The ProsenPeople

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.

Jews, Non-Jews, and Being Losers Together

Friday, December 09, 2011 | Permalink

Earlier this week, Matthue Roth blogged about publishing a real life old-fashioned book and getting up early

Yesterday, I put out a Twitter call: What should I write about? The always-dependable dlevy asked, in reply, "have you talked about responses to your work from non Jewish readers?" I haven't, not yet -- but I also haven't really talked about my response from Jewish readers. (And, sort of on that subject, I could also puzzle why I've gotten such amazing Amazon reviews from readers I don't know -- because, as you know, all Jews know each other -- but the one review that I know is from a friend is, well, nice, but so short.)

Weirdly, if you want to keep a scorecard, I've written two books that are about Orthodox Jews, my first two, and then two books (and a movie) that have nothing to do with Orthodox Jews. I say it's weird because, as I've become more and more fundamentalistly Hasidic, I seem to be writing less overtly about Jews.

What does it mean? And why does my new book Automatic straddle the boundary, telling stories about me in high school, back when I had no idea I'd ever become Orthodox, but sticking in a blurb or two of wisdom from the Vilna Gaon and kabbalah? Here, let me show you:
Every day I remember I’m alive I feel guilty. Some days I sleepwalk through the day and don’t even remember that much. There are kids starving in Africa. There are kids starving a couple blocks from where I live.

The Vilna Gaon says that, if humans weren’t blessed with the power to forget, we would learn all there is to know in two or three years, and there would be no further reason for us to remain alive.

I'd like to think, in my self-assured way, that everyone (Orthodox people, non-Orthodox people, non-Jews) can float with my weird, Paulo Coelho-like digressions, and that they still understand what I'm saying in the first place. Back when I was going to poetry slams every night, people thought of me as "the Jewish guy," even though this was Berkeley and half the room was Jewish -- because I was the one who did poems about being Jewish. I talked about Judaism like the black kids talked about being black, and the Sri Lankan kids talked about being Sri Lankan, and the Palestinian kids talked about being Palestinian. And all my most popular poems were the ones that included the most weird things about religion, and the most Yiddish words:

One night I said to this gay Arab poet, who'd had to leave his country because they wanted to kill him, that we were both in exile, and he said back, Baby, the whole WORLD is in exile. It was the most Jewish thing I'd ever heard. And one of the truest.

Maybe that's the meaning behind Automatic -- it's my little book about my friendship with my Christian best friend, and how Jewish the whole thing was. Or how Irish Catholic it was. Or maybe we're all just talking about the same feelings, and using different metaphors to drive it home. And by "metaphors," I don't mean in that puzzling poetry way. I mean languages. And gods. And ways to digest the whole thing of our lives.

Matthue Roth's newest book is Automatic. He is also the author of three novels and the memoir Yom Kippur a Go-Go, and is an associate editor at His screenplay 1/20 is currently in production as a feature film.

Midrash Manicures: The Torah on Your Tips

Wednesday, December 07, 2011 | Permalink

Posted by Sharon B.

Forget those little flowers you used to get painted on your pinkie when you were nine-- join the big leagues of manicure mania with Rabbi Yael Buechler and her Midrash Manicures!

Rabbi Buechler began doing her own manicures as a middle school student in 1996-- since then, she has developed a nail business, Nails & Co., and a website,!

As you can see on her website, Rabbi Buechler has designed manicures anywhere from intricate scenes of Noah’s Ark, to The Ten Plagues for Passover, to famous biblical phrases. Her manicures have been discussed by celebrities including Jon Stewart and Barry Manilow, and websites like the New York Times and

Now, if only someone would develop scratch and sniff polish... 'cause how tasty does that apple look?!

Writers Should Get Up Early

Wednesday, December 07, 2011 | Permalink

Earlier this week, Matthue Roth blogged about publishing a real life old-fashioned book. He will be blogging all week for JBC and MJL.

As a glutton for torture (and as a recent parent, which is kind of the same thing), I’ve been taking advantage of early mornings. My kids wake up at 6:30 or so, and I leave for the day-job at 8:00ish — so if I’ve ever dreamed of getting anything done before I leave (ha ha, I said dreamed), I’d better be doing it early.

I often get asked what my best writing times are. Usually I go on for hours — I’m either the best or worst interview you’ve had, if, you know, you’re an interviewer — but that question is simple. Late at night or early in the morning. Partly, it’s because no one else is around to distract you. Partly, I think, it’s that those are the times that are closest to sleep, when your mind is most open and your memories are all jumbled up and free-associating and fictionalizing themselves. Those are the times I started writing Automatic. It’s a book where a lot of things blend together, the people I grew up with and growing up Jewish and working-class and my best friend dying and the music that we were listening to as it was all happening.

Those times are when our inhibitions are at their lowest, too. When you can sort of force yourself to write about all those things that you wouldn’t write about otherwise, unless you were drunk or feeling really intense.

Earliness is in our genes. Abraham was an early riser. He used to pray at the moment the sun rises, and there’s still a tradition that, at the moment the sun clears the horizon, the gates of Heaven are open to any prayer sent their way. One of my favorite bits of Jewish historical apocrypha is this: The first minyan of the morning used to be called the “thieves’ minyan,” since they had to be out early to lie in wait for unsuspecting travelers to pass…and even if you were going to be a thief, you still had to pray.

I remember reading that both Michael Chabon and Salman Rushdie work from 10-3. (I also remember thinking, when I read that, really? They’re both amazing writers, and both masters of the craft, but in my too-hardcore-fanboy estimation, both have gotten a little soft and overconfident with their storytelling. The Chabon who wrote the breathtaking, pulse-stopping first scene of Wonder Boys, I don’t think that could ever have happened at 10:30, between cups of coffee. Same with the page-long description of Saleem Sinai’s nose in Midnight’s Children–which, by the way, I strongly feel should be a mission statement for Jewish writers. Or Jews in general.)

I’m probably venting. Also, I have the luxury of having a day-job and a job writing. Normally, it’s an insane balancing act. But it’s that same stress that keeps my passion intact, I hope. The same way TV shows inevitably go downhill once the two forbidden characters consummate their untouchable lust for each other (Moonlighting, Buffy the Vampire Slayer), great writers always seem to write their greatest books before they get discovered.* I’m not claiming to be a great writer (although I think I’m a pretty good one). But I hope that, relative to the stories I’ve written before, I still have some of my best stuff yet to be written.

*–Or, admittedly, maybe we just claim those books as great, and when they try something else, we inevitably have to compare it, to the new work’s detriment. But all love has to spring from somewhere.

Matthue Roth's newest book is Automatic. He is also the author of three novels and the memoir Yom Kippur a Go-Go, and is an associate editor at His screenplay 1/20 is currently in production as a feature film.

Book Cover of the Week: Seriously, Just Go to Sleep

Tuesday, December 06, 2011 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

The children's version of Adam Mansbach's smash success (coming April 2012)...

Speaking of General Grant...

Tuesday, December 06, 2011 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Speaking of General Grant and the Jews, have you seen the book trailer for When General Grant Expelled the Jews? If not, check it out below: