The ProsenPeople

Kafka Alert

Thursday, December 15, 2011 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

It's been a while since we've received Kafka-themed books, but in the past month we've received FOUR. What gives? Not that I'm complaining...



And, bonus! A trailer for Franzlations:

Double Bonus! Stay tuned for guest blog posts from the editors of Kafkaesque in January

January Twitter Book Club: Alicia Oltuski

Thursday, December 15, 2011 | Permalink

Posted by Sharon Bruce

In the middle of New York City lies a neighborhood where all secrets are valuable, all assets are liquid, and all deals are sealed with a blessing rather than a contract. Welcome to the Diamond District. Ninety percent of all diamonds that enter America pass through these few blocks, but the inner workings of this mysterious world are known only to the people who inhabit it.

In her first book, Precious Objects, twenty-six-year-old journalist Alicia Oltuski, the daughter and granddaughter of diamond dealers, seamlessly blends family narrative with literary reportage to reveal the fascinating secrets of the diamond industry and its madcap characters: an Elvis-impersonating dealer, a duo of diamond detective brothers, and her own eccentric and sometimes suspicious father.

With insight and drama, Oltuski limns her family’s diamond paved move from Communist Siberia to a Displaced Persons Camp in post World War II Germany, to New York’s diamond district, exploring the connection between Jews and the industry, the gem and its lore, and the exotic citizens of this secluded world.

Entertaining and illuminating, Precious Objects offers an insider’s look at the history, business, and society behind one of the world’s most coveted natural resources, providing an unforgettable backstage pass to an extraordinary and timeless show.

We are excited to announce Alicia Oltuski as January's featured Twitter Book Club author!

Join the Jewish Book Council and author Alicia Oltuski to discuss Precious Objects on Wednesday, January 18th from 12:30 pm- 1:10 pm EST, and keep an eye out on Twitter for our next giveaway– a signed copy of the novel!

The How-To, In Case You’re New:

What is a Twitter Book Club?
A twitter book club provides the opportunity for twitter users to engage in real time conversation about a particular, predetermined book. JBC’s book club aims to provide readers with an opportunity to discuss Jewish interest titles with other interested readers electronically.

To participate…

If you aren’t already a Twitter user, please join twitter here. (Confused about Twitter all together? Visit the twitter twitorial. Follow the Jewish Book Council (@jewishbook). During the designated time and date of the book club follow the conversation by searching for #JBCBooks. If you would like to actively participate, please include #JBCBooks at the end of any comments or questions you wish to contribute.

(Note: New twitter users may have to wait up to a week before their tweets get saved in hashtag searches. Open a twitter account at least a week and a half before this discussion in order to join us!)

We hope you’ll join and enjoy the conversation! If you have something to say or a question to ask, feel free to jump in, and don’t forget to include #JBCBooks at the end of any tweet so that other participants can engage with you.

JLit Links

Thursday, December 15, 2011 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

  • Today is the Jewish Book Carnival over at The Whole Megillah
  • 10,000 NY families unite through books because of PJ Library
  • Moment published a book! Read more about Nine Lives: Favorite Profiles of Famous People From the Annals of Moment Magazine here.

JBC Bookshelf: Yiddish, Mitzvahs, and Cooking

Wednesday, December 14, 2011 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Did you know that we're less than a month away from revealing the 2011 National Jewish Book Award winners and finalists? The winners have been rolling in over the past two weeks and we're excited to share the news with you at the beginning of 2012! Be sure to check back in January for the announcement. And remember...books make the perfect Chanukah gift. Browse our site for ideas and check out these new ones from the shelf:

The Association of Jewish Libraries Guide to Yiddish Short Stories, Bennett Muraskin (October 2011, Ben Yehuda Press)
You may already know about Sholem Aleichem, but have you heard of Moyshe Kulbak? No? Read up then! This collection provides an annotated summary of more than 130 stories and includes biographical sketches of each of the 43 authors whose works are listed in this volume.

Diasporic Modernisms: Hebrew and Yiddish Literature in the Twentieth Century, Allison Schachter (November 2011, Oxord University Press)
Schachter's discussion includes S. Y. Abramovitsh, Yosef Chaim Brenner, Dovid Bergelson, Leah Goldberg, Gabreil Preil, and Kadia Molodowsky.

Mitzvah Stories: Seeds for Inspiration and Learning, Goldie Milgram and Ellen Frankel, eds. (November 2011, Reclaiming Judaism Press)
As a companion to Mitzvah Stories, Reclaiming Judaism Press has produced Mitzvah Cards. The deck includes 52 cards and one is supposed to draw one weekly for reflection, study, and practice.

