The ProsenPeople

New Reviews

Friday, October 26, 2012 | Permalink
This week's reviews:


JBC Bookshelf: War and Extremism in Fiction

Thursday, October 25, 2012 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

We've begun to notice a pattern in the newest fiction titles to cross our desk: the theme of war and extremism. Each of the following works of fiction explore the realities of war, resistance, dictatorship, and extremism across the globe and time. They present the philosophical and physical struggles of individuals caught up in conflict throughout different points in history. Written over the past hundred years, the trend begs the question: Will we ever learn? 

Judith: A Novel, Lawrence Durrell (November 2012, Open Road Media)

Released one hundred years after the author's birth, Judith is set in Palestine in the 1940s on the eve of Britain's withdrawal. Find out more about Durrell here

Ignorance: A NovelMichèle Roberts (January 2013, Bloomsbury USA)
Roberts, who was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, tells the story of two women in wartime France, as they struggle with guilt, faith, and desire. 

The Zelmenyaners: A Family Saga, Moyshe Kulbak; Hillel Halkin, trans. (January 2013, Yale University Press)
Written in Yiddish between 1929 and 1935, Kulbak tells the story of a Jewish family in Minsk as they cope with the new Soviet reality. This title is a part of Yale University Press's New Yiddish Library Series.

The Fall of the Stone City, Ismail Kadare (February 2013, Grove Press)
Set in Albania in 1943, Gjirokastër is the first town in the warpath of Nazi troops invading Albania. Intermingling Balkan legend with recent Albania history, Kadare tells a tale of dictatorship, resistance, and magic. 

The Wanting: A Novel, Michael Lavigne (February 2013, Schocken Books)
The long-awaited second novel from Sami Rohr Prize Choice Award recipient Michael Lavigne. Michael's new novel follows Roman Guttman, a Russian-born postmodern architect who is injured in a bus bombing, as he journeys into Palestinian territory. Roman's story alternates with the diary of his thirteen-year-old daughter, Anyusha, and is enriched by flashbacks of Anyusha's mother's life, a famous Russian refusenik who died for her beliefs.  

The Hare With Amber Eyes: The Illustrated Edition

Thursday, October 25, 2012 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

For those who haven't jumped on the Edmund de Waal train yet, here's your chance! Farrar, Straus and Giroux will be publishing the Illustrated Edition of The Hare with Amber Eyes in November. This beautiful edition features 100 previously unseen images, including photographs of the netsuke collection and full-color images from de Waal’s family archive. 

Book Clubs will be happy to know that de Waal has a handy reader's guide available on his website here

One Book, One Community: Spertus

Wednesday, October 24, 2012 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Last year, Spertus planned a fantastic line-up around Lisa Pearl Rosenbaum's A Day of Small Beginnings for their One Book, One Community program, featured during Jewish Book Month. This year, Spertus's One Book, One Community program will feature National Jewish Book Award finalist Mary Glickman's One More River

Events include a kick-off screening of Shalom Ya'll on November 10th, a book discussion on November 29th, and three presentations by Mary at locations across the area. You can find information about all of the One Book, One Community events here. And, don't forget to download Spertus's reader's guide for One More River here, which includes discussion questions, an interview, Southern Jewish recipes, historical bites about Jews in the South, and more.

Browse JBC's website for more information on Mary and her books:

One More River (review, interview, book club questions)
Home in the Morning (review, book club questions)
Twitter Book Club transcript for Home in the Morning

Find out more about Mary Glickman and One More River here:

Passing on Stories

Wednesday, October 24, 2012 | Permalink

Earlier this week, Jami Attenberg wrote about growing up Jewish in a small town. She has been blogging here all week for Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning.

My mother was in town for a few days that summer, babysitting her granddaughter (and my niece), while she had some time off between camp and school starting again.

One day I picked the two of them up and drove them to Brighton Beach, which I prefer over Coney Island mostly because I like being around all the Russians, our people a few generations back, but also because it’s easier to find parking there than Coney Island.

On the beach the man selling sodas from a cooler flirted with my mother. She’s still got it, I thought, which I found encouraging in a narcissistic way. We slathered ourselves with suntan lotion and committed to a time limit of exposing ourselves to cancerous rays. We squinted in the sun.

Whenever I have these moments, when it’s just the three of us, the three generations of women, I like to ask my mother questions about our family history. It’s good to pass on stories. That’s what my whole life is about now, passing on stories to the next person.

That day she told us about a family member that had escaped Russian military service by puncturing his eardrums. This weird tale of cleverness and cowardice did not faze me. In fact, it delighted me. I plucked the detail from the air and put it into the book I was writing the very next day.

My mother and my niece wandered off toward the water and jumped the waves, and then later it was just my niece and myself. The both of us squealed along with the other Brooklynites when the waves crashed around us. My mother watched us. I held my niece’s hand. We were fearless.

Jami's most recent book, The Middlesteins, is now available. Visit her official website here.

Jews and Baseball

Monday, October 22, 2012 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Attention World Series fans: Check out our "Jews and Baseball" reading list. Select titles are below, and the full list can be found here.


Different, but Special

Monday, October 22, 2012 | Permalink

Jami Attenberg's most recent novel, The Middlesteins, is now available. Her other books include: Instant Love, The Kept Man, and The Melting Season. She will be blogging here all week for Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning.

I have very distinct memories about growing up as part of what was then a very small Jewish community in Buffalo Grove, IL. Today my hometown has a big Jewish population, as does the rest of the North Shore. But at the time, there was only one other Jewish family on the block, and I don’t recall them being particularly invested in their Judaism. It was on the Attenbergs to represent.

Just what every child wants. To represent their religious differences.

I did get in a few fights in school. Kids threw around anti-Semitic slurs, not knowing necessarily what they meant. It was probably just something they picked up somewhere, as kids do. In third grade a girl called me a kike in gym class, and I challenged her to a fight after school. We met in the soccer field, surrounded by other children. I was chubbier than her, so I just sat on her and sort of slapped her around the head. I was eventually declared the winner. A few years ago she friended me on Facebook, and I declined.

The holiday season was the toughest, I think, because there so many differences between how we celebrated our holidays and everyone else celebrated theirs. I remember being banned from other houses as a younger child during the winter holiday season; I was the only one who didn’t believe in Santa Claus, and I was ruining everyone’s Christmas.

Still, in all of this, I developed a sense of pride in being a Jew. If we were different, weren’t we at least a little bit special?

When my parents first moved to Buffalo Grove, the population was small in general, and while there were plenty of Jews in say, my father’s hometown of Highland Park, about a half hour east of us, they just hadn’t found their way out to us yet.

I called my dad recently and asked him about it.

"There was one other Jewish family on the block, maybe?" I said.

"You have to remember that there were only six to eight thousand people in Buffalo Grove," he said.

"It was very small," I agreed.

"When you consider what percentage of the population is Jewish anyhow, you didn’t have a lot. And we were one of the first forty families in our synagogue – we joined in the second year of the synagogue. Everybody who was in the synagogue at that time was well aware of that particular problem in Buffalo Grove."

I pictured a bunch of Jews in the 1970s gossiping about The Buffalo Grove Problem.

“By the way, Patton Drive has not changed,” he said. “There’s still only two or three Jewish families.”

I don’t know why I find that comforting, but I do.

Visit Jami's official website here.

New Reviews

Friday, October 19, 2012 | Permalink

This week's reviews:


Leading by Example

Friday, October 19, 2012 | Permalink

Earlier this week, Stefanie Pervos Bregman, the editor of Living Jewishly, wrote about engaging 20- and 30- somethings in the Jewish world, Rabbi Jason Miller wrote about exploring commonalities between religions and Rivka Nehorai shared the truth about motherhood. Today we hear from Living Jewishly contributor Rachel Wright. These Living Jewishly contributors have been blogging for the Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning all week.

As a Jewish lay leader who works in corporate America, my identity often shifts between my work world and the time I dedicate as a volunteer within the Jewish community. If you follow me on Twitter or are a friend of mine on Facebook, it truly looks like I only have one dimension.

My favorite remark I get is when acquaintances who may know me well enough to be friends on Facebook but not well enough to know what I do for a living, simply assume and certify as they ask: “You work for Federation, right?” Gathering this assumptionbecause I simply must—with each event and conference I promote and Jewish holiday I’ll be well-wishing to my network.

What a compliment, I always think. That just means to me that I am doing a good job in my role as a volunteer determined to get as much outreach and engagement as possible.

Truth is, my professional job which allows me to be so involved with community has little to do with my strong Jewish identity at all. Which means my work network couldn’t be any less affiliated.

