Ilonka Venier Alexander and Shari Thurer met in our library on June 21, 2016, to discuss The Life and Times of Franz Alexander: From Budapest To California published by Karnac in 2015.  Ilonka’s grandfather, Franz Alexander, was the first graduate of the Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute, the man who turned down Freud’s offer to enter into private practice in Vienna, and the man Freud told to go to America and spread the doctrine of psychoanalysis. He was one of the founders of psychosomatic medicine and psychoanalytic criminology. This new biography, written by Alexander’s granddaughter, considers his personal and professional life, the role of family in his decisions, and how those decisions affected other family members. Themes touched on in this intimate and personal biography include family secrets and lies, the fear of discovery and the need to reinvent one’s past in order to survive, the importance of giving to society, and family reunification after decades of deceit and betrayal.

Ilonka Venier Alexander is a clinical social worker and psychotherapist with thirty years’ experience in the field of mental health. She had the opportunity to testify before the United States Congress in the early days of the HIV epidemic about its impact on Boston area veterans. For years her area of specialization was adults with a severe and persistent mental illness. Later in her career she helped to write the mental health standards for children and adolescents in Nova Scotia, at the time the only such standards in Canada. She received her Masters of Social Work degree from the University of Southern California and is the granddaughter of Dr Franz Alexander, founder of the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis. She is currently working on a more personal memoir of her life with her grandfather, entitled Growing up Alexander.

Shari Thurer, ScD, is a psychologist practicing in Boston. She is a graduate of Vassar College and Boston University, where she received a doctorate and taught for twenty-one years. She is also a graduate of the Advanced Training Program in Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy and the Library Committee member at the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute. She is the author of The Myths of Motherhood: How Culture Reinvents the Good Mother and The End of Gender: A Psychological Autopsy.

Click on the video to watch the full interview. Contact Olga Umansky at, if you have any questions or wish to borrow this interview on a DVD. Watch other interviews with noted authors in this BPSI webcast series.