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Looking for a good book? Find out what the Jewish Book Council staff read and recommends!
- •Suzanne'Disobedience: A Novel' by Naomi Alderman extremely interesting story of a young woman who fled her ultra-Orthodox life, only return for the first time after the death of her father, the head rabbi of a London Jewish community. This story deals with her re-connection of what was and how she deals with this past and her current life. I highly suggest this thoroughly thought-provoking book. Can't wait to see how they make this into an upcoming movie!
- •CarolIn Joshua Cohen’s 'Moving Kings,' two directionless Israelis, Yoav and Uri, have just completed their army service and get jobs working in Yoav's uncle's moving company in Queens. Cohen's portrayal of the grim, gritty, often brutal world they inhabit—and the one they inhabited in the IDF—is boldly drawn in what is often insanely insightful and mordantly funny prose. Hard-hitting and entertaining, this is Cohen's most accessible novel yet.
- •Becca'The Tincture of Time: a Memoir of (Medical) Uncertainty' by Elizabeth L. Silver is one of the most poignant and thought-provoking memoirs I've read. As an infant, Silver's daughter has an unexplained brain bleed. While she relentlessly seek medical answers, Silver also looks for solace in religion, literature, history, and the law. This memoir is a beautiful exploration of situations in which the only thing that can provide a definite answer is time.
Jewish Book Council publishes daily new reviews of books of Jewish interest. Visit www.jewishbookcouncil.org/books to find the latest #JewLit!
- •On Tyranny - Timothy SnyderThe election of Donald Trump, Holocaust scholar Timothy Snyder cautions, has created a political challenge to our democratic form of government that's all too familiar. Read the full review: http://bit.ly/2q5PLfP
- •Two Worlds Exist - Yehoshua NovemberYehoshua November's poetry is flushed with moments of light piercing the veil of darkness covering what November would view as this lower of two worlds. Read the full review: http://bit.ly/2oDVckX
- •The Essential Hayim GreenburgAlthough Hayim Greenberg assigned himself the task of articulating Jewish collective demands, no one was less parochial in his curiosity. Fluent in Hebrew, Yiddish, Russian, German, and English, he exhibited the knack of reconciling universalism with particularism. Read the full review: http://bit.ly/2oMMEsi
Slip away from your seder and sink into poetry, memoirs, and new fiction about someone else’s dysfunctional Jewish family at Passover:
- •Tell Me How This Ends Well by David Samuel LevinsonTen years into the future, three siblings reunite in Los Angeles to “celebrate” Passover as a family and carry out an ill-conceived plot to murder their dad. David Samuel Levinson imagines a near-future in which antisemitism runs rampant and Israeli refugees roam the Globe after the world stood by and watched the annihilation of the Jewish State at the hands of its neighbors.
- •The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane AckermanNiki Caro’s movie adaptation of Diane Ackerman’s 2007 bestseller hit theaters just in time for the holiday—and the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, which broke out on the first night of Passover, 1943. Inspired by the Passover seder held by the Jews hidden in the Warsaw zoo and the start of the revolt, Jewish Book Council’s new custom book club kit for The Zookeeper’s Wife features a special Passover haggadah supplement compiled in collaboration with humanitarian relief agencies.
- •Moses: A Human Life by Aviva Gottlieb ZornbergWhat better time than Passover to read a biography of Moshe Rabbeinu—written by renowned scholar and lecturer Dr. Aviva Gottlieb Zornberg, no less—than Passover? Accessible and illuminating, Zornberg’s recent contribution to the Yale Jewish Lives series brings her signature cross-application of Jewish texts, world literature, and psychoanalytic examination to one of Tanakh’s most complex characters.
Did you set new reading goals for 2017? So did we! Track how Jewish Book Council's staff is kicking off a new year of reading, starting with our January 2017 #JewLit #staffpicks at www.jewishbookcouncil.org!
- •SuzanneFamilies! From dysfunction to love! Judy Batalion’s memoir WHITE WALLS is about living with mother who exists in piles of junk and stuff, grandparents that are Holocaust survivors, and a life of total dysfunction. Through reading this story we can all see something to relate to in one's own mother-daughter relationship.
- •CarolMOONGLOW is Michael Chabon at his creative and joyful best: playful and serious, musical and surprising, with tremendous imaginative reach. For me, one of his best!
- •You Want It Darker | Leonard CohenReally I could just name this one and have that be the entire list. Start to finish, Leonard Cohen's newest release is pretty much flawless, and the ultimate soundtrack for Yom Kippur besides. The chorus of "Hineni, Hineni" ("Here I am, I am here") alone will put the fear of God in you like nothing else you've ever heard.
- •Keep on Pushin | Okay KayaKeep an ear out for Okay Kaya's Hallelujahs in this one: a refrain of quietly sublime moments that highlight the subtle layers building and ebbing throughout a deceptively complex song. Also, the entire music video is Okay Kaya playing Pokemon Go, so, you know, millennials.
- •Shine | Leon BridgesOk, you caught me, this one came out a year ago, but it's simply too perfect: "Lord, don't remember my sins / My sins from my youth / Don't remember my sins / And Father, please elude my transgressions / Let them blow in the wind like sand / 'Cause all of my deeds, you know them."
Yom Kippur has become a crux of the Jewish American narrative in film. So, though JBC usually focused on books, we’d be remiss to neglect the approaching Day of Atonement in the movies. Comedy to Drama to Musical to Romance, here are five films in which you might be surprised to hear a traditional recitation of the Kol Nidre liturgy.
- 1.The Jazz Singer (1927)Al Jolson stars in the first talkie as Jakie Rabinowitz, who flees his parents’ home and community to sing jazz as “Jack Robin.” Over the years, Rabinowitz’s assumed persona achieves great success as a jazz singer but cannot garner his father’s acceptance, and when the aging cantor falls ill on the Eve of Yom Kippur our hero is faced with the decision of whether to return home and deliver Kol Nidre in his father’s stead or perform in the opening of his own Broadway show that same night.
- 2.The Jazz Singer (1980)Hollywood somehow felt compelled to remake 'The Jazz Singer' with Neil Diamond in the starring role. Here's hoping they left the blackface out the second time around.
- 3.Keeping the Faith (2000)Ben Stiller and Edward Norton costar as two clergymen of different faiths who are best friends and in love with the same woman. The young rabbi’s moment of truth comes, of course, on the Eve of Yom Kippur, when he addresses his congregants immediately following the Kol Nidre recitation. (Tough act to follow, amirite?)
Each year produces a fresh crop of #JewLit addressing the Jewish High Holidays and the themes they embody: reflection on the past, forgiveness and reconciliation, personal redemption, and transitioning into a new phase of life—both as an individual and as a community. Here are ten recommendations for the first ten days of 5777!
- 1.Fascinating: The Life of Leonard NimoyEven diehard Trekkies might not know the full extent of the Vulcan Salute’s Jewish origins, but Richard Michelson’s new children’s biography of Leonard Nimoy takes young readers straight to the source. Edel Rodriguez’s glowing illustrations of Cohanim with their hands raised during Rosh Hashanah services depict the images Nimoy would conjure from his childhood memories when he came up with Mr. Spock’s iconic gesture and greeting, “Live long and prosper.”
- 2.Among the Living: A NovelThe protagonist of Jonathan Rabb’s novel, a young man named Yitzhak Goldah, survives the Holocaust and lands in Savannah, Georgia, where cousins and their Conservative Jewish community welcome him with open arms. But Yitzhak’s discomfort among them becomes mutual when he courts a widow belonging to the neighboring Reform temple, and tensions between the two congregations come to a head over tashlich services held on the same beach. Things get even more complicated for Yitzhak from there...
- 3.White Walls: A Memoir About Motherhood, Daughterhood, and the Mess in BetweenSome of the most pivotal moments of Judy Batalion’s memoir occur on the Jewish High Holidays: she invites the man who will become her husband to her apartment for the first time for a Rosh Hashanah dinner with friends; she meets his parents ten days later, ending Yom Kippur in their Hampstead home, where Judy discovers that her bashert’s mother, too, is a hoarder much like her own—a moment she recalls years later to the day, returning home from services with her husband and daughter as a family.
It's been a busy month, but that didn't keep the JBC staff from getting lost in our September #JewLit reads!
- •Becca'Nine Folds Make a Paper Swan' by Ruth Gilligan is about a family of Irish Jews over three generations, written by a young writer who became fascinated with the Jewish experience in Ireland when she was in school at Cambridge and became close friends with Jewish students. Before coming across the Irish Sea, she had no idea there even were Irish Jews!
- •Suzanne'Karolina’s Twins' was a book that I could not put down. It is a story of life, survival and love. It is also a story of a promise that must be kept, no matter the cost and the dark horrible memories that it may bring. Lena Woodward, a survivor of the Holocaust, has lived with an awful memory of what happened to twin girls that were born during the worst of times and what it took to survive the atrocities of the Holocaust.
Marjorie Ingall is a columnist, ghostwriter, and author. Guest blogging for Jewish Book Council as part of the Visiting Scribe series on the The ProsenPeople, Marjorie listed five reasons her book 'Mamaleh Knows Best: What Jewish Mothers Do to Raise Successful, Creative, Empathetic, Independent Children' came out last week instead of last year:
- 1.I did a metric ton of research.When I was in college, I dealt with my fear of writing papers through a routine regimen of exfoliating, cleaning, and laundry until 4:00 AM. This is not a great strategy for a 47-year-old woman. So I dealt with my anxiety by doing more and more and more research. I was convinced that once I knew everything in the entire world about everything in the entire world, the book would flow out of me like sweetened condensed milk out of a dorm fridge after my roommate’s stash tipped over.
- 2.I was terrified of writing in my own voice.As a ghostwriter, I found the very notion confusing, so my first draft was both late and terrible. My best friend, a novelist, told me I sounded unable to own my authority. She pointed out that I kept defaulting to other people’s words to drive my own points home. “You can be self-deprecating while still sounding confident and erudite,” she told me gently. It took a long time for me to relax into that advice. Perhaps paradoxically, I had to learn to sound like myself.
- 3.Deadlines! When you're writing a book, deadlines are fake!Sure, you can put arbitrary due dates for each chapter in your calendar, but when you’re writing articles that have to be filed every week, or magazine stories that have to come in on time or no one will ever hire you again, you know that book deadlines are stretchy and fungible. Plus, book payments come in very slowly, and ayments for one’s regular gigs come in more quickly. Also one needs to check Facebook and Twitter constantly.
Sophie, our college intern for the summer, is heading back to school next week! Jewish Book Council's staff each gave her a book they thought she would enjoy, and shared what that book means to them—and now we share them with you!
- •Marjorie Morningstar by Herman WoukMy family and Herman Wouk have an interesting past. They lived in the same apartment building, and my family name is Morginstern. Morginstern translates to Morningstar!
- •The Hired Girl by Laura Amy SchlitzIt's a really great book because it's modern and compelling. The protagonist is 14 years older and very relatable. It's one of the best books I have ever read for Jewish book council!
- •Old School by Tobias WolffIt is about a boy who wants to be a writer, and he is extremely relatable. He is half Jewish, and this causes a dilemma about his Jewish identity. The writing is great, and it is very interesting.