My Jewish friends across the globe who pride themselves on involvement may relate. How many times have you had to explain that our “missions” to Israel, Ethiopia, Russia, Cuba, Greece or Poland, for example, are not the “missionary” experience our non-Jewish associates want to understand?

Recently, I was in Indianapolis at a national conference for the insurance industry, the field I work in. As much as I give to the Jewish world, I also give to the company allowing me the ability to do so. Driven to grow professionally, I work with people from all walks of life. While entertaining at this conference, a question at dinner literally threw me aback.

As the check was delivered– and after a few glasses of wine– one of the members of my dinner party asked a closing question: “Not to be offensive, as I am sure this doesn't apply, but does a Jew own your company?”

I sat a little unsettled. In my professional life, I don’t often discuss religion as it’s simply not appropriate. And, as a Detroit-based company, we are fairly diverse with people of many religious backgrounds working together in harmony. But, this question demanded a response.

As a professional in the corporate world who also happens to be Jewish, I knew the only thing I could do worse than be complacent was to laugh or agree with any remark that would potentially follow. This would be even worse than the most ignorant of comments. But, not wanting to be overly strong too early, I softly asked why.

“Because of the name of your company – EHIM. I was recently in Israel with my church, and learned of the Hebrew word Elohim. Is this a root from the origins of your company?”

I breathed easy. His only mistake was approach in the ask. If anything, I felt embarrassed I wasn’t ready to be proud to say not only do I work for a Jewish woman but I also am part of this people.

He simply needed an answer that would also teach him it wasn't offensive to ask someone if they were of Jewish descent if asked in the appropriate way.

In Living Jewishly: A Snapshot of a Generation, I was proud to have one of the blogs I wrote for Jewish Federations of North America Young Leadership Cabinet be included. This blog described the journey I went on with an ex-boyfriend, exploring his conversion to Judaism from a very Christian upbringing. Back then, I sat on the sidelines, taking the stance that conversion was to be his private journey as I didn't want to define his sense and understanding of our very deep tradition and beliefs.

Nearly three years later and on the other side, I see things a bit differently. As someone who aspires to grow into the very important role as a Jewish leader, one of the lessons I must learn is that we are not simply leading the Jewish people to follow or help guide them to find their way. We are leading a worldwide community that may not share our religion or tradition – but can follow through understanding and a mutual respect we have for each other.

We don’t need to preach to those who don’t ask. But we need to always be true to who we are. That is the way we lead by example and the way we continue to evolve change throughout the world.

Rachel Wright is the Director of Business Development for EHIM, a Pharmacy Benefit Manager in Detroit. She is also the President-Elect for NextGen of the Detroit Federation of Metro Detroit. Additionally, Rachel serves as the Women's chair for Ritual and Judaica for JFNA Young Leadership Cabinet. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @rach_is_wright.

The Truth About Motherhood

Thursday, October 18, 2012 | Permalink

Earlier this week, Stefanie Pervos Bregman, the editor of Living Jewishly, wrote about engaging 20- and 30- somethings in the Jewish world and Rabbi Jason Miller wrote about exploring commonalities between religions. Today we hear from Living Jewishly contributor Rivka Nehorai. Check back all week for more Living Jewishly posts for the Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning.

No one ever told me
that to get older is to get better
and so much more satisfying
in a "ha-yes?!" type of way

And I thought that I should embrace my youth and hold onto it for dear life
until the wheel passed.

No one ever warned me
that becoming a mom is that much cooler,
in which your level of control and insight, wisdom and laughter
expands beyond yourself and your own dreams
into this greater complex organism.

No one ever whispered
that pregnancy was wild,
squirmy little baby within,
no need for air, thank you very much, just squirming around.

I made that, I laugh smugly to myself. Cool! (With help from the One Above, etc)

And I wonder- Why all the secrets? Why all the hushhush? Why pretend that college life is the best, or young and free is the ideal?
It's not true, I tell you, it's a lie, a lie that's spreading across America.
I can assure you, I am much cooler now than I ever was then. With droplets of time for myself, a whole new mission, and a new direction and explosion in life.

Spread the word.

Rivka Nehorai is an artist/writer, currently situated in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Besides caring for her little girl, Tanya Ester Avigayil, she works on commission, creating impressionistic portraits. Her work can be found at She contributed to Stefanie Pervos Bregman's book, Living Jewishly.