The ProsenPeople

Self-Published Jewish-Themed Books Come of Age

Wednesday, March 20, 2013 | Permalink

by Stephen Witt

In the brave new digital world of the book business, self-published authors enjoy a new clout. And every week this translates into more self-published titles appearing on best seller lists across the nation than ever before. At the same time, traditional publishers, reviewers, and bookstores that once shunned self-published titles are now embracing these changes or risk falling into antiquity.

“Certainly, the validity of publishing on your own is now unquestioned,” says Jon Fine, Amazon.com’s director (the first) of author & publisher relations. “Even traditional publishers regularly trumpet the authors they’ve discovered from the self-published ranks. And traditionally successful authors are increasingly using services like Kindle Direct Publishing, CreateSpace, and others to reach their audiences in new and creative ways. The opportunity to tell your story, to a few or to many, has never been greater."

This trend is also reflected in the growing number of Jewish writers who are bucking the traditional publishing business and self-publishing their books, including Arizona-based Linda Pressman, whose Holocaust-related tome, Looking Up: A Memoir of Sisters, Survivors and Skokie, was named the 2012 Grand Prize Winner in the 20th Annual Writer's Digest Self-Published Book Contest.

“I was previously represented by an agent who was unable to sell an earlier version of my manuscript,” said Pressman. “After our relationship ended I spent quite a while fixing the manuscript and building up my name recognition. I knew that the editors and publishing houses were being extremely cautious about what they were publishing and I felt it was unlikely that I'd be able to get a deal, having been turned down previously. Luckily, self-publishing had grown in the same time period and was a great option for me since I had built a reader base ready to read my work.”

Pressman’s reader base comes from both her humorous blog, BarMitzvahzilla, and her involvement as an editor and blogger for Poetica Magazine, a self-described vanity press that includes a print and online literary journal focusing on contemporary Jewish thought. But she also displays marketing savvy.

“I hired two publicists in the time period since my book was published. The cost makes this somewhat prohibitive. Of great help was one who helped me with book tours, local appearances, and submissions to various reviewers,” said Pressman.

“Much of my marketing was through social media that I did on my own. From finding Facebook Groups focused on topics in my book (Skokie, Survivors, Chicago, Memoir writers, etc.), to Twitter and blogging – these were all immensely helpful in marketing and promoting the book. An Amazon Author page and Looking Up Facebook page, both to post news about the book and author appearances, has also been helpful,” she added.

Pressman said the most amazing thing about self-publishing is the thing that's also the hardest: it's all up to you. There won't be a huge publishing house standing behind you, promoting your work, but you'll also have the satisfaction of knowing that any success is also your own,” she said.

“From a Jewish standpoint, I found that my work, being stereotyped as "Holocaust," did not find its place in traditional publishing but that there's actually a huge readership out there for Jewish writers and Jewish topics,” said Pressman.

Another self-published Jewish Holocaust author is Rimma Rose, a young Russian-American, whose debut novel, Cursed to Survive, has been garnering favorable reviews and is finding its own market. Rose’s take on the Holocaust is a beauty-and-beast story that reads more like a mystical mystery influenced by the Twilight series, and is, in fact, the first of a series of books featuring many of the same characters.

“I decided to self-publish my first book, because I was terrified of sending my manuscript to various places without knowing what would happen to it,” said Rose. “I read about self-publishing and it seemed easy and fast and I went for it. The biggest advantage of self-publishing is a total control I have over my work. The biggest pitfall of self-publishing is the fact that along with total control, the author is also responsible for promotions, public relations, and everything else.”

While self-published authors continue taking a greater market share this also means a reduced role in the book industry for editors, marketers, and promoters in traditional publishing houses along with their related network of agents, distributors, reviewers, and both chain and independent bookstores. Believers in this traditional model quickly point out its role as gatekeeper for readers, with the ability to curate what they see and judge as redeemable literature. They also point out some of the growing pains in self-publishing, such as the frequent lack of proper editing and professional book design.

But self-published authors counter that they enjoy a more mobile advantage and lower financial overhead than the traditional publishing model with its layers of decision makers. They are free, for example, to redesign covers and include stronger copy and story editing in subsequent editions at manageable costs. They can even utilize these improvements to re-launch their book, garnering even more promotion.

On the promotional end, self-published Jewish authors can easily find a multitude of Jewish-themed websites and blogs that cater to everything from the most observant Jews to the most secular and alternative Jewish lifestyles.

