The ProsenPeople

JBC Bookshelf: MLK Day Edition

Monday, January 17, 2011 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

We’ve been hard at work here on the spring issue of Jewish Book World, which will feature the winners of the National Jewish Book Awards, as well as an article on I. J. Singer by Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, an article on Cynthia Ozick by Evan Fallenberg, a look at the new Haggadahs for 2011, an interview with Jessica Jiji, and more. Be sure to subscribe by the February 14th in order to receive your copy!

And, in other news…last week was a big one for Jewish book awards and this one is a big one for unpacking all of the boxes on my desk! Sorting through the new additions to the shelf, I came across a few goodies…

“A”, Louis Zukofsky (January 2011, New Directions)
This edition contains a new introduction by Barry Ahearn, a professor of English at Tulane University.

A Dangerous Woman: The Life, Loves, and Scandals of Adah Isaacs Menken, 1835-1868, America’s Original Superstar, Barbara Foster and Michael Foster (February 2011, The Lyons Press)
A protege of Rabbi Wise (founder of Reform Judaism), a disciple of Walt Whitman, America’s first pin-up, and a mysterious death…need I say more?

The Last Jew of Treblinka: A Memoir, Chil Rajchman (February 2011, Pegasus)
Elie Wiesel: “In its poignant simplicity, Rajchman’s account opens new horizons in our perception of evil. An important, heart-rending contribution to our search for truth.”

Literary Passports: The Making of Modernist Hebrew Fiction in Europe , Shachar M. Pinsker (December 2010, Stanford University Press)
Read an excerpt from the introduction here.

Odessa: Genius and Death in a City of Dreams, Charles King (February 2011, W.W. Norton)
Using archives in Odessa, London, Jerusalem, and Washington, King weaves together history and anecdote in order to re-create the lives of the individuals who have contributed to the highs and lows of the city.



Jewish-American Literature as Multicultural Literature

Monday, January 17, 2011 | Permalink

Erika Dreifus‘s first book, Quiet Americans, will be published on January 19th. Check back all week for her posts on the Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning‘s Visiting Scribe.

Early next month, four other writers—Andrew FurmanKevin HaworthMargot Singer, and Anna Solomonand I will gather in a conference room for a panel titled “Beyond Bagels & Lox: Jewish-American Fiction in the 21st Century.” (Hopefully, some semblance of a critical mass of an audience will be there as well.)

This session is just one among a dizzying array of offerings organized by the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) for its annual conference. If you aren’t familiar with AWP, you may find this description from Executive Director David Fenza to be helpful:

The mission of The Association of Writers & Writing Programs is to foster literary talent and achievement, to advance the art of writing as essential to a good education, and to serve the makers, teachers, students, and readers of contemporary writing.

More than any other literary organization, AWP has helped North America to develop a literature as diverse as the continent’s peoples. This, of course, is also a boast for the democratic virtues of higher education in North America and the many public universities that comprise AWP. AWP’s members have provided literary education to students and aspiring writers from all backgrounds, economic classes, races, and ethnic origins.

True to this mission, the conference travels around North America. We’ll gather in D.C. this winter; next year, the conference returns to Chicago. After that, Boston, Seattle, and Minneapolis will play conference host.

I hesitate to speak for my co-panelists, but it’s probably safe to say that we’re all very pleased to be part of this year’s conference program. Since we’re hoping to run our panel on something akin to a roundtable model, we won’t be reading individual papers serially (as is often the case at academic/scholarly conferences). Rather, we are aiming to offer a lively discussion—among ourselves and with the audience—in line with what our official description in the conference program promises:

Jewish-American fiction has long been seen as a literature of emigration from the shtetl, assimilationist angst, and overprotective parents. But what’s nu? How do Americans born decades after the Holocaust and the birth of the State of Israel deal with those complex subjects in fiction? Who are the “new” Jewish immigrant characters? How does American Jewry’s more than 350-year history inspire plot/setting? And how are writers today influenced by Judaism’s rich multilingual and spiritual legacy?

When we submitted our panel proposal last spring, we were also required to share a brief “statement of merit” for the conference organizers to consider. Here is what we wrote:

Although many Jewish-American writers participated in the 2010 AWP conference, not one panel session was devoted specifically to Jewish-American writing—in any genre. Our panel not only enriches the conference’s already distinctive multicultural character, but also surveys the variety within contemporary Jewish-American fiction, offering support, inspiration, and resources for attending writers whose work addresses material similar to that reflected in the panelists’ publications.

If you peruse this year’s schedule, you’ll see that the AWP conference indeed possesses a wonderfully multicultural character. You may even notice that “Beyond Bagels & Lox” is not the only panel featuring Jewish-American writers or writing. And I suspect that those other sessions, like ours, will demonstrate diversity within themselves, too. For, as our literature teaches us, there are innumerable facets to “Jewish-American experience.”

The important point is this: Jewish-American writing belongs at the multicultural literary table, as was noted at a different conference one year ago. Next month, when AWP meets in our nation’s capital, it will be.

Check back all week for more posts from Erika Dreifus.

Book Design Case Studies

Thursday, January 13, 2011 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Thanks to google alerts, I came across this great website on book design, which is currently featuring next week’s JBC/MJL guest blogger Erika Dreifus’s Quiet Americans. Joel Friedlander discusses the process of book design from cover to interior, focusing on image and typography and the influence of tone and theme within the stories. It’s an interesting little piece and the site is worth exploring. Visit here. And, check back next week for Erika’s posts on the JBC blog!

2011 Sydney Taylor Book Awards Announced

Wednesday, January 12, 2011 | Permalink

Posted by Miri Pomerantz Dauber

It’s Jewish book award season! To add to this week’s list of prestigious Jewish book awards, Association of Jewish Libraries just announced the winners of the 2011 Sydney Taylor Book Award and the American Library Association announced the winner of the Sophie Brody Award.

Congrats to Jewish Book NETWORK author Judith Shulevitz for winning the Brody Award for her book, The Sabbath World: Glimpses of a Different Order of Time. It’s part memoir and part a sociological, theological, historical and anthropological exploration of the Sabbath.

The Sydney Taylor Book Award recognizes outstanding books for children and teens that authentically portray the Jewish experience, and is named for the author of the All-of-a-Kind Family series. Gold medals are presented in three categories: Younger ReadersOlder Readers, and Teen Readers. Honor Books are awarded silver medals, and Notable Books are named in each category. This year’s winners and Honor Books include a number of this year’s Jewish Book NETWORK authors, including Dana Reinhardt
 (The Things a Brother Knows), Sarah Darer Littman (Life, After), Sarah Gershman (Modeh Ani: A Good Morning Book), and Susan Lynn Meyer (Black Radishes). To see a complete list of the Sydney Taylor Book Award winners, go to the AJL blog or watch this short videoMazal tov to all the winners and honorees!

2010 National Jewish Book Award Announcement

Tuesday, January 11, 2011 | Permalink

The 2010 National Jewish Book Awards have been announced! Congratulations to all of our winners and finalists. The full list of winners and finalists can be found below. To read the press release, please click here.

The 60th Annual National Jewish Award Ceremony to honor the 2010 winners will be held on March 9th in NYC at the Center for Jewish History. This event is at 8:00PM and is free and open to the public.

Everett Family Foundation
Jewish Book of the Year Award
When They Come For Us, We’ll Be Gone: The Epic Struggle to Save Soviet Jewry (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Gal Beckerman

Jewish Book Council
Harold Grinspoon

Jewish Book Council
Lifetime Achievement Award
Cynthia Ozick

American Jewish Studies
Celebrate 350 Award


The Rebbe: The Life and Afterlife of Menachem Mendel Schneerson (Princeton University Press)
Samuel Heilman and Menachem Friedman


Jewish Bialystok and Its Diaspora (The Modern Jewish Experience) (Indiana University Press)
Rebecca Kobrin

Anthologies and Collections


The Cambridge Guide to Jewish History, Religion, and Culture (Cambridge University Press)
Judith R. Baskin and Kenneth Seeskin, eds.


Promised Lands: New Jewish American Fiction on Longing and Belonging (Brandeis Series in American Jewish History, Culture and Life & HBI Series on Jewish Women) (Brandeis University Press / UPNE)
Derek Rubin, ed.

Jews at Home: The Domestication of Identity (Jewish Cultural Studies) (The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization)
Simon J. Bronner, ed.

