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Stuart Lewis

Author of Us versus Us, An Intimate Journey of Letters and WallsStuart Lewis is a businessman living in Toronto. Born into a secular Jewish home, he grew up in a predominantly Jewish Toronto neighbourhood surrounded by families of Holocaust survivors. Despite the comfortable middle-class appearances, money was a constant struggle and when he was fourteen his father — a failed salesmen of the Willy Loman variety — abandoned home and family in what would become a bitterly angry and unforgiving forty-year period of estrangement between father and son. It was an estrangement that would produce in time a most unexpected even life-changing revelation and reconciliation. After university Lewis worked on a kibbutz in Israel and remembers feeling "at home" for the first time in his life. A love of Israel was born and that would lead in time to an embrace of Orthodox Judaism. In fact, it was while Lewis was in Israel and making preparations to emigrate permanently that he travelled to Europe and at the last minute decided to visit East Berlin. It was 1983 and the Berlin Wall still separated the West and the East. It was on a day-trip that he met Frank, a medical school student, and they began an improbable friendship that lasted a lifetime. It was the letters they wrote back and forth that are the inspiration for the book Us versus Us. As Lewis says, it was only a few years ago that "we each realized that these prized letters, dozens of them that we had received from one another, had been saved." The letters capture the final six years of Frank’s life behind the Berlin Wall, it’s destruction, the reunification of Germany and the end of the Cold War. The letters that capture as well a budding and trusting relationship that breeched the walls between them: between East and West, communist and capitalist, East German and a Jew (an increasingly religious Jew with an implacably hostile aversion to all things German and later all things Arab/Muslim/Palestinian). But there was one issue, one wall that would not come down. It was a question: "Frank, what did your father do in the war?"And as with most important questions, the answer led down unexpected roads and to truths that were difficult but necessary to confront.