On the manufacturing side, Amazon’s CreateSpace service has been a game changer. With price ranges that fit almost every self-published author’s budget, CreateSpace will design and format both the cover and interior of the work plus carry it for distribution and sales on its website and list it on their promotional networks. They also give good discounts for author copies and a much higher royalty rate than traditional publishers through sales on Amazon.

Amazon is also a leader in e-books with its Kindle device, while other companies, such as BookBaby, convert an author’s work into other e-book formats compatible with such devices as the Nook, Sony Reader, and Kobo.

“I've found that, with the lower price of my e-book version, I sell many more of them than the hard copies per month,” said Pressman. “Due to the size of my book (348 pages) and the manufacturing costs, I can't lower the price on the physical book to encourage greater sales, but I can do so with the e-book version.”

My road to self-publishing began in 2002 when I started chatting up the African-American self-published novelists and poets who sell their books on the Fulton Mall in downtown Brooklyn. At the time I was a full-time reporter at a chain of papers in Brooklyn and every night I’d go home and squeeze out 500 words writing my first novel, American Moses. My mindset back then was I wanted a mainstream publishing deal. After hundreds of rejections a small agent finally agreed to take on American Moses and then the rejections started pouring in from publishing houses big and small.

Meanwhile, as I wrote draft after draft, the Fulton Street authors shared with me their triumphs and pitfalls to self-publishing and recommended books about it, which I read. Finally, in 2008, I decided that if these writers of contemporary urban literature were being locked out of the publishing industry for whatever reason then I was in excellent company. So I fired my agent and took the plunge by registering Never Sink Books (NSB) as my publishing business.

In 2009, I published American Moses to very good reviews, and a YouTube interview of me about the novel has over 20,000 hits and counting. American Moses has made its money back and continues to sell.

Then in 2010, I took a buyout from my job as a reporter to write my second novel, The Street Singer: A Tale of Sex, Money and Power in a Changing Brooklyn, which I self-published in September 2012. It’s a satire about a subway musician who gets involved with helping Brooklyn land a basketball team. Both the daily Metro and the Daily News wrote stories on it and the Daily News gave it an excellent review. In November, I sold the book publishing rights to Changing Lives Press.

Currently, I’m on a guerilla marketing plan in that I sell both of my novels in the subway, car-to-car. You may have even heard my pitch. “That’s right, ladies and gentleman – for ten dollars – the price of two cups of Starbucks coffee – you can enrich your mind.”

By far, the coolest thing about selling my novels in the subway is the people I meet. They include agents and readers, doers and dreamers. A number of people have given me their positive essence in the space of one subway stop in the form of words of encouragement and/or purchases of my books.

Also cool is the fact that I have two published novels on the market and I’m working on my third. As Pressman says, the bottom line is that how an author is published now means much less than what it is that the author publishes.

“I believe that, because of consumer demand, books will become lower priced, creating more of an equal playing field, and I don’t know exactly how this will look, but I know there will have to be some web-based method of finding the books, like Internet bookstore browsing, where perhaps the site owners curate the offerings (much as independent bookstores do now) and readers trust their recommendations,” she said.

Stephen Witt's Top Five "Online Resources for Writers Looking to Self-Publish" can be found here.

Stephen Witt is an award-winning journalist with two novels. This includes the self-published American Moses (2009) on his Never Sink Books imprint, and The Street Singer (2012) published by Changing Lives Press. Reach him at info@NeverSinkBooks.com.

Meet Sami Rohr Prize Finalist...Shani Boianjiu

Monday, March 18, 2013 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Over the next several weeks, we'll be introducing you to the five fiction finalists for this year's Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature. Last week, we introduced you to Stuart Nadler, who shared his love for the shorty story with our readers. Today, we hear from Shani Boianjiu, an Israeli writer who was named the youngest recipient ever of the National Book Foundation's 5 under 35 and whose debut novel The People of Forever Are Not Afraid was excerpted in the New Yorker. In a recent JBC/Jewcy #JLit Twitter Book Club, Shani discussed why she's NOT the voice of her generation ("My book is weird, and mine, and does not represnt anyone"), the many reviews and articles about her book, and the Israeli army. Below, find out more about the author who, in her first novel, "shows considerable range, creating surreal, absurd dilemmas for her characters:"

What are some of the most challenging things about writing fiction?

That the stakes are so high—there are so many wonderful books out there, so you must write something that buys you a seat at the table or not do it at all. Also, being alone.

What or who has been your inspiration for writing fiction?

When I was in the army I used to make up stories during long guarding shifts and keep them in my head for weeks, retelling them to myself and tweeking them a bit in my head until I reached a computer and finally typed the story down. So I would say that waiting had been my inspiration for writing fiction. Also my love of books. Reading makes me feel alive in a way nothing else ever had.

Who is your intended audience?

A twenty-four-year-old Chinese American girl from Marlborough, MA who works at Target. Also a couple of other people I love.

Are you working on anything new right now?

Yes. It is a book!

What are you reading now?

Contemporary memoirs. Basically every memoir that was written in the last five years. All of them. And at the same time. I have no idea why. Also, [the forthcoming novel] We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo and Bruno Schulz’s stories.

Top 5 Favorite Books

That’s impossible for me to answer, and it changes every minute, but if I had to choose five right now I’d say:

When did you decide to be a writer? Where were you?

I never decided to become a writer; I decided to write. I think the first time I decided to do that I was seventeen, and waiting for a train. I still have to decide to write every time I do it though.

What is the mountaintop for you — how do you define success?

I wish to write forever stories—stories that only I can write and that will live in people’s heads and have lives of their own inside those heads. It does not matter to me how many heads, only that the story be worthy to live forever in someone’s head. I am still far from that, which is why I have to work hard.

How do you write — what is your private modus operandi? What talismans, rituals, props do you use to assist you?

I usually get an idea for a story or a scene or a character and then I keep it in my head and retell it to myself hundreds of times until I feel like my head will explode if I don’t type the story down immediately. When I do type down what I have in my head, I spend ten percent of my time actually writing and the rest jumping around in my room and listening to music.

What do you want readers to get out of your book?

I want them to care and think deeply about the lives of people who don’t exist and who they cannot imagine being.

Shani Boianjiu was born in Jerusalem in 1987 and is from an Iraqi and Romanian background. She was raised in a small town on the Lebanese border. At the age of eighteen, she entered the Israeli Defense Forces and served for two years. The People of Forever Are Not Afraid is her first book.

New Reviews

Friday, March 15, 2013 | Permalink
This week's reviews:

Rabbi Gafni's Revenge

Friday, March 15, 2013 | Permalink
Earlier this week, Yuval Elizur examined religious political power in Israel and January's elections and Lawrence Malkin discussed the tension between tradition and modernity in contemporary Judaism and its consequences. Today, Yuval Elizur reveals Rabbi Moshe Gafni's powerful hand. Yuval and Lawrence are the co-authors of the recently published The War Within: Israel's Ultra-Orthodox Threat to Democracy and the Nation. They have been blogging here for Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning all week.

Of all the representatives of the religious parties in Israel’s Knesset, none have been more powerful or outspoken than Moshe Gafni, an ultra-Orthodox rabbi who served as Chairman of the Finance Committee in the last parliament. In this key fiscal position, the rabbi was a master at diverting funds to haredi causes, especially yeshiva subsidies to the separate school system devoted mainly to teaching and debating the Torah—the religious academies that some secular Jews have angrily characterized as Jewish madrassas.

Now that secular representatives are in the ascendant following January’s national elections, Gafni has turned angrily on Benjamin Netanyahu, accusing his former political ally of betrayal. But in order to form a coalition Netanyahu needs the votes of two new parties, one the tribune of religious nationalists and the other of secular Israelis. Both refuse to serve in any government that includes ultras like Rabbi Gafni, largely because his supporters demand continued exemption from military service.

In the snake pit of Israeli politics, it could be payback time for Bibi for abandoning his ultra-Orthodox supporters in order to stay in power as prime minister, and this could have international repercussions far beyond the local problems of the yeshivot. The rabbi has warned that Netanyahu will soon "be sorry" for deceiving him and the other representatives of the ultras by "shamefully" leaving them out of power.

In an article in the popular daily Yedioth Aharonot, Rabbi Gafni admitted that although in his former capacity as Finance Committee chairman he was supposed to oversee the expenditures formally approved by the Knesset, almost every day money was dispensed "under the radar"—his words—for the benefit of Netanyahu’s Likud party, then the dominant parliamentary group. Since Gafni now has blown the whistle on what are politely called “unofficial” budgets, that almost certainly means the end of such disbursements, not only for the religious parties but for the parties that will serve in government when the new coalition is formed, probably later this month.