Biography, Autobiography, and Memoir
In Memory of Simon & Shulamith (Sofi) Goldberg


Dreyfus: Politics, Emotion, and the Scandal of the Century (Metropolitan Books / Henry Holt and Company)
Ruth Harris


The Prime Ministers: An Intimate Narrative of Israeli Leadership (The Toby Press)
Yehuda Avner

Moses Montefiore: Jewish Liberator, Imperial Hero (Belknap Press / Harvard University Press)
Abigail Green

Backing Into Forward: A Memoir (Nan A. Talese / Random House)
Jules Feiffer

Children’s and Young Adult Literature


Under a Red Sky: Memoir of a Childhood in Communist Romania (Frances Foster Books / Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Haya Leah Molnar


Rabbi Harvey vs. the Wisdom Kid: A Graphic Novel of Dueling Jewish Folktales in the Wild West (Jewish Lights Publishing)
Steve Sheinkin

The Orphan Rescue (Second Story Press)
Anne Dublin

An Unspeakable Crime: The Prosecution and Persecution of Leo Frank(Carolrhoda Books / Lerner Publishing Group)
Elaine Marie Alphin

Contemporary Jewish Life and Practice


Walking Israel: A Personal Search for the Soul of a Nation (Thomas Dunne Books / St. Martin’s Press)
Martin Fletcher


The Sabbath World: Glimpses of a Different Order of Time (Random House)
Judith Shulevitz

Sacred Strategies: Transforming Synagogues from Functional to Visionary (The Alban Institute)
Isa Aron, Steven M. Cohen, Lawrence A. Hoffman, Ari Y. Kelman

Education and Jewish Identity


Sacred Strategies: Transforming Synagogues from Functional to Visionary (The Alban Institute)
Isa Aron, Steven M. Cohen, Lawrence A. Hoffman, Ari Y. Kelman


Ramah at 60: Impact and Innovation (National Ramah Commission)
Mitchell Cohen, Jeffrey S. Kress, eds.

Learning and Community: Jewish Supplementary Schools in the Twenty-First Century (Brandeis Series in American Jewish History, Culture and Life)(Brandeis University Press / UPNE)
Jack Wertheimer

JJ Greenberg Memorial Award


To the End of the Land (Knopf / Random House)
David Grossman; Jessica Cohen, trans.


The Invisible Bridge (Vintage Contemporaries) (Knopf / Random House)
Julie Orringer

The Instructions (McSweeney’s)
Adam Levin

Nemesis (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Philip Roth

Gerrard and Ella Berman Memorial Award


Early Modern Jewry: A New Cultural History (Princeton University Press)
David B. Ruderman


Crown of Aleppo: The Mystery of the Oldest Hebrew Bible Codex (Jewish Publication Society)
Hayim Tawil and Bernard Schneider

The Prime Ministers: An Intimate Narrative of Israeli Leadership (The Toby Press)
Yehuda Avner

Untold Tales of the Hasidim: Crisis and Discontent in the History of Hasidism (Tauber Institute Series for the Study of European Jewry) (Brandeis University Press / UPNE)
David Assaf



Remembering Survival: Inside a Nazi Slave-Labor Camp (W. W. Norton & Company)
Christopher R. Browning


The Death Marches: The Final Phase of Nazi Genocide (Belknap Press / Harvard University Press)
Daniel Blatman; Chaya Galai, trans.

The Yad Vashem Encyclopedia of the Ghettos during the Holocaust, 2 Volume set (Yad Vashem Publishers)
Guy Miron and Shlomit Shulhani, eds.

Illustrated Children’s Books
Louis Posner Memorial Award


The Rooster Prince of Breslov (Clarion Books / Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Ann Redisch Stampler; Eugene Yelchin, illus.


Modeh Ani: A Good Morning Book (EKS Publishing)
Adapted by Sarah Gershman; Kristina Swarner, illus.

Feivel’s Flying Horses (Kar-Ben Favorites) (Kar-Ben Publishing)
Heidi Smith Hyde; Johanna van der Sterre, illus.

Modern Jewish Thought & Experience
Dorot Foundation Award in Memory of Joy Ungerleider Mayerson


The Koren Mesorat HaRav Kinot: The Complete Tisha B’Av Service with Commentary by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik (Koren Publishers Jerusalem and the Orthodox Union)
Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik


The Ten Commandments: How Our Most Ancient Moral Text Can Renew Modern Life (Simon & Schuster)
David Hazony

Silver from the Land of Israel: A New Light on the Sabbath and Holidays from Writings of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Hakohen Kook (Urim Publications)
Rabbi Chanan Morrison

Outstanding Debut Fiction
Foundation for Jewish Culture’s Goldberg Prize


Rich Boy (TWELVE Books / Hachette)
Sharon Pomerantz


Displaced Persons: A Novel (William Morrow / HarperCollins)
Ghita Schwarz

Scholarship Nahum M. Sarna Memorial Award


From Continuity to Contiguity: Toward a New Jewish Literary Thinking(Stanford University Press)
Dan Miron


