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The Eyes of the Bombmaker

Wednesday, November 12, 2014 | Permalink

Earlier this week, Mike Kelly wrote about his journey from 9/11 to Jerusalem's Jaffa Road. His newest book, The Bus on Jaffa Road: A Story of Middle East Terrorism and the Search for Justice, chronicles the aftermath of the Hamas suicide bombing of a commuter bus in downtown Jerusalem on Feb. 25, 1996. The book traces the capture of the key bomb-maker and the efforts by the families of two Americans to hold Iran accountable for financing the bombing and training the bomb-maker – only to discover that the American government was trying to block them. He will be blogging here all week for the Jewish Book Council's Visiting Scribe series.

I needed to meet the man who built the bomb that blew up the bus on Jaffa Road – the bomb that killed Matt Eisenfeld and Sara Duker in 1996.

On a Sunday morning, a decade after that devastating explosion, I walked through the gates of an Israeli prison in the Negev Desert. A prison official shook my hand, then led me to a room. Minutes later, amid the shuffle of feet and the chunky clank of leg irons, a door opened and I looked into the eyes of Hassan Salameh.

He is serving 46 consecutive life terms for the murders of 46 unarmed and innocent people aboard three commuter buses that were attacked by suicide bombers who carried explosive-filled satchels that he had designed. Salameh looked at me and smiled faintly.

A prison official motioned to me that I could begin.

Salameh had no idea who I was. Israeli prison officials do not tell an inmate anything about a visitor. They merely tell an inmate that a visitor has arrived and would like to talk. After meeting the visitor, the inmate can then choose to talk or return to his cell.

I figured I could ask at least one question before Salameh decided whether to speak to me.

I decided to try for two.

“Do you know the name of Sara Duker,” I asked.

Salameh nodded.

“Yes,” he said in English.

He did not get up to leave. Nor did he seem to object to my presence or my question.

So I asked my second question:

"Why did you kill her?"

So began what I can only describe as a transformative experience – not transformative in a positive sense, though. It was really the beginning of a journey into the heart of darkness, an experience that led me to write my book, The Bus on Jaffa Road: A Story of Middle East Terrorism and the Search for Justice.

On that day at the prison, Salameh was unrepentant, not showing even a trace of regret. I was not surprised and had been warned that he might exhibit no remorse. But being warned is one thing; the actual experience of seeing Salameh’s behavior first-hand was something else entirely.

He stared at me with blank, cold eyes. But what stunned me the most, I think, was his sense of joy in what he had done. Yes, he acknowledged that he had killed unarmed people. But he insisted that his murders were “God’s will.” And from that, he not only seemed satisfied but happy.

I wrote a newspaper column about my confrontation with Salameh and moved on to other assignments. But the experience haunted me. Salameh’s words echoed those of the al-Qaeda killers of 9/11 and far too many Islamic jihadists who were trying to justify their murders of innocent people by claiming it was God’s will.

Several years later, over lunch with a trusted book editor, I mentioned my desire to write about terrorism. Then I described my interview with Salameh and his twisted theology. My lunch companion paused, then looked at me. “You have to write about this more,” he said. “This is where you can start to really probe the horrors of terrorism.”

It was then that my book was born.

For more information about The Bus on Jaffa Road as well as a video and an excerpt, please check out www.mikekellywriter.com.

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The Fight for Jewish Feminism in Israel

Tuesday, November 11, 2014 | Permalink

Posted by Nat Bernstein

Monday night, a group of Jewish students and professionals in their 20s gathered in the common room of the newly opened Moishe House of the Upper West Side over plates of kosher Chinese food for a discussion with JBC Network author Dr. Elana Maryles Sztokman about her new book out from Sourcebooks, The War on Women in Israel: A Story of Religious Radicalism and the Women Fighting for Freedom.

Elana opened her talk with a brief description of a recent El Al flight in which the plane’s departure was delayed half an hour while passengers scrambled to accommodate a religious man assigned to the seat next to hers and insisting on another arrangement. The experience inspired an impassioned post on her blog, JewFem.com, that was quickly picked up and circulated by numerous news and media outlets including Tablet, The Telegraph, and Haaretz and launched a petition to El Al demanding an end to complacency in the harassment of female passengers by Ultra-Orthodox fliers. “If I had known that piece, out of all my writing and blogging, would be so widely forwarded, I would have never admitted that I cried,” Elana chuckled.

“All over the world, whenever religious extremism comes to power, women are always the first victims,” Elana pointed out, citing Geraldine Brooks’ Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women, “and Judaism is no exception.” The most visible outcome is the high premium placed on women’s modesty—“I hate to use that word, because modesty in Judaism was originally a beautiful idea, going back to Moses: true Jewish modesty is about putting the other person first, about putting others before yourself.” What it’s evolved into, she observes, is a way of controlling and hiding women’s bodies. “In the Orthodox world today, modesty is used as a measurement. We literally measure, inch by inch, religious observance against women’s bodies.”

Elana gave examples of how women are silenced, separated, removed, and prohibited from public spaces across Israel, from radio stations to cemeteries to sidewalks. Until recently, images of women were not allowed on billboards or other public advertising in Jerusalem; female scientists, educators, and medical professionals were barred from presenting at conferences in their fields or receiving awards at official ceremonies. “The levels of patriarchy are astounding: we go from modesty, covering women up, to removing women entirely, to the removal of images of women, to removing women’s voices. This is what’s going on in Israel, and it’s becoming violent.”

Questions for Elana ranged from pragmatic (“How can men and other outside groups be better allies to the religious feminist movements?”) to rhetorical, often raising personal experiences and responses. Members of the audience were appalled at the incidents of violence against Israeli women mentioned in Elana’s talk—stories of vandalism, of rocks thrown at women and their children for their attire or for turning down a segregated street, of women physically assaulted for sitting at the front of a public bus. “So a Haredi man can touch a woman to drag her off a bus and beat her, but he can’t sit next to her?” one participant blurted out, furious with indignation.

There, Israel has seen some progress: segregated buses are down to a third of where they were three years ago, and after a driver was heavily fined by the government for the assault of a female passenger on his bus Eged employees have made a better habit of intervening when a passenger is harassed or threatened. There have been other victories for women’s civil rights in Israel over the past couple years: grassroots campaigns and initiatives have gained firm footing in Israeli society, enabling partnerships across denominational lines and placing much-needed accountability on the government and political leaders—not just the religious ones. “The story here is about the secular government, the state apparatus, supporting religious extremism. The story is not about religious extremists, but how the secular world enables them.”

Globally, Elana holds, there needs to be less tolerance—even on the lay level—for religious fanaticism. This applies to the Jewish world, both in the Diaspora and in Israel: “There is a limit to pluralism; there’s a limit to how much we can accept as ‘multiculturalism’. This is not a legitimate culture, these are not legitimate demands. It is never acceptable for there to be a space in Israel in which women are not allowed.” She shared several examples from her own upbringing, career, and family to illustrate the challenges of upholding feminist values in the Orthodox world, even in her own life. When Elana apologized for adding such personal anecdotes to the discussion, the room erupted in protest: “No, these stories are amazing,” someone called out. “This is exactly what we came to hear.”

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Monday, Nov. 10: Elana Maryles Sztokman at Moishe Ho(UWS)

Monday, November 10, 2014 | Permalink

Posted by Nat Bernstein

TONIGHT at 7:30pm Dr. Elana Maryles Sztokman will be joining the newly opened Moishe Ho(UWS) to talk about her new book, The War on Women in Israel: A Story of Religious Radicalism and the Women Fighting for Freedom. Learn, debate, and discuss about the role that women play within Judaism, in Israel and the Diaspora.

The event will be at Moishe House of the Upper West Side. Dinner from Gan Asia will be served. Please email Orly Michaeli for details!

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From 9/11 to Jerusalem’s Jaffa Road

Monday, November 10, 2014 | Permalink

Journalist Mike Kelly’s newest book, The Bus on Jaffa Road: A Story of Middle East Terrorism and the Search for Justice, chronicles the aftermath of the Hamas suicide bombing of a commuter bus in downtown Jerusalem on Feb. 25, 1996. The book traces the capture of the key bomb-maker and the efforts by the families of two Americans to hold Iran accountable for financing the bombing and training the bomb-maker – only to discover that the American government was trying to block them. He will be blogging here all week for the Jewish Book Council's Visiting Scribe series.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, not long after the twin towers of the World Trade Center had collapsed in a pile of twisted rubble that was seven stories high, I leaped from a Hudson River pier in Jersey City, New Jersey, to the deck of a tug boat. An hour later, after crossing the choppy Hudson on the tug, I walked into the smoky landscape that came to be known as “Ground Zero.” Little did I know that my Hudson River trek would eventually lead me to a street in Jerusalem and more rubble.

Terrorism is personal. Yes, we speak of terrorism in sweeping, impersonal terms – of body counts of the dead and wounded, of the names of groups that claim responsibility for an attack somewhere, of the geo-political issues that may change in the aftermath. But ultimately, terrorism is about losing someone – of a sudden, murderous death taking someone’s life and leaving a family with an eternal hole in its collective soul.

I knew this, of course. Certainly, I instinctively sensed it. (We all do, don’t we?) But it took time for me to embrace the full dimension of how personal terrorism could be.

As a journalist, I have covered my share of terrorist incidents. But in the years after the 9/11 attacks, and as I traced the story of terrorism from Ground Zero, to Southeast Asia, to the West Bank and Gaza and Israel, to Iraq and to Washington, D.C., I felt I was missing something. Yes, I had written about the larger issues of terrorism – of the numbers of dead and injured, of the rising number of terrorist groups, of the difficulties facing political leaders in America and elsewhere in dealing with this phenomenon. But I felt I needed to go deeper.

And so, I went back to a corner on Jerusalem’s Jaffa Road, where a suicide bomber from the Palestinian terrorist group, Hamas, detonated a bomb aboard a commuter bus on the morning of Feb. 25, 1996, killing 26 people and wounding more than 40.

Two young Americans died in that bombing, Matthew Eisenfeld of West Hartford, C.T., and Sara Duker, of Teaneck, N.J. They were in love and talking of getting married. They are together now, eternally buried, side-by-side, in a Connecticut cemetery. Years later, I decided to return to their story. In the unfinished lives of Matt and Sara, I found a deeper story of unremitting pain and the still unfinished search for justice by their families.

It was a story that took me to the streets of Jerusalem, to the Gaza Strip and to a dusty West Bank refugee camp where a 19-year-old Palestinian man (a boy actually) was recruited as a suicide bomber. From there, I followed the story to the White House, to the U.S. Department of Justice, to Congress, to the FBI, to the State Department and to a federal courthouse. But ultimately, it was in the living rooms and kitchens of the families where I found the heart of this story – and the fact that each life taken by terrorism becomes a deep wound in the life of a family.

This is the real story of terrorism – a story all too often overlooked.

For more information about The Bus on Jaffa Road as well as a video and an excerpt, please check out www.mikekellywriter.com.

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Read an Excerpt from Lore Segal's Half the Kingdom

Monday, November 10, 2014 | Permalink

Last year, we were excited to feature Lore Segal—of whom we're adoring fans here at Jewish Book Council—and her newest novel Half the Kingdom, which was published in hardcover by Melville House in October 2013. We were even lucky enough to interview her! Now we come with more good news from the Lore Segal front: in honor of last week's paperback release of Half the Kingdom (get excited book clubs...), we not only have an excerpt from the book to share with you, but we're also giving away FIVE copies of the book. If you want to get your hands on one, it's quite easy, just enter here. The winners will be selected at random on November 18th. [Note: This contest has now ended.]

The below excerpt (pages 116-120 of Half the Kingdom) has been reprinted with the permission of Melville House.

Ilka Weiss lay on the sofa with her legs up. She asked for a blanket. Little David helped, impatiently, to tuck it around his grandmother’s legs. He said, “So, go on.”

Maggie said, “Let Grandmother rest,” but Ilka said, “So the next time King David went down to fight those Philistines ...” and Maggie said, “Mom, Jeff and I stay away from the fighting.”

“Mommy,” said little David, “you can go. And take Stevie. Stevie, stop it.” Baby Steven’s newest skill was turning pages and he was practicing on the King James Bible on Grandmother’s lap.

“Not to worry. I know the story in my head. But let’s let Mommy and Stevie stay, because we’re coming to the baaaad stuff.”

“Go on,” the little boy said.

“King David,” went on Ilka, “was a great soldier, the soldier of soldiers, only he was growing old. King David was tired. His spear was an encumbrance.” Grandmother Ilka demonstrated the difficulty with which the aging king raised his weapon. “His armor was too heavy for him. Climbing the hill, he had to reach for one little low bush after another because his balance wasn’t what it used to be. He watched with a thrill of envy—with a thrill and with envy—how his young soldiers ran ahead while he stood and just breathed. Couldn’t tell if it was his hiatus hernia, his heart, or an attack of anxiety be- cause they all three felt the same.”

“And,” little David prompted.

“And Ishbi-benob, a Philistine of the race of giants, was wearing his new armor. His spear weighed three hundred shekels.” Grandmother lightly swung the idea of its superhuman weight above her head, “and he was going to strike King David down when—Stevie if you don’t leave King James alone, Grandmother can’t check the name of the fellow—here he is in verse 17: Abishai. He came and struck Ishbi-benob to death.”

“Mom!”

“Sorry,” Ilka said. “And King David’s men said to King David, ‘You’re becoming a liability. Next war, you’re staying home.’ And there was another war . . .” Ilka looked apologetically at her daughter, “and there was another giant. He had six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot—which is how many digits, quick!”

“Twenty-four.”

“Very good. And this giant with his twenty-four digits just laughed at King David, and mocked him.”

“Why?” asked little David in a tone of strong disapproval.