Fresh & Easy Kosher Cooking: Ordinary Ingredients -Extraordinary Meals, Leah Schapira (November 2011, Mesorah Publications)
View sample pages from this beautiful new cookbook here.

Pledges of Jewish Allegiance: Conversion, Law, and Policymaking in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Orthodox Responsa, David Ellenson and David Gordis (January 2012, Stanford University Press)
What do you get when two National Jewish Book Award Winners get together to write a book...

Hope: A Tragedy: A Novel , Shalom Auslander (January 2012, Riverhead)
We can never get enough a review of his memoir, Foreskin's Lament, here.

Being Compared to Philip K. Dick

Wednesday, December 14, 2011 | Permalink

Earlier this week, Lavie Tidhar wrote about his fixation on historical figures. He will be blogging all week for JBC and MJL.

Being compared to Philip K. Dick is great, especially when they secretly mean “will die a penniless paperback writer at the age of fifty-three.” In other words, such a comparison doesn’t exactly invite trust.

My new novel, Osama, recently came out. It’s available on the Kindle, and in a fancy hardcover edition from its small, UK-based publisher. It got rejected more times than Andie Macdowell’s character in Four Weddings and a Funeral had sex (“less than Madonna, more than Princess Di... I hope”). One can see why. For one thing, it’s called Osama.

The comparison I mention is, specifically, to Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle, made recently by reviewers for both the UK’s Guardian newspaper and The Financial Times. Yes, I’m tooting my own horn here. Someone has to! But of course Osama owes a huge debt to Dick’s brilliant alternative history, where the United States has lost World War Two and is divided between the victorious Germans and Japanese.

But I was thinking about Philip K. Dick a lot recently. He’s a constant reminder of Gustave Flaubert’s maxim, “Writing is a dog’s life, but the only life worth living.” Forget riches: for that matter, forget holidays, new clothes or a square meal more than once a week. Forget fame, either. Even notoriety is hard to come by these days. And forget respect: you’ll get reviews comparing your work, variously, to processed cheese or toilet paper, and you’ll be glad someone even noticed.

And yet and still. I can’t imagine doing anything better. Maybe I’m a romantic, fondly believing in the image of the artist starving for his art. I often talk about moving to that mythic attic in Paris where I could sit drinking bourbon and punching keys on my typewriter. You know. In the sixties.

I’ll move as soon as someone invented a time machine.

Maybe I’m just putting it on. I’m hardly starving. In fact I could do with losing a few. It’s the sedentary life, you know. You get more exercise from shifting books than writing them.

I commute from the bedroom to the lounge. Writing these days seems to consist mostly of checking your e-mail, Spider Solitaire and Twitter, followed by checking your e-mail again.

Nope. Nothing from Steven Spielberg today either. Red nine on black ten, red five on black six... is it four o’clock in the afternoon already? Where did the time go?

I’d better take another break.

Lavie Tidhar’s most recent novel is Osama (PS Publishing). It has been compared to Philip K. Dick’s seminal work,The Man in the High Castle by both the Guardian and the Financial Times. His other works include steampunk trilogy The BookmanCamera Obscura and the forthcoming The Great Game, all three from Angry Robot Books, the novella Jesus & The Eightfold Path (Immersion Press), and the ground-breaking Jewish fantasy collection HebrewPunk. He grew up on a kibbutz in Israel and has since lived in South Africa, the UK, Vanuatu and Laos. He currently lives in London, and tweets too much.

Book Cover of the Week: Trotsky

Wednesday, December 14, 2011 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Now in paperback, Robert Service's Trotsky: A Biography

Hip Hop Graphic Novel meets Chanukah

Monday, December 12, 2011 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Available to buy on iTunes:
All raps, poems, songs etc available at:
Lyrics available at:

Notes from the JBC Writing Seminar

Monday, December 12, 2011 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

While many of you lounged at home yesterday, JBC and a group of writers and publishing industry gurus spent the day engaging in conversations around publishing Jewish interest books and the process of publication. The day opened with conversations around obtaining an agent and what to do (and not do) when writing a query (David Forrer). Next, Altie Karper (Schocken Books) and Kristine Puopolo (Doubleday Books) talked about the acquisitions and editorial processes, as well as the relationship between the editor and the author. Following a little networking, the group learned the ins and outs of book publicity from Marian Brown and Michael McKenzie and the importance of self-promotion (virtual book tours, twitter, facebook, guest blogging!). From there, we heard from Austin Ratner and Michael Levy about their steps to publication and their experiences with promotion. And, finally, the day closed with a few words from Jaclyn Myers on selling foreign rights and what that means for an author (and an author's pocket). 