What disturbs Gafni and his religious colleagues most are the warnings expressed not only by the politicians but above all by the technicians and experts of the Ministry of Finance. They were, of course, fully aware of the tricks used to pad budgets and transfer government money off the books, but they dared not clash with any Likud finance minister or with Gafni’s own Knesset Finance Committee.

That leaves Gafni holding a powerful hand that could embarrass Netanyahu if he shows it. The rabbi made it clear that through the years he had accumulated substantial information about how to tamper with the budget and would have no hesitation in using it against the ruling parties that are willing to shut him out of government and probably will succeed. His most powerful trump most likely would be disclosing payments believed to have been funneled through Bibi’s former government to support illegal West Bank settlements, for example the ones that put down a few armed families in trailers atop Palestinian hilltops and then spread, seeking official recognition.

The establishment and expansion of these and other more organized settlements is viewed by the Obama administration as a principal barrier to any peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians, and Netanyahu has always insisted they do not have the support of his government. It is not hard to imagine how it would put him at a disadvantage if all this comes out while he is dealing with Washington.

Yuval Elizur is a sixth generation Israeli, living in Jerusalem. The author of several books, he is a former deputy editor and economics reporter for Israel’s largest daily newspaper Ma’ariv, and has served as a Jerusalem correspondent for The Washington Post and The Boston Globe. A veteran of two wars, he was the Columbia School of Journalism’s first Israeli graduate.

A Novel About Early Childhood

Thursday, March 14, 2013 | Permalink
Earlier this week, Sami Rohr Prize winner Austin Ratner discussed the land of the living versus the land of "The Princess Bride." He has been blogging here all week for Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning.

Some academics have observed that young Jewish writers do not mine their personal lives for material in the same way that Jewish writers did a generation ago. In my own case, this is and isn't true. My first novel, The Jump Artist, was based on someone else’s life and took place in lands and days disparate from my own. My second novel, In the Land of the Living, which is being released by Little Brown this week, draws on my own personal experiences and on events in the history of my own family. It’s first and foremost about loss at a tender age, and finding your way out from under the pall of grief, back to the land of the living, and to all that makes life worth living. (Why am I not on Oprah’s book list?)

If a book gets its license to exist from a fresh or unique subject, then my book’s claim would lie in its manner of depicting early childhood. Most novels do not incorporate early childhood into their storylines or into their characters at all, except in metaphorical ways. Mary Shelley and Toni Morrison are two writers who invented rather ingenious novelistic contraptions to represent early childhood: Shelley did it by writing of a human man made from scratch and educated (and abused) like a child, Morrison by turning a dead child into an adult ghost in Beloved. In his autobiographical novel Childhood, Boyhood, Youth, Tolstoy wrote about his mother’s death, which happened when he was two, but he revised his age to something like eight to make the scenes more artistically manageable. James Joyce writes directly of early childhood in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, but he does so impressionistically and does not draw any firm connections between those opening early childhood scenes and later ones. I have taken a different approach by depicting early childhood experiences directly and carrying through their implications in every other scene of the book.

Having said that, there is something suspicious to me in the notion that a novel needs “uniqueness” in order to be valuable. “Uniqueness” sounds a lot like “competitive advantage”—a phrase from the world of commerce, not literature. A writer sets out to portray what is true to him or her, and also, usually, what is beautiful. New styles, new philosophies, new insights into character, forays into unknown subject matter—these things come about automatically when new voices do a good job examining the same old world on a cutting edge that is provided to them by time itself: another day.

Austin Ratner's new novel, In the Land of the Living, is now available.

A Trip to Russ & Daughters

Wednesday, March 13, 2013 | Permalink

JBC's Justin Petrillo travels to Russ & Daughters for some very important research for his review of Russ & Daughters: Reflections and Recipes from the House That Herring Built:


Book Cover of the Week: Jacob's Folly

Wednesday, March 13, 2013 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Last week, Farrar, Straus and Giroux published Rebecca Miller's new novel Jacob's Folly, "a rollicking, ingenious, saucy book, brimful of sparkling, unexpected characters, that takes on desire, faith, love, [and] acting." Oh, and the main character, Jacob Cerf, an eighteenth-century Parisian Jew, has been reincarnated as a fly in the Long Island suburbs of twenty-first-century America. Read more about Jacob's Folly, and the influence of Kafka, over at NPR here, and check out Rebecca Miller's official website here.




View past "Book Cover of the Week" posts here.

