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Books By Louise Steinman


This story begins in 2000, when Steinman was invited to attend the week-long Bearing Witness Retreat at Auschwitz-Birkenau, organized by the Zen Peacemaker Order. Until that time, she'd known very little about family left behind in Poland, about Polish history, or the weight of her own unexamined prejudices. Until the retreat at Auschwitz-Birkenau, she'd never met any Poles of her generation.

For the past decade, Steinman has traveled in Poland, re-establishing a relationship with the town where her mother’s family lived for hundreds of years. She writes of memory projects throughout Poland, stewarded by Poles, that seek to honor the memory of lost Jewish neighbors. What happens when we look at our entwined history together?

With the rebirth of democratic Poland in 1989, a new generation of Poles and Jews has been looking honestly at their entwined history. As testament to the Polish commitment towards this effort, the Museum of the History of Polish Jews—financed by the Polish government—will open its exhibitions in spring 2014 on the site of the former Warsaw Ghetto. Louise Steinman’s important book is timed to celebrate the opening of the Museum and the vital new era of Polish-Jewish reconciliation.

"[Steinman] achieves something close to peace with those struggling intensely to understand and rectify Poland's Jewish past." - Robert Levgold, Foreign Affairs

"Louise Steinman's story is heroic in all the old senses of the word: a journey of a literal sort; a journey into the terrible past; and a journey into her own soul. Unblinking, scrupulous and enduring." —Alexandra Fuller, author of Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight


(North Atlantic/Random House, 2008)

Growing up, Louise Steinman knew little about her father's experience in WWII. All she knew was that the whistling teakettle was banned from the kitchen and that she was never to cry in front of him. Years later, after her parents' death, she found an old ammunition box filled with nearly five hundred letters her father had written to her mother during the war. She also found a silk Japanese flag inscribed to Yoshio Shimizu. Who was Yoshio Shimizu and why did her father have his flag? So began Steinman's quest to return this "souvenir" to its owner and, in the proces, learn more about the war that transformed the expressive young man in those letters into the reserved father she had known.

Weaving together her father's raw poignant letters with her own journey, Steinman presents a powerful view of how war changed one generation and shaped another.

“Exceptional…A graceful, understated memoir…that draws its strength from the complexities it explores.”

- New York Times Book Review

"The Souvenir is a powerful testament that, regardless of time and place, the effect of war on the human spirit remains the same. Steinman's remarkable discovery shows how war separates our common humanity. It is a journey to repair that broken bond, a journey to know the humanity of those we have made enemy."
-Ishmael Beah, author of A Long Way Gone

“Partly a detective story, partly a meditation on the legacy of war… a bold, unusual, and moving book.”

- Adam Hochschild, author of King Leopold’s Ghost

"...an intimate and powerful story of the effects of war." -- James Bradley, author of Flags of Our Fathers.

Gold Medal, Autobiography/Memoir, ForeWord Magazine ; Selection of Silicon Valley Reads, Eugene Reads Together; Freshman Reads, Penn State.


(North Atlantic Books)

When I wrote The Knowing Body: The Artist as Storyteller in Contemporary Performance (published in 1986, revised, 1995) I began with my own experience and also posed questions to choreographer/artists like Trisha Brown, Simone Forti, Meredith Monk, Barbara Dilley and many others to understand how choreographers make dances.

I wrote both from my experience as a dance critic as well as a dancer/choreographer who’d performed with Meredith Monk and Ping Chong and as co-director of a dance/theater company. I’d been inspired by Judson Dance Theater, as well as storytellers like Spalding Gray, contemplative performers like Barbara Dilley, and improvisers like Nancy Stark Smith. With movement, language and image, and narrative as building blocks, I made dance performance pieces exploring my cultural heritage, the history of my city, the role of ritual in a fractured world.

We are trying to get this landmark book-- still in print from North Atlantic Books and now distributed by Random House-- out to the attention of the larger dance audience. The book has been in use for the past twenty years in theater, dance, and communications courses. It’s a lavishly illustrated hands-on guide to creating dance and performance out of the grist of your own experience and your own movement. Please consider using this text in your dance history classes or dance composition workshops.

Selected Reviews:

“…a dazzling and deeply impressive study of the performing arts.” -Jonathan Kirsch, The Los Angeles Times

"In the territory Steinman explores—risk, play, improvisation, the dual image of the performer and persona—her fine prose builds firmly, gracefully and movingly to what she considers the basic, too often unacknowledged function of the performer as storyteller: 'to remind us of our mortality.'"
—Deborah Jowitt, The Village Voice

"...a visceral experience, a temporal tome that transcends the limits of a 'good read.' Most readers will come away from The Knowing Body with an enriched sense of their own movement through the world as well as a greater understanding of the work of many new artists."
—Morrie Warshawski

Product Description
Steinman's book really stands alone among performance art books. While there are many that document what particular artists are doing, this one offers a way in for a person who wants to perform (or know more about how performance artists work). Must reading for anyone interested in performance art, it will also be fascinating to those in dance, theater, playwriting, visual arts and performance of any sort.

This hands-on guidebook to creating and understanding dance and performance pieces offers a behind-the-scenes look at the creative process involved in transforming personal stores to theater. Steinman interviews some of the most interesting post-Judson performers of the last decades-Trisha Brown, Ping Chong, Meredith Monk, Spalding Gray, and a host of others. She weaves descriptions of her own path as a writer and performer into a thesis which demonstrates how one can work towards developing an authentic voice. Steinman describes how performers use their body’s “native language,” making use of dreams, memory, and improvisation, building small stories into larger collective tales, offering warmth and connection. As she says in a new Preface, “stories can be both healing and a radical act.”