Posted by Nat Bernstein
The ProsenPshat is a weekly recap of highlights from each week’s online content on www.jewishbookcouncil.org. Worried you might have missed something this week? Be sure to check our featured reviews page and scroll through The ProsenPeople blog!
Hot on the heels of the 2014 National Jewish Book Awards announcement, this week the Jewish Book Council released the names and titles of the five finalists for the 2015 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature. Congratulations to Molly, Yelena, Boris, Kenneth, and Ayelet!
The Sami Rohr Prize alternates year to year between fiction and nonfiction. Roger Cohen, a columnist for The New York Times, would approve: his own method requires a complete separation between journalism and his writing as a novelist. In his Visiting Scribe guest blog this week, Cohen described the difficulties of trying to report and write at the same time:
There’s a book-writing side to my mind and a journalist’s side. I tried for a while to write one column a week and push forward with The Girl from Human Street in my spare time. This set-up did not work well. I needed to leave that windmill behind, completely. Having the blades coming at me more slowly still locked me in the columnist’s mindset. Only when I went on leave for some months did the book begin to take form.
A column, in general, relies on pithiness, brevity, synthesis. There is little room for narrative or character development. Its form could not be at a greater remove from a book. I like both forms but cannot flit from one to the other.
Cohen also wrote about the recent events in Paris, reflecting on the historical cycle of French antisemitism and his role as a Zionist, Jewish journalist 120 years after Theodor Herzl reported on the Dreyfus Affair.
Life’s patterns, the personal and the political, how one contains the other, how time is not linear but may eddy in circles: these have been and remain the themes that interest me most.
Laura Silver also guest blogged on The ProsenPeople this week, focusing on her area of expertise: the knish. Happily for the hungry, she shared a map of the best knish places in metropolitan New York.
Between Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and all the Jewish buzz around Ava DuVernay’s timely film Selma, this week seemed like an appropriate time to revisit the Jewish Book Council’s reading list on Justice, Civil Rights, and Race Relations in America. And, with the 42nd anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision on Roe v. Wade several days later, we also took another literary look at Jewish Feminist Perspectives, with a section of recommended reads curated by JOFA—the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance.
This week we published new reviews of a biography of the Talumd; a novel based on the true story of a Dutch pharmacuedical company; the true murder mystery of Avraham “Yair” Stern’s demise; an anthology of contemporary Jewish American poetry; an examination of Leonard Bernstein’s life and music; and an update on the Jews of Latin America. Intrigued? You can find this week’s reviews here.