The ProsenPeople

Le Bé

Tuesday, February 15, 2011 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Via Tablet:

Type designer Scott-Martin Kosofsky explains the creation of Le Bé, his new digitization of a beautiful 16th-century Hebrew typeface. It debuts in The Selected Poems of Yehuda Halevi, a Nextbook Press e-book to be published this week.

Tunisia, Whitesnake, and My Top Ten Favorite Jews of All Time

Monday, February 14, 2011 | Permalink

Michael David Lukas’ first book, The Oracle of Stamboul, is now available. He will be blogging all week for the Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning's Author Blog.

I’ve been thinking a lot these past few months about the year I spent in Tunisia. It was 2003, I had just graduated college and was living on the outskirts of Tunis. Officially, I was there as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar and was supposed to be studying Arabic while bridging the gap of understanding between the United States and the Arab World. It was, by all accounts, a good year. I did my best to bridge the gap between the United States and the Arab World, I read a trunk full of classic literature, and towards the end of the year I started writing what would later become my first novel, The Oracle of Stamboul. Those first few months, however, were full of loneliness and alienation. I missed my family and my friends, I missed my girlfriend, I missed being in college, and I missed those small American comforts (peanut butter, dryers, wood floors) which seemed not to exist in Tunisia. I had a few Tunisian friends at the internet cafe around the corner, and my Eastern European roommates—Ozzie and Petr—were good guys, though I had difficulty connecting with them at first. One reason for this was that I got up early for Arabic class and they stayed up late partying, drinking cheap Tunisian beer, and playing hair metal at the highest volume Petr’s tinny laptop speakers could bear.

In those early months—before I met Nomi Stone, a Fulbright scholar/poet who will feature prominently in the next post—the only Jews I saw were those in the cemetery I passed on my way to school. I didn’t realize how much this absence of Jews bothered me until I found myself lying in bed one night with the pillow clutched over my head and the sounds of Whitesnake drifting through my door. “Here I go again on my own. Going down the only road I’ve ever known.” Those melancholy lyrics, accompanied by Ozzie’s warbled harmony, hit me like a sledge hammer, clarifying the alienation I had felt for months, the yawning distance between my current life and everything I knew myself to be. It wasn’t that I was living in a Muslim majority country with two uncircumcised Eastern Europeans. Rather, the absence of Jewishness in my life was like the absence of peanut butter. I never knew it existed until it wasn’t there.

And so, to cheer myself up, I decided to make a list of my top ten favorite Jews of all time. I slept on it, woke up that next morning, and wrote the list out on a small yellow piece of paper, which I still keep in my wallet. It is a very personal list and arbitrary by nature. In the past eight years, my list has changed quite a bit, but I share this 2003 version (in alphabetical order) because it speaks to where I was at the time.

My Top Ten Favorite Jews of All Time [2003 Version]

Walter Benjamin

Martin Buber

Jacques Derrida

Albert Einstein

Emma Goldman


Franz Kafka

Rosa Luxemburg

Moses Maimonides


Michael David Lukas has been a Fulbright scholar in Turkey, a late-shift proofreader in Tel Aviv, and a Rotary scholar in Tunisia. His first book, The Oracle of Stamboul, is now available. Check back all week for more posts from him on the JBC/MJL Author Blog.

JBC Bookshelf: Valentine’s Day Edition

Friday, February 11, 2011 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Today, I diverge from my usual listing of newbies on my desk and bring you a list of outstanding Jewish books that contemplate love in all of its forms (albeit a few days early). And, in honor of the JBC’s upcoming trip to Israel for Jerusalem International Book Fair, you’ll find a healthy dose of Hebrew literature in the mix. Anything to add? Comment and let me know:

The History of Love, Nicole Krauss (2005, W. W. Norton)

A Tale of Love and Darkness, Amos Oz; Nicholas de Lange, trans. (2004, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Super Sad True Love Story, Gary Shteyngart (2010, Random House)

See Under: LOVE, David Grossman; Betsy Rosenberg, trans. (1989, Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

The Love of Elspeth Baker, Myron S. Kaufmann (1982, Arbor House)

Poems of Jerusalem and Love Poems , Yehuda Amichai; Harold Schimmel and Assia Gutmann, trans. (1992, Sheep Meadow)



Beyond Bagels & Lox: Jewish-American Fiction in the 21st Century

Thursday, February 10, 2011 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Erika Dreifus posts her handout for her session “Beyond Bagels & Lox: Jewish-American Fiction in the 21st Century”  at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs. Read the post here. Find the handout here…and get reading.

Events + Contests

Thursday, February 10, 2011 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Mark your calendar for:

The 2011 New York Book Festival: The 2011 New York Book Festival has issued a call for entries to its annual event honoring books that deserve greater recognition from the world’s publishing capital. Read more here.

New Jewish Writing: Featuring Shahar Bram, Jessica Greenbaum, Bob Perelman, Rivka Fogel in Philly on February 24th. The event is co-sponsored by: Zeek: a Jewish Journal of Thought and Culture, the Jewish Studies Program, and Writers Without Borders. Read more here.

Festival Neue Literatur: The Future of the Novel: On February 12th, Festival Neue Literatur brings some of the best up-and-coming, German-language authors to New York, where they join well-known American writers in a series of conversations and readings. Andrea Grill, Peter Weber, and Andrea Winkler join American novelist (and past NETWORK author) Rivka Galchen (Atmospheric Disturbances, 2009) and moderator Paul North to discuss the continuing potential of the novel. Read more here.

Cynthia Ozick on...

Thursday, February 10, 2011 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Our 2010 Lifetime Achievement Awardee, Cynthia Ozick, talks with Alessandra Farkas at The Center for Fiction. Farkas asks Ozick:

  • Will the theme of the Holocaust always somehow be present in your writings?
  • According to one critic, Collected Stories is the book which most encompasses your literary prowess. Is this book still dear to your heart? Do you still feel a connection to it?
  • What criteria did you use in selecting the 19 short stories? What in your mind ties together the heterogeneous subject matter and characters?
  • How did the idea to retell the story of Henry James’s The Ambassadors in your new book Foreign Bodies come about? And what was your real goal in reversing the meaning of the classic?
  • What is the first book that really influenced you? How old were you when you read it?
  • Of all the female characters in your books, which one is closest to your heart? Which one resembles you the most?
  • Will you ever publish the private diary you have kept since 1953?
  • Will the Nobel ever go to another Jewish writer?
  • Are you happy to be studied in US college courses on the Holocaust along with Primo Levi and Elie Wiesel?
  • Why did you keep “The Shawl” hidden for seven years? What did you think of Sidney Lumet’s direction of your play?
  • In a recent interview, Don DeLillo told me that as long as there will be film, the novel will not die because the two are interchangeable.
  • Is it true that the novel is in danger, as you say in The Din in the Head?
  • Is your Italian translator Jewish? Should she be in order to fully comprehend your literature?
  • Please cite the most important influences in your writing career; please give a full list of writers, dead or alive. Which newer, contemporary writers seem promising?
  • Which of your contemporaries has been closest to writing the great American novel?

Read her answers here.

2011 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature Finalists

Thursday, February 10, 2011 | Permalink




CONTACT: Kathleen Zrelak
Goldberg McDuffie Communications

February 2011 (New York, NY) – The Jewish Book Council today named five finalists for the 2011 Sami Rohr Prize in fiction for Jewish Literature, the largest monetary award of its kind given to writers of exceptional talent and promise in early career. Established in 2006, the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature awards $100,000 to its top winner, with a $25,000 Choice Award given to its first runner-up.

Hailed as a transformative award for emerging writers, the annual Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature honors the contribution of contemporary writers in the exploration and transmission of Jewish values and is intended to encourage and promote outstanding writing of Jewish interest in the future. Fiction and non-fiction books are considered in alternate years.

Today’s announcement caps a year-long process of reviewing books by a select panel of judges. On March 15th, the finalists will meet with the fiction judges of the Sami Rohr Prize in New York, and the winners will be announced shortly thereafter. The 2011 award ceremony will be held in New York City on May 31.

This year’s finalists for the fifth annual Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature are:

Allison Amend – Stations West (Louisiana State University Press)
Nadia KalmanThe Cosmopolitans (Livingston Press)
Julie OrringerThe Invisible Bridge (Knopf)
Austin Ratner – The Jump Artist (Bellevue Literary Press)
Joseph Skibell –A Curable Romantic (Algonquin Books)

Previous winners of the Sami Rohr Prize include Sarah Abrevaya Stein, for her book Plumes: Ostrich Feathers, Jews, and a Lost World of Global Commerce(Yale University Press) and Kenneth B. Moss for his book Jewish Renaissance in the Russian Revolution (Harvard University Press) in 2010; Sana Krasikov in 2009 for her story collection One More Year (Spiegel & Grau); Lucette Lagnado in 2008 for her nonfiction work The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit: My Family’s Exodus from Old Cairo to the New World (Ecco) and Tamar Yellin in 2007 for her novel, The Genizah at the House of Shepher (Toby Press).

The winners, finalists, judges and advisory board members of the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature meet biennially at the Sami Rohr Jewish Literary Institute, a forum devoted to the continuity of Jewish literature. The Institute, run under the auspices of the Jewish Book Council, creates an environment in which established and emerging writers can meet and exchange ideas and perspectives. Within a short period of time, the Sami Rohr Jewish Literary Institute has become an important meeting place for the leading lights of the American Jewish literary world.


After spending his early years in post WWII Europe, Sami Rohr moved to Bogota, Colombia, where he was a leading real estate developer for over 30 years. He currently lives in Florida and continues to be very active in various business endeavors internationally. His philanthropic commitment to Jewish education and community-building throughout the world is renowned. This prize is a gift by his family to honor his love of Jewish writing, and to help encourage the continuation of the magnificent legacy of the People of the Book.


The Jewish Book Council is a not-for-profit organization devoted exclusively to the promotion of Jewish-interest literature. Through an ever-growing list of projects and programs, including the National Jewish Book Awards, the Jewish Book NETWORK, and the quarterly publication Jewish Book World, the Jewish Book Council serves as a catalyst for the reading, writing, and publishing of books of Jewish interest.

For more information about The Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature, please visit our Awards page.

Between JDate and a Camel Auction

Wednesday, February 09, 2011 | Permalink

Posted by Miri Pomerantz Dauber

How’s this for a challenge…take ten years worth of research, thought, and writing (aka blood, sweat, and tears) and boil it down to a two-minute presentation.

Think you’re up to it and want to go tour this fall’s Jewish book festivals? Registration is now open for JBC’s Jewish Book NETWORK program. Each year JBC sends nearly 200 authors on tours to JCCs, synagogues, Federations, Hillels, and other groups around North America. The season kicks off at the end of May with a conference in Manhattan and the famous  Meet the Author events, which bring authors together with the coordinators of over 100 Jewish book programs.

If you’re an author of a recently or soon-to-be published (between Oct. 2010 and Dec. 2011) book of Jewish interest and would like to find out more, click here to see the guidelines and how to apply.

Jewcy’s 50 Most Essential Works of Jewish Fiction

Wednesday, February 09, 2011 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Just in… Jewcy’s 50 most essential works of Jewish fiction of the last 100 years…take a look (here) and let us know what you think! Missing anything? Anything you wouldn’t include?

And, speaking of lists…a defense of “lists”.

JLit Links

Wednesday, February 09, 2011 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

  • Past NETWORK author Justin Taylor’s new book, The Gospel of Anarchy, is officially out. Buy it. And, read this interview with him over at The Rumpus (thanks for the tip, Matthue).
  • Next week’s JBC/MJL Author Blogger Michael David Lukas’ The Oracle of Stamboul is also out this week! Check out his website here. And check back next week for his posts HERE.
  • LA Book Festival’s deadline is fast approaching…February 25th: The Los Angeles Book Festival will consider entries in general non-fiction, fiction, biography/autobiography, children’s books, cookbooks, science fiction, business, spiritual, genre-based, how-to, photography/art, spiritual, poetry, foreign language, romance and mysteries, teenage/young adult, how-to and the wild card (anything goes!) categories published on or after Jan. 1, 2007. Read more here.