“Why? Why indeed!” said his grandmother. “Because King David was old? Because he was a Hebrew? Just because he was on the other team? But King David’s nephew—his name was Jonathan—came running, and Jonathan knocked that mocking, laughing giant down just a little bit. Knocked the wind out of him.”

Little David suggested, “They should have tried talking it out,” in which he was going to remember being reinforced by a hug from his mother, and his grandmother’s kiss on the top of his head, for both women were against striking people dead, and the younger believed there was something one could be doing about it.

“They should have talked,” Grandmother Ilka agreed, “without precondition. And now,” she went on, “King David got really, really old and stricken in years and they brought him a blanket and another and more blankets but he could not and could not get warm.”

“How come?” asked little David.

“Because he was old,” Grandmother Ilka said. “And King David’s men said to him, “Let us go out and find you a beautiful young girl to lie with you.”

“What for?” asked little David.

“To make him warm. The blankets hadn’t done any good. So they sent out throughout all the land and found a beautiful young girl. Her name was Abishag the Shunammite and they brought her to the king.”

“Did she want to come?” asked David.

“A very troubling question,” said his grandmother.

“I always thought it was horrible,” said his mother.

“Yes, it was! Well, hold on, now. You know,” she said to David, “how your mommy had to rush me to Emergency, and then I was in the hospital, and had to go for rehab, and your mommy brought me back, and last night I had to go to Emergency again, and your daddy is coming in half an hour to take you and Stevie home, and Mommy is going to stay and take care of me? Maybe Abishag was one of those people who stay and take care of people, like your mommy, because she is good, which is a great mystery to the rest of us.”

“Mom, don’t,” said Maggie irritably. “I do it because I want to.”

“Which,” said Ilka, continuing to address the child, “is another mystery: Good people don’t think they are being good when they like doing a good thing. If they did it with gritted teeth, then they would think that it was good! Isn’t that funny of them?”

The little boy was listening to the old woman with an alert, bemused look.

“And Abishag,” continued his grandmother, “was young and beautiful and she cared for King David.”

“And made him warm.”

“No.”

Intrigued? Want to continue reading? Buy a copy of Half the Kingdom here.

Braided Stories

Friday, November 07, 2014 | Permalink

Earlier this week, Jennifer Rosner wrote about her novel-in-progress and also a gene mutation, a motherly connection, and the power of string. She is the author of the picture book, The Mitten String (Random House, 2014) and the memoir, If A Tree Falls: A Family's Quest to Hear and Be Heard (Feminist Press, 2010). Jennifer has been blogging here all week for Jewish Book Council'sVisiting Scribe series.

Strings figure not only in the imagery but also in the overall structure of my writing. Both my memoir, If A Tree Falls, and my novel-in-progress, Hidden, have “braided” structures: the weaving of multiple perspectives (and in the case of my memoir, multiple time periods).

A braided form - though admittedly unwieldy when compared to a narrative with a singular point of view – enables the reader unmediated access to the experiential life of multiple characters in a story. This is important when the story cannot be known in its entirety by any single character, or when the writer needs to limit the complexity of a character’s thought (as when the character is a very young child). In Hidden, both of these factors are at play.

A woven structure can reflect and support a characters’ fragmented mentation. Texture can be infused through form as well as through content. Brenda Miller’s thoughts on challah, set in juxtaposition to her thoughts on the braided essay, seem apt here: “As a child, I knew only that the braided bread simply tasted better than ordinary bread, the way texture will often affect flavor, and the way presentation and form can sometimes offer sustenance in itself.” (Brenda Miller, The Braided Heart)

The braided form can have its pitfalls – switching perspectives can feel disruptive to the reading experience, and there is the risk that a reader will become more attached to one voice over another and want to skip around. (Confession: this happens to me, as a reader and as a writer of braided stories, more often than I care to admit!)

But just as I attempt to braid challah for my children on Fridays (gluten free, in our household – no easy task!), I attempt to weave the stories of my characters together, tying the strings – some intact, some frayed and broken – that symbolize the connections and disconnections marking our shared human experience.

Jennifer Rosner's writings have appeared in The New York Times, Good Housekeeping, The Jewish Daily Forward, The Massachusetts Review, and elsewhere. Jennifer holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Stanford University, and is editor of the anthology, The Messy Self (Paradigm Publishers, 2007). She lives in Western Massachusetts with her family.

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New Jewish Book Council Reviews

Friday, November 07, 2014 | Permalink

This week's new Jewish Book Council reviews:

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Judging a Book by the Discussion

Thursday, November 06, 2014 | Permalink
Posted by Miri Pomerantz Dauber

The Postscript series is a special peek "behind the scenes" of a book. It's a juicy little extra something to add to a book club