Biography

  • With my husband, Lloyd, in Alaska.
    With my husband, Lloyd, in Alaska.
  • With my husband, Lloyd, in the garden.
    With my husband, Lloyd, in the garden.
  • My son Daniel and his wife, Heather.
    My son Daniel and his wife, Heather.
  • My daughter Shari and step son, Tyler.
    My daughter Shari and step son, Tyler.
  • With Shari
    With Shari’s husband, Lee and Lloyd.
  • Buddy.
    Buddy.
  • Shadow and Buddy, both rescue dogs, in our family room.
    Shadow and Buddy, both rescue dogs, in our family room.
  • Shadow.
    Shadow.

  I was born in Nazi dominated Germany,  just before World War II.   It was a time of turmoil and fear.  This early experience has influenced much of  my writing, especially the  JOURNEY TO AMERICA trilogy, based our escape and early years in America.   JOURNEY TO AMERICA is still in print since 1970 and is used in many schools as a reference to the Holocaust.   My books have led to many  speaking engagements throughout the U.S. and abroad.  I speak about  slavery and genocide, as portrayed in my book DREAM FREEDOM,  about the rescue of Ethiopian Jews told in my novel THE RETURN, about teaching literature and promoting creativity.   I have given keynote speeches about the Holocaust, always emphasizing that history must be a tool for inspiring change, for taking action. I believe that good literature must inform as well as entertain.  A good book should also take the reader into unknown places, not only in this world but into the past and future.  I write mysteries, science fiction and stories that compel the characters to move out of their comfort zone.  “Make the reader keep turning the page, make the reader laugh, cry, stay awake.”  The highest praise from a reader is the complaint, “I couldn’t sleep last night until I had finished your book.”  I  strive  for authenticity through careful research and finding new ways of rendering feelings.   I have also written three plays and produced two of them.   There is nothing quite like putting a show together, finding the cast, watching it come alive, and then the thrill of opening night.

  When I was in high school my counselor told me, “Sonia, you have too many irons in the fire.”  I suppose she was right, but I’ve always enjoyed trying new and different activities.  In the late sixties I founded the Moraga Historical Society, which is still active in northern California.  In the late seventies I founded PEP, the Peninsula Enrichment Program, an adult education organization in Palos Verdes.  For several years I  led a program of Rape Awaerness And Prevention, given in neighboring high schools.  This idea developed out of research for my  novel,  WHAT THEY DID TO MISS LILY, published under my maiden name, Sonia Wolff.   For over 20 years I have been involved in the Los Angeles Simon Wiesenthal Center/Museum of Tolerance, as a speaker and as sponsor of the ONCE UPON A WORLD CHILDREN’S BOOK AWARD designed to reward books that portray tolerance and diversity.

  I was married at 19 to  Lloyd Levitin, a fellow  student at U.C. Berkely.  We have supported each other in every career change and every challenge.  After more than 60 years, we are still in love. Our children Daniel Levitin and Shari Levitin Gerstein make us proud with their many achievements and good values.  Shari, now a step-mom, has given us a  wonderful grandson.

  My life as a writer began when I was eight years old.  I wrote a neighborhood newspaper and sold it for 5 cents a copy.   The venture turned out to be a monetary catastrophe and I began to write poems and stories.  A real break through came when,  after graduating from the  University of Pennsylvania,  I  was accepted  into a directed writing program  with Walter Van Tilburg  Clark.    These were golden times for me, working one-on-one with a great writer and teacher.  I have never forgotten those lessons, and when later I became a teacher of creative writing, I passed them along to my own students at UCLA Extension, where I taught for many years.

  Most recently I have re-discovered the joy of painting.  I do mostly ink and water color and find it to be exciting and spontaneous, quite different from writing, which requires another kind of concentration.