Yehuda Halevi (Schocken Books / NextbookPress)
Hillel Halkin

Glory and Agony: Isaac’s Sacrifice and National Narrative (Stanford Studies in Jewish History and C) (Stanford University Press)
Yael S. Feldman

The Wisdom Books: Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes: A Translation with Commentary (W. W. Norton & Company)
Robert Alter

Orthodox by Design: Judaism, Print Politics, and the ArtScroll Revolution(University of California Press)
Jeremy Stolow

Sephardic Culture
Mimi S. Frank Award in Memory of Becky Levy


Yehuda Halevi (Schocken Books / Nextbook Press)
Hillel Halkin


The Dönme: Jewish Converts, Muslim Revolutionaries, and Secular Turks(Stanford University Press)
Marc David Baer

Women’s Studies
Barbara Dobkin Award


Memoirs of a Grandmother: Scenes from the Cultural History of the Jews of Russia in the Nineteenth Century, Volume One (Stanford University Press)
Pauline Wengeroff; Shulamit S. Magnus, trans.


In Scripture: The First Stories of Jewish Sexual Identities (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers)
Lori Hope Lefkovitz

A Jewish Feminine Mystique?: Jewish Women in Postwar America (Rutgers University Press)
Hasia Diner, Shira Kohn, Rachel Kranson, eds.

Writing Based on Archival Material
The JDC-Herbert Katzki Award


The Balfour Declaration: The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict (Random House)
Jonathan Schneer


Scorpions: The Battles and Triumphs of FDR’s Great Supreme Court Justices (TWELVE Books / Hachette)
Noah Feldman

Syrian Jewry in Transition, 1840-1880 (The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization) (Littman Library of Jewish Civilization)
Yaron Harel; Dena Ordan, trans.

Sara Houghteling to Receive Harold U. Ribalow Prize

Friday, January 07, 2011 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

NETWORK author Sarah Houghteling, Pictures at an Exhibition, will be awarded Hadassah’s Ribalow Prize at a ceremony in NYC on January 31st. Read more here.

JBC Bookshelf: Snowy Edition

Friday, January 07, 2011 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

It’s cold and it’s snowing, but the JBC team is still here to bring you the latest on all things Jewish booky. Need a few suggestions for your snowy weekend? Last night, I heard Sarah Glidden read from her graphic novel, How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less, which, by the way, is a fantastic read. It’s a quick one (though she provides much to think about!), so if you have time for a few good reads over the weekend check out Elizabeth Rosner’s Blue Nude in time for our Twitter Book Club on Wednesday, Cynthia Ozick’s latest novel, Foreign Bodies, or dig out a classic. Need a suggestion? Try Saul Bellow’s Humboldt’s Gift , my personal choice for the weekend. Slip them in now before your reading list expands…the 2010 National Jewish Book Award winners are being announced next week!

And…a few from the desk for present and future…

Panorama: A Novel, H.G. Adler (January 2011, Random House)
Adler’s first work of fiction, The Journey, was published in 2009.

Lee Krasner: A Biography, Gail Levin (March 2011, William Morrow)
Read more about Lee Krasner here.

Thera, Zeruya Shalev (November 2010, The Toby Press)
Also take a look at her novels Love Life and Husband and Wife.

American Hebrew Literature: Writing Jewish National Identity in the United States , Michael Weingrad (December 2010, Syracuse University Press)
View other books in the Syracuse University Press series Judaic Traditions in Literature, Music, and Art.

Solomon: The Lure of Wisdom , Steven Weitzman (March 2011, Yale University Press)
Read Jewish Book World’s review of the first title in Yale’s Jewish Lives series, Sarah: The Life of Sarah Bernhardthere.



Old and Grey and Only in the Way

Friday, January 07, 2011 | Permalink

Earlier this week, Michael Wex, author of The Frumkiss Family Business, wrote about writing about intermarriage and being the kvetch guyHe has been blogging all week for the Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning.

I had the misfortune last night to turn on the television just as some self-appointed spokesman for today’s hip, young Jewish culture was saying that certain Jewish approaches to the outside world might have been all right, oh, for people of Mordecai Richler‘s generation, but this idea of the Jew as somehow outside of mainstream North American society was –– winced the shmendrick –– dated, as relevant to today’s Jewish experience as country music.

Well, I don’t know. I grew up in an Orthodox family in a small town in southern Alberta, not far from the Montana border, and spoke nothing but Yiddish at home. My hometown was the kind of place where country singers like Hank Snow and Wilf Carter were more popular than Jesus — for the simple reason that my father, who ran a furniture store that also sold records, refused to stock any gospel L.P.s.