While we were thrilled to have so many industry representatives spend the day with us, we were equally excited to hear from the group of authors at yesterday's round table, each of whom have an interesting story to share with the world. A few highlights:

Barbara Krasner's The Whole Megillah features resources for writers of Jewish-themed children's books. Plus, check out her other website here.

Jeri Fink just published her 19th book! Check out her work here.

Phyllis Agins Grode shares some of her short stories online.

Eliot Sefrin's latest novel, Blood in the Promised Land, is now available.

Esther Amini Krawitz recently wrote for The Jewish Week about a Persian-American Thanksgiving.

Darren Pinsker writes for Midstream: "President Obama’s Cairo Speech and the Reset Button" and The Jerusalem Post.

The book trailer for Jeff Oliver's novel, Failure to Thrive, due out in April from DC Books:

Historical Figure Fixation

Monday, December 12, 2011 | Permalink

Lavie Tidhar’s most recent novel is Osama (PS Publishing). He will be blogging all week for the Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning.

I might be obsessed with historical figures. Maybe it’s a Jewish thing. But my two most recent books were Osama (a novel) and Jesus & The Eightfold Path (a novella) – though the one may be too early to be called historical, and the other may not be historical at all. Josephus Flavius, supposed chronicler of my novella (The Gospel According to Josephus, we learn half-way through) is our only contemporary historian to mention Jesus, but it appears quite likely the mention – a single paragraph – was inserted into the text centuries later.

Be that as it may, with a recent short story called “The Lives and Deaths of Che Guevara” (in the Solaris Rising anthology) chronicling the effect multiple clones of the legendary revolutionary had on the world’s various conflicts and wars, I think I might suffer from Historical Figure Fixation, and that just sounds like a bad Woody Allen movie (which is, basically, any Woody Allen movie after 1985. Badabing).

I keep saying my next book will have to be Mother Teresa, Gunslinger. I also like to say I never joke about future books. Though it occurs to me this might be better as a graphic novel. Certainly my planned book about a gun-slinging Walt Whitman traversing a future planet Mars accompanied by an automaton Golda Meir (in search of mysterious alien ruins, perhaps!) isn’t a joke. I’m just waiting for someone to pay me to write it.

I might be waiting a while, though.

Still, as long as you’re willing to be poorer than someone who was made redundant from McDonald’s, the writing life is a wonderful thing. You get to come up with titles like “The Were-Wizard of Oz” and sell the resultant story to an anthology (Bewere the Night, in all good bookstores!) or, indeed, re-imagine what would have happened if the three Wise Men from the East were the three companions of the Buddha (that is, Monkey, Pigsy and Sandy) from the Chinese classic A Journey to the West. The working title, needless to say, was Kung Fu Jesus.

Four Jews made an undeniable impact on 20th century culture. Freud gave us psychoanalysis. Marx gave us Marxism. Einstein gave us Relativity. And Haim Saban gave us Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers.

It’s a hard act to follow.

But history’s a great thing for a writer. Otherwise it just, sort of, sits there. Doing nothing. Might as well package it. Ideally with some kung-fu.

But I think I’m getting better. I avoid the history books. Shun the History Channel. No more HFF for me. The words of my grandfather keep echoing in my ears, instead.

When, he said, when will you stop writing this weird... stuff, and write something serious for once?

I don’t know, Granddad. I don’t know.

Lavie Tidhar’s most recent novel is Osama (PS Publishing). It has been compared to Philip K. Dick’s seminal work, The Man in the High Castle by both the Guardian and the Financial Times. His other works include steampunk trilogy The Bookman, Camera Obscura and the forthcoming The Great Game, all three from Angry Robot Books, the novella Jesus & The Eightfold Path (Immersion Press), and the ground-breaking Jewish fantasy collection HebrewPunk. He grew up on a kibbutz in Israel and has since lived in South Africa, the UK, Vanuatu and Laos. He currently lives in London, and tweets too much.

JLit Links

Friday, December 09, 2011 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

  • The latest issue of
  • Erika Dreifus's "Year in Jewish Books"
  • The Daily Beast looks at why Adam Kirsch's Why Trilling Matters reminds us of the power of reading (a review of this title will appear on the Jewish Book Council next week!)
  • Our wonderful Jewish Book World reviewers now have their own pages on our website! When you click on any reviewer's name on our "Books" page, you'll be able to see both a bio and books they've reviewed for us that appear online.