Follow the Talmud or a Jewish Sharia?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013 | Permalink

Earlier this week, Yuval Elizur examined religious political power in Israel and January's elections. Today, Lawrence Malkin discusses the tension between tradition and modernity in contemporary Judaism and its consequences. Yuval and Lawrence are the co-authors of the recently published The War Within: Israel's Ultra-Orthodox Threat to Democracy and the Nation. They will be blogging here for Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning all week.

No American Jew could have experienced a more inspiring introduction to Israel that I did upon arriving in darkness aboard the first plane from London after the start of the Six-Day War. Within hours I was in Jerusalem watching the Battle for the Old City from the terrace of the King David Hotel. In the morning we drove a rented Volkswagen along the tank tracks to avoid mines and soon came upon soldiers celebrating their historic conquest by praying at the Western Wall. Never observant, I joined in prayers with this elite brigade of Jewish paratroopers, recruited mainly from secular kibbutzim. Their tribune was no less than Israel's chief rabbi blowing the shofar—a ram's horn blast that stirred Jewish souls around the world.

I remained for several weeks to report on the problems facing the victorious nation, most notably the unforeseen conquest of the West Bank from Jordan. It was during that assignment that I first met and befriended Yuval Elizur, then the Jerusalem correspondent of The Washington Post and now the co-author of our book, The War Within. I endured the baleful stares in the Mea Shearim, a dozen blocks set aside for ultra-Orthodox, then a tourist curiosity because it was widely believed that this anachronistic sect would wither away in modern Israel. How wrong we were. Years later, they have become a powerful minority determined to set the tone for society in the Holy City, and the leaders of American Jewry have tread carefully to avoid antagonizing them.

Although the majority of American Jews belong to Reform and Conservative congregations, the American Jewish establishment has maintained connections with the Israeli parties representing the Orthodox, which until now were an essential part of the nation's coalition governments. For example, within days of the military conquest of the holiest place of worship for all Jews, the Orthodox rabbinate took control of the Western Wall, banned Reformist devotions, and literally walled off women who came to pray. Even when the women were given access to a small sector, there was no serious criticism by major American Jewish organizations lest it be seen as an attack on the government that would give comfort to Israel's enemies.

American defenders of the Orthodox argue that there are "many shades of black." But the deepest shade have long had the most political influence and in consequence enjoy the most egregious privileges, the largest subsidies, and the greatest isolation from Israeli society. No American Jew outside the Orthodox enclaves in Brooklyn and around New York City—sects with respected elders recently convicted of fraud and sexual abuses—would agree to a public subsidy of sixty per cent of ultra-Orthodox males who are unemployed, or almost one hundred thousand able-bodied and subsidized yeshiva students who escape military service while they study nothing but sacred texts and learned commentary.

Jews have thrived and won acceptance as both Jews and Americans by adapting our religious observance and culture to the customs of the country. Whenever permitted by local rulers, Jews have always done so. That is a fundamental theme of the Talmud: how does a Jew in a strange land live as a Jew? Of course it is easier in a country of religious tolerance like ours, but surely Jewish survival does not depend on literal adherence to 613 biblical commandments dating back several thousand years: it depends on adapting those rules to modern life—and certainly not on re-creating the Jewish ghettoes that we have spent centuries trying to escape. That is a formula for alienation, irrelevance, rejection, and eventually the disappearance of all Jews, and it applies with equal force to the embattled nation of Israel, which has succeeded against all odds by adopting modernity as its culture

It is an axiom of warfare that the longer one faces an enemy, the more each side has to adopt the other's tactics to survive and thus willy-nilly start to resemble the other. Israel will not be strengthened by falling into the same fundamentalist trap as proponents of Muslim sharia in their own countries; on the contrary, both sides risk falling back into the past by refusing to embrace the present.

Lawrence Malkin is an award-winning journalist and writer. Assigned to Jerusalem and the West Bank during the Six-Day War, his foreign reporting has appeared in Time magazine, The International Herald Tribune, and The Associated Press. He is the author of several books, including Kreuger’s Men, which inspired the Oscar-winning film “The Counterfeiters.” Visit him online at http://www.lawrencemalkin.com.

My Name Is Inigo Montoya

Tuesday, March 12, 2013 | Permalink

Austin Ratner won the 2011 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature for his first novel, The Jump Artist. His new novel, In the Land of the Living, is now available. He will be blogging here this week for Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning.