He liked country and western, though; he used to play it on the radio in the store to make the farmers feel comfortable, and before long he was listening to it at home. His record collection consisted of nothing but cantors and cowboys, and I think he sometimes lost sight of the difference: “Dave Dudley Davens Six Days On The Road and On Shabbos He Davens At Home.”

I still recall Saturday nights, right after havdalah, when the holy Sabbath had just departed, Dad would light his first cigarette of the week and put on some Marvin Rainwater or Lefty Frizzell, while Mom barricaded herself in the bathroom and turned the taps on full-blast.

“Tateh,” I asked him once, “bist dekh a frimer yid, you’re a religious Jew, for God’s sake. How can you listen to this stuff?”

He picked up a copy of Hank Snow’s Greatest Hits. “Look at these songs,” he said. “ ‘I’m Movin’ On,’ ‘I’ve Been Everywhere’––they’re all about golus, about exile, about not having a home and not knowing if you’re ever going to get one. And what’s most of the rest of it? Hurtin’ songs.”

You have to imagine this the way it really took place, with my father still in his Shabbos best, a leisure suit from eighteenth-century Poland, and “hurtin’ songs” the only words not in Yiddish. “And what’s a hurtin’ song but a kvetch, a kineh––a lament for something that you’ve lost. And who understands loss better than a Jew?”

Let the shmendriks with their voluntary tattoos go chase the up-to-date and snuffle for paradigms of change. I’m gonna sit home with a bottle of whiskey in my hand and a Gemara on my knee, while Tammy Wynette tells me all about her gimel-tes, ‘cause I’m just like everyone else.

Michael Wex is the author of The Frumkiss Family Business

London’s Jewish Book Week

Thursday, January 06, 2011 | Permalink

For those of you who are (lucky) Londoners, now is the time to buy your tickets for London’s 2011 Jewish Book Week (Feb. 26th-March 6th). This year’s sessions include:

…and more. Check out all of the events here.

Being the Kvetch Guy

Wednesday, January 05, 2011 | Permalink

On Monday, Michael Wex wrote about the birth of his idea for his new novel The Frumkiss Family Business. He will be blogging all week for the Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning’s Visiting Scribe.

It’s nothing to complain about, really. Ever since word got out that I’m supposed to know something about Yiddish, I’ve been receiving scores of e-mails every week. Most are very nice; someone has read something that I’ve written and wants to let me know that they’ve enjoyed it. Some of the correspondents even enclose their own stories about specific Yiddish words or phrases, reminiscences of things that their parents or grandparents used to say.

These are good. Now that snail mail from anybody but billing departments and lawyers is pretty much a thing of the past, e-mails of this type help to give authors the feeling that they haven’t been working in vain.

Not everything is so pleasant, though. Some e-mails claim that I don’t know Yiddish, that I’m a disgrace to the entire Jewish people. I’ve yet to receive an e-mail of this type with a correct “correction.” Most authors enjoy these kinds of e-mails; they read them out loud to their author friends, usually someplace where alcohol is being served. Everybody has a good laugh, especially when the disgruntled e-mailer admits to having borrowed the book from the library.

And then there are the real nudniks. Like the guy who wanted me to read his grandson’s high school essay on Elie Wiesel and “feel free to make any changes that [I] think necessary.” Like the “novelist” who sent me a page of dialogue that he wanted translated into Yiddish; he was prepared to put my name on the acknowledgments page of his book, just as soon as he could find a publisher. Like the woman who asked for the “origin” of the word shikse. I wrote back and told her on what pages in which of my books she could find a detailed explanation of the origins, development and various uses of the word. Her response? “I wanted the origin and you gave me page numbers. Thanks for nothing. Somebody told me you were an expert. Some Goddamed [sic] expert you turned out to be.”

And my all-time favourite, this one via telephone: “Would you speak to an audience of 400 dentists for 400 dollars?” I explained that, at a dollar per dentist for the lecture, the 400 dentists would be paying ten times as much to park their cars as they’d be paying for me. “Yeah, but what else have you got to do on a Sunday morning?”
“I was hoping for a free root canal.”
I could hear the dentist breathing.
“No? No discount?” I asked. “Then I suggest you get the parking lot guy to entertain you––him, at least, you’re willing to pay.”
“How dare you? No one has ever been this rude to me.”
“That makes two of us,” I told him and said goodbye.

Exactly a week later, the dentist called back. He wanted to know if I’d changed my mind.

Come back all week to read Michael Wex’s blog posts. His new novel, The Frumkiss Family Business, is now available.