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JLit Links

Tuesday, January 25, 2011 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

  • The National Book Critics Circle announced the finalists for the 2010 Awards. The list includes: To the End of the Land (David Grossman), Comedy in a Minor Key (Hans Keilson), Crossing Mandelbaum Gate (Kair Bird), Simon Wiesenthal (Tom Segev), Hitch-22 (Christopher Hitchens), and Half a Life (Darin Strauss). Read the full list here.
  • Altie Karper, editorial director at Schocken Books, has a conversation with brand channel: “…Altie Karper paves the way for Jewish publishing. Although there are other American Jewish publishers, none is under the auspices of a global publishing powerhouse like Random House…” Continue reading here.
  • Judges have been announced for the 2011 Jewish Quarterly-Wingate Prize: Lisa Appignanesi, Michael Prodger, Emily Kasriel, and Dr. Daniel Glaser. Read more here.
  • Jewlicious 7 has been announced: February 24-27.
  • Erika Dreifus & Malamud’s “German Refugee” on

Mark Twain, “Mishpocha,” and Me

Thursday, January 20, 2011 | Permalink

In her previous posts, Erika Dreifus blogged on her upcoming panel at AWP, “Beyond Bagels and Lox”, and the inspiration for Quiet Americans. She has been be blogging all week for the Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning.

The online literary world has been atwitter (please pardon the pun!) about the changes—some are calling it censorship—that appear in a new edition that presents “updated” versions of Mark Twain’s classic novels, Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. The change that has attracted the most discussion is the new book’s replacement of the word “nigger” with “slave”; a second modification is the substitution of “Indian” for “injun.” (For general summaries, I’ll point you to news items from The New York Times and Publishers Weekly; for a sample of some of the commentaries, I recommend an AOL News column by Tayari Jones, a blog post by The Christian Science Monitor‘s Marjorie Kehe, and the multiple contributions featured within the NYT Room for Debate forum.)

I’ve followed the flurry of articles and commentaries with interest for many reasons. But here, I want to focus on one. It is both personal and professional, and it involves “Mishpocha,” the concluding story in my new collection of short fiction, Quiet Americans.

In “Mishpocha,” protagonist David Kaufmann, a son of Holocaust survivors, recalls an incident:

It had happened a few years earlier, when [he and his wife] had been visiting [their daughter] at school and spent an extra day and night in Boston on their own, and as they’d walked down a relatively quiet yet decidedly urban street after dinner, a group of teenagers—teenagers whom he’d instantly imagined must cause nightmares for their parents, tattooed teenagers with heads shaven and clothing ripped—strode up alongside them, their ringleader chanting, “KILL THE KIKES, KILL THE NIGGERS, KILL THE FAGS.” And David had seen his wife’s head turn toward them in outrage; he knew that in about one second she would open her mouth with the confidence of a woman with bloodlines rooted in the land of the free and the home of the brave, and so he’d yanked her arm—hard, harder maybe than he’d really had to—because what you learned from immigrant-survivor parents like his was that it was better to be quiet, better not to give crazy people any reason to get any crazier.

Many opponents to the changes to Twain’s work have argued that the word substitutions distort the historical record. As a nervous debut author in an era when using certain words can destroy a career, I draw encouragement from that stance. Because, despite the fact that fiction writers are often instructed not to counter criticisms of their work with the protest that “it really happened that way!”, I will say this about the fictional incident in “Mishpocha“: It really happened that way.

Photo credit: Lisa Hancock

Not to David Kaufmann, of course. To me. And not in the 1880s. During the 21st century. And it happened in one of the most politically progressive communities in the United States: Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Recall, from yesterday’s post, that I am a granddaughter of German Jews who immigrated to the United States in the late 1930s. There’s little doubt that just as this family background has permeated my writing, it has influenced my personality and worldview. Which helps explain why, when those teenagers strode up beside me, and their ringleader recited that awful litany, I, an educated grown-up in her thirties, said nothing. Not one word.

Shortly thereafter (but still about two years before I began writing “Mishpocha“), I received a scholarship and traveled to Prague for a writing workshop. At some point—I no longer recall what prompted the discussion—I mentioned this deeply disturbing incident in class. My classmates, whose backgrounds reflected at least two and quite possibly all three of the groups targeted in the list of epithets, were outraged. But some of them seemed almost as upset with me—for having remained silent—as they were with the person who had uttered the words in the first place.

Absolution came from our remarkable workshop leader: Arnošt Lustig. He listened to me, and he listened to my classmates. And then, this man—who survived Theresienstadt, Auschwitz, and Buchenwald—said that yes, one must fight back. But, he said, one must also live. (I cannot mention Arnošt Lustig without recommending his extraordinary novel, translated as Lovely Green Eyes, which I read in Prague that summer. I treasure my autographed copy.)

Six of my collection’s seven stories have been published previously. Only “Mishpocha” is appearing for the first time, which means that no magazine or journal editors (or paying readers) have yet bothered to take issue with my choice to repeat the same terrible words on the page that I heard on the street. My publisher raised no objections, so to some extent, I had stopped worrying about how this element of the story might be received, and how I might respond to any criticisms it might evoke.

Until now. I harbor no illusions: I’m no Mark Twain, protected partially by virtue of my historical reputation. I’m just a debut author with a book of short stories published by a brand-new press hardly anyone has heard of. But I hope that the support that Twain is receiving now from those who, for a variety or reasons, don’t want to see his writing expurgated will extend to my work, and to me.

Erika Dreifus‘ first book, Quiet Americans, is now available.

Book Cover of the Week: The Mighty Walzer

Wednesday, January 19, 2011 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Howard Jacobson’s The Mighty Walzer will be available from Bloomsbury USA in April:

A Birthday and An Anniversary: A Book and Its Inspiration

Wednesday, January 19, 2011 | Permalink

On Monday, Erika Dreifus discussed her upcoming panel at AWP, “Beyond Bagels and Lox.” She will be blogging all week for the Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning‘s Author Blog.

Today is a special day: It’s the official “pub date” for my debut short-story collection, Quiet Americans, which is being released by Last Light Studio, a new, Boston-based micropress.

It is also a special day on an even more personal level: It is the 70th anniversary of the date on which my paternal grandparents, Ruth and Sam Dreifus, German Jews who immigrated to the United States in the late 1930s and met here in Manhattan, were married.

In this wedding photograph, my grandparents are pictured front and center, cutting their cake. Although I can’t help being struck, as I always am when I look at this photo, by the many absences—of parents and siblings, aunts and uncles—and by the evidence that my grandmother had no money to spare for a traditional wedding dress (the fancy cake might have been a benefit of my grandfather’s job as a baker), I’m equally moved by the presence of family and friends celebrating with the bridal couple. For my grandparents were, indeed, surrounded by family and friends, including Rabbi Herbert Parzen, who officiated that January day in 1941 and performed my parents’ wedding ceremony 25 years later as well.

Rabbi Parzen (second from the left, standing next to the bride) was family andfriend: His wife, Sylvia (front row, second from the right, beside the groom), was a cousin of my grandmother’s. As an American, Aunt Sylvia, as my sister and I called her, helped facilitate my grandmother’s immigration to the United States in 1938, just months before the Kristallnacht. It was in New York that my grandmother found her groom, who had emigrated from Germany the previous year.

In fact, my grandparents met through another émigré present in this photograph: my great-uncle Berthold (“Bob,” seen in profile on the far left). My grandmother had become friends with Bob, and when she went to his boarding-house to pay him a get-well visit while he was recovering from pneumonia, my grandfather—Bob’s older brother—was there, too.

Without the people you see in this photograph, then, many lives would have been dramatically altered, and some (mine included) would not have come to be. Without them, there would be no book, either, because Quiet Americans is inspired so profoundly by the stories that have come to me from my father’s family, and by my preoccupations with the historical legacy I have inherited as a granddaughter of two Jews who were lucky enough to escape Europe in time, and marry in New York City seventy years ago today.

Erika Dreifus‘ first book, Quiet Americans, is now available.

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.