For her 13th book, Susan Shapiro reached out to people who struggle with the issue of forgiveness and consulted professionals.
Ten years ago, Susan Shapiro began grappling with a problem she could not dismiss. Her thoroughly trusted therapist and confidante of 15 years had lied to her, and she wondered how she could ever forgive him.
“If somebody says, ‘I’m sorry,’ I can forgive anybody anything,” she explained. “But if somebody refuses to acknowledge that they did something wrong, I have a really hard time with that.”
Shapiro’s way of struggling through the issue of forgiveness fell right in line with the way she usually reacts to uncomfortable situations in her life. She wrote a book, her 13th overall and her ninth nonfiction project. Not dwelling on the issue simply as she experienced it, the author reached out to people with similar problems and consulted professionals.
All of that comes across in The Forgiveness Tour: How to Find the Perfect Apology (Skyhorse/Simon & Schuster). The book will be introduced Jan. 14, two days after its official release, during Temple Israel Zoom programming. It will be discussed by Shapiro, Rabbi Jennifer Kaluzny and two Oakland County residents, Gary Weinstein and Emanuel Mandel, whose opposite attitudes toward forgiveness are described in the author’s latest work.
While Weinstein forgave the drunk driver who killed his wife and children, Mandel did not forgive Holocaust perpetrators, believing he found success, in part, by living a life of spite.
“I think I was able to finish the book in a way that will do good in the world,” said Shapiro, also a magazine contributor who has been teaching writing and marketing techniques for 30 years at the New School in New York as well as in private classes and lessons. “I felt I was sharing important wisdom about forgiveness.
“I interviewed some really brilliant people — all kinds of [religious leaders] about the subject of forgiveness, and they had such brilliant information. I also interviewed 13 people who had very intense stories about forgiveness after being wronged in very extreme ways.”
As she learned the reasoning behind different points of view, Shapiro probed the idea of atonement.
“Jewish people really have to apologize and ask for forgiveness,” she said after talking with both Rabbis Joseph Krakoff and Jennifer Kaluzny. “If a sin is not atoned, it is not forgiven.”
Shapiro, who attended the Roeper School and Congregation Shaarey Zedek while growing up in Michigan, graduated from the University of Michigan with a major in English and credit for the humor magazine Michigas. Although she chose her late father’s alma mater, New York University, for graduate school, she asserts that the results of her education have not always pleased family.
“I consider myself the author of 13 books my family hates,” Shapiro quipped and noted an exception. “One, The Bosnia List, was co-authored with the survivor of an ethnic cleansing campaign in the Balkan war. That came out 10 years ago, and that was the one my father, Dr. Jack Shapiro, went crazy over [in a good way].
“When he was gung-ho about getting copies of that book, I thought it was about the history because it told the story of Yugoslavia and the whole war. Then, I realized it was because I was telling the story of someone else’s family and not ours.
“I dedicated Forgiveness to my dad, and it actually wound up being more about my father than I expected it to be. I was mourning him while I was writing it.”
Shapiro, who has visited Michigan many times for book introductions, will be speaking digitally from her home in New York, where she lives with her husband, Charlie Rubin, a television writer and teacher. She had considered herself a “technophobe” but succeeded with the Zoom world at the encouragement of her mom, Mickey Shapiro of West Bloomfield.
“My brand of teaching really works online because it’s the goal to have each student publish a great piece by the end of the class, and that’s been done so many times,” said Shapiro, who delves into techniques with her book The Byline Bible: Get Published in Five Weeks.
“Classes have gone from 20 students to 60 international students. I’ve been able to get the best editors and agents all over the country because it doesn’t matter if they’re in New York to Zoom in.”
Zoom in to Susan Shapiro and others discussing forgiveness at 8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 14. To register for the free event, go to temple-israel.org/event/NeedToRead.