Remember Mandy Patinkin’s character Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride? When Montoya was a child, the story goes, the six-fingered man killed his father. He also slashed Montoya’s face, leaving him with scars on both cheeks. Montoya spends the rest of his life training to exact vengeance on his father’s killer. He practices not only his swordsmanship but just what he’ll say when he finally finds and confronts the six-fingered man: “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

The main character in my second novel In the Land of the Living is a boy like that, a boy with a dead father, a boy bent on recompense and committed to its pursuit for as long as it takes. His problem is that there is no six-fingered man to kill.

Instead, he attempts to resurrect his father in a manner of speaking—by hewing to certain superhuman ideals in order to safeguard his father’s legacy from the oblivion of the grave. He will brook no failure in his career or his personal life and strives to excel everybody at everything (with the exception of phys ed). Anyone and everyone who gets in his way is the six-fingered man.

William Goldman, the screenwriter of The Princess Bride, has a cynical streak. It’s evident in his first novel Temple of Gold and it’s evident in the way he wreathes so many ironies into the sentimentality of The Princess Bride. A little of that cynicism comes out when Inigo Montoya actually does confront the six-fingered man. His lifelong search has come to an end at last, and Montoya delivers his practiced line, “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” He battles his enemy by sword as planned, but the six-fingered man appears to defeat him. Montoya slumps backward, mortally wounded, and gives up with a line that still sucks the air from my lungs: “Sorry, Father. I tried.” It doesn’t seem to be Inigo Montoya the man that’s defeated then; it’s the boy who took on a task that was much too big for him out of love for the father that should have been there to help him.

Being a feel-good Hollywood movie, Montoya of course fights back from the edge of defeat. But in a way, what follows is even more cynical. The six-fingered man begs for his life. He promises Montoya anything he wants in exchange for mercy and Montoya answers, “I want my father back, you son of a bitch,” and he kills the six-fingered man.

He doesn’t fail his father after all, but because he can’t have the one thing he wants—for his father to be alive—he does in a sense fail himself. He asks his friend what he ought to do with his life now that his quest is over, and when his friend suggests he become a pirate, it seems ridiculous even according to the unreal, comedic laws of Hollywood fantasy. With his face alone, Mandy Patinkin smuggles into the scene a look of haunting ennui before the comedy-romance carries on with its merry business.

My book, In the Land of the Living, is a pretty funny book—it needs to be, to balance out the tragedy at the core of it—but it’s no Hollywood comedy. It’s a realist novel, and its protagonist doesn’t have the option of sailing away as the Dread Pirate Roberts, much as he’d like to. The land of the living is a less forgiving place than the land of The Princess Bride. Neither the death of the six-fingered man nor suicide solve the problem of grief. The only way forward is to figure out how to live a good life. And that is where my main character’s odyssey begins. Off he goes through graveyards and hospitals, loving and losing, traveling with his brother from L.A. to Cleveland in search of an answer to the question of how to live.

I think of it as a modern-day Don Quixote. In Part I, I used chapter titles that satirize medieval romance just as Cervantes did. It’s a novel that purposely dwells in an unstable region between comedy and tragedy, dream and reality, which is to say that it dwells in the real world, where the laws of nature are unyielding, and the human heart unflagging.

Check back on Thursday for more from Austin Ratner.

Passover Roundup

Tuesday, March 12, 2013 | Permalink

Posted by Jackie Anzaroot

Passover is only two weeks away! For Passover book recommendations, check out our list of our Passover favorites as well as our list of children's Passover books. Our longer Passover reading list can be found here.

For some more ideas on Haggadot to use, here are some that we've featured on our ProsenPeople blog over the years: the artistic Passover Haggadah by Dov Bleichfeld; In Every Generation, the JDC Haggadah; Alef Betty's Urban Family Haggadah; and Slate's highly condensed version of the Haggadah, "A Passover Service for the Impatient." Also check out last week's Visiting Scribe posts by Jan Aronson, where she discusses illustrating the new Bronfmann Haggadah.

If you're still unsure about your choice of Haggadah or are looking to try something new, we've asked some of our readers about their choices for this year and the most popular Haggadah seems to be Jonathan Safran Foer and Nathan Englander's The New American HaggadahOther popular choices include the classic Maxwell House Haggadah, A Passover Haggadah: As Commented Upon by Elie Wiesel and Illustrated by Mark Podwal and A Night to Remember by Mishael and Noam Zion.

You can also take advantage of the offer at the top (and left) of this page for a 20% discount off of Sharing the Journey: The Haggadah for the Contemporary Family.