The ProsenPeople

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.

JBC at TribeFest

Monday, February 07, 2011 | Permalink

Posted by Dani Crickman

TribeFest, Jewish Federations of North America’s conference for young leaders, is now only a month away!

TribeFest is an entertaining, interactive and educational celebration that will draw over 1,500 Jewish young adults (ages 22-45) from across North America. TribeFest will reflect the vibrant setting of its host city, Las Vegas, offering meaningful, fun, and top-quality content. Through presentations by dynamic leaders in politics, entertainment, music, art, food, religion and other aspects of Jewish life, TribeFest will offer attendees many ways to connect to their own Judaism and how they see themselves as part of the community.

Sounds awesome, yeah?

JBC has put together two panels with fantastic authors for the celebration: one with Sharon Pomerantz (Rich Boy) and Josh Braff (Peep Show), and the other with Avi Steinberg (Running the Books) and Benyamin Cohen (My Jesus Year).

Take a look at the flyer to find out more.

The Ones That Missed the Cut

Friday, February 04, 2011 | Permalink

Earlier this week, Saul Austerlitz wrote about his recent author tour and five not-as-terrible-as-you-think movies. He has been blogging all week for the Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning's Visiting Scribe.

One of the trickiest aspects of writing my book was figuring out how to structure it. After tinkering with a variety of approaches, I settled on 30 chapters, each dedicated to a single filmmaker or performer whose body of work I considered to be significant to the history of American film comedy. These 30 selections were joined by about 100 additional short entries on comic figures significant enough to deserve a mention, if not quite meritorious enough to earn a chapter of their own. 130 directors and actors seems like a lot, and I got to include most of the people I wanted, but as I expected from the outset, readers and reviewers have often been most interested in discussing the exclusions. (That is, after all, a significant part of the pleasure of assembling a list, and what is a book about film other than a bulked-up list of movie suggestions?) I’ve enjoyed the discussions, kept them in mind, and pondered who else might deserve inclusion. (Second edition, anyone?)

Here, then, are a handful of performers and directors who just missed the cut.

Steve Carell

The time between completion of a book and publication makes for strange gaps, including the exclusion of Steve Carell. With the one-two-three punch of Dinner for Schmucks, Date Night, and animated hit Despicable Me, 2010 was the year that confirmed Carell as one of the most successful comedians of the moment. I excluded him first time around because I felt that, even taking into account the brilliant 40-Year-Old Virgin and Little Miss Sunshine, Carell had too short a film resume to warrant inclusion (his vaunted television run as The Office’s Michael Scott notwithstanding). 2010’s parade of hits has meant that Carell must be acknowledged as a consistently funny performer. Carell can be a wizardly comedian, but the roles he has taken on have not always adequately reflected his mastery of a certain brand of goofy lassitude.

Zach Galifianakis

Superstar, or flash in the pan? I wasn’t entirely convinced by The Hangover, but this past season of Bored to Death, HBO’s sublimely stoned comedy series about New York neurotics (what up, Brooklyn!), gives me hope for Galifianakis’ future. Audience felt that It’s Kind of a Funny Story wasn’t, but Galifianakis’ puppy-dog indie charm may be enough to propel him to a more lasting stardom nonetheless.

Danny Kaye

One of the funniest comedians of the 1950s not named Jerry Lewis, Kaye built his career on such light-hearted burlesques as A Song Is Born and The Court Jester, where he played a carnie posing as a court jester to take on an imposter king. Kaye made a career out of his bug-eyed expressions of panic and confusion. If Gary Cooper was the absent-minded professor to a T in Howard Hawks’ Ball of Fire, Kaye was a more-than-suitable replacement in “A Song Is Born,” Hawks’ musical update of the same material. Like Lewis, and other writers and performers of roughly the same era, like Woody Allen and Mel Brooks, Kaye was a product of the Catskills—a Borscht Belt comedian trained by the tough audiences of middle-class Jews on vacation, convinced they were being swindled out of their hard-earned dollars. After that, entertaining America was a breeze.

Leslie Nielsen

I included the ZAZ team of Jerry Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and David Zucker, the brilliantly sophomoric trio responsible for Airplane! and The Naked Gun trilogy. ZAZ were masters of laugh-out-loud idiocy, and one of their most dazzling strokes of genius was understanding the untapped comic potential of stolid 1950s leading men like Robert Stack, Lloyd Bridges, and more than anyone else, the recently deceased Leslie Nielsen. Nielsen had been a mostly undistinguished distinguished gentleman in forgettable fare, best known for the sci-fi gem Forbidden Planet, before the ZAZ boys cast him in “Airplane!” Voila—F. Scott Fitzgerald’s dictum about there being no second acts in American life was instantly voided, with Nielsen finding renewed vigor as a ludicrous leading man, leading an off-key rendition of the national anthem, or disrupting a courtroom by forgetting to unclip his microphone before heading to the bathroom.

Saul Austerlitz is the author of the recently published Another Fine Mess: A History of American Film Comedy.

JBC Bookshelf: Poetry Edition

Thursday, February 03, 2011 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Poetry collections from Canada, New Jersey, Russia (via NY), New Hampshire, and the Bay Area…

Singing Me Home, Carol Lipszyc (October 2010, Inanna Publications)

from “Hebrew School”, p. 5

We chase pin-point dots
up, down and around
the topography of black, square script.

“Follow the Ni-kku-dot, children,
marry vowels to the consonants,
and sound the words out. . . .”

God’s Optimism, Yehoshua November (November 2010, Main Street Rag)

“How a Place Becomes Holy”, p.25

Sometimes a man
will start crying in the middle of the street,
without knowing why or for whom.
It is as thought someone else is standing there,
holding his briefcase, wearing hist coat.

And from beneath the rust of years,
come to his tongue the words of his childhood:
“I’m sorry,” and “god,” and “Do not be far from me.”

And just as suddenly the tears are gone,
and the man walks back into his life,
and the place where he cried becomes holy.

Russian for Lovers, Marina Blitshteyn (February 2011, Argos Books)

“Э”, p. 34

“what can you tell me about the jewish question?”
“do you miss the land or the language the most?”
“whose story are you speaking now?”
“do you know anyone with a soviet fetish?”
“how many friends did you leave there?”
“when did you become a citizen?”
“where is your accent?”
“why did you come?”

Working in Flour, Jeff Friedman (January 2011, Carnegie Mellon University Press)

from “I Did It”, p. 13

I took all the free samples
at the chocolate shop
even though the lady
behind the counter frowned
after my first handful
and tried to wrest
the basket from my grip. I walked out
without buying a single chocolate,
though I had sat there for hours
sipping hot water through a straw.
I know what you think: I give Jews
a bad name, even though I’m small
and furry like a nice pet,
except for the hackles
and jagged teeth,
which sometimes wound my lips.

Chapter & Verse: Poems of Jewish Identity, Dan Belm, Rose Black, Chana Bloch, Rafaella Del Bourgo, Margaret Kaufman, Jacqueline Kudler, Melanie Maier, Murray Silverstein, Susan Terris, Sim Warkov (January 2011, Conflux Press)

Sim Warkov’s “Sabbath at Starbucks in Los Gatos”, p. 23

. . . and lanky fillies in low-slung jeans
swish by my table
Asian tattoos two inches above the cleft
abs taut as all hell–
and I rally to their full-frontal views
and I’m in awe of these fragrant pagans
flaunting their youth arm’s length
from small-town Daddy Mommy
Father Joe and Sister Teresa
and I jazz the secular English
at the very hour my grandfather
the Zaydeh would be studying
a page of Talmud in Hebraic Aramaic
at a shul near Burrows Avenue
when I was a kid in corduroy britches.