, pure imagination?

AL: After writ­ing this book, I real­ized that this sense of dis­lo­ca­tion and not feel­ing at home in the world expe­ri­enced by the char­ac­ters reflects my own upbring­ing. My par­ents divorced when I was sev­en, and I spent my child­hood trav­el­ing between their two hous­es, which were vast­ly dif­fer­ent in their val­ue sys­tems. I was always either pack­ing or unpack­ing a bag. I didn’t quite belong in either place and felt like a stranger to my own expe­ri­ence. I was skep­ti­cal of the idea of a home­land or fam­i­ly home, and real­ized that if I ever want­ed one, I’d have to cre­ate it with­in myself wher­ev­er I went. Even today I feel more at home” in an unfa­mil­iar envi­ron­ment because that’s what I’m used to. That feel­ing reminds me of Thomas Mann’s won­der­ful state­ment that you cite in your book: When the home­land becomes for­eign, the for­eign becomes the homeland.”

Are there aspects of Sal­ka that you iden­ti­fy with as a writer? For instance, a com­mon­al­i­ty or spark that tran­scends time and space that per­haps emerged while you were research­ing her life and work?

DR: As many peo­ple do, I fell in love with Sal­ka after read­ing her 1969 mem­oir, The Kind­ness of Strangers. Since then I’ve felt a strong spir­i­tu­al con­nec­tion to her. I think that’s prob­a­bly a nec­es­sary con­di­tion for writ­ing a biog­ra­phy, but for me it went even deep­er: she expand­ed my moral imag­i­na­tion in ways I had nev­er thought pos­si­ble. I don’t want to sug­gest that she was a saint; she had her faults, as all humans do. But she showed me ways to take action in the most bewil­der­ing cir­cum­stances with courage and com­pas­sion. She taught me that every­thing glob­al has local impli­ca­tions, while every­thing local rever­ber­ates around the globe. And also she was warm, fun­ny, wit­ty com­pa­ny through­out nine years of research­ing and writing.

AL: Are you think­ing about writ­ing anoth­er book? Or anoth­er kind of project?

DR: I was inspired by Salka’s long, com­pli­cat­ed rela­tion­ship with her hus­band, Berthold, to start work on a new non­fic­tion book about a lit­er­ary mar­riage. Stay tuned! How about you? Have your char­ac­ters from Those Who Are Saved left you in peace, or do they want more from you? What’s next?

AL: I think the char­ac­ters want more from me! I’m research­ing the next book, which will trace Lucie’s sto­ry, start­ing when she’s in her thir­ties liv­ing in Paris in the late 1960s and try­ing to become a painter with two young chil­dren and a hus­band. Vera and Sasha end up hav­ing a son, who is draft age for Viet­nam by 1967, so the nov­el will deal with sec­ond wave fem­i­nism, what it means to be an artist (and the deter­mi­na­tion it took to become a female artist in the male-dom­i­nat­ed art world at that time), inter­gen­er­a­tional trau­ma, and the Viet­nam War.

Alex­is Lan­dau is a grad­u­ate of Vas­sar Col­lege and received an MFA from Emer­son Col­lege and a PhD in Eng­lish Lit­er­a­ture and Cre­ative Writ­ing from the Uni­ver­si­ty of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia. She is the author of The Empire of the Sens­es and lives with her hus­band and two chil­dren in Los Angeles.

Don­na Rifkind grew up in Los Ange­les entranced by the Euro­pean aura of her Jew­ish grand­moth­ers and aunts. Her lit­er­ary crit­i­cism appears in The New York Times, The Wall Street Jour­nal, The Wash­ing­ton Post, Com­men­tary, and many oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. In 2006, she was a final­ist for the Nona Bal­akian Cita­tion for review­ing from the Nation­al Book Crit­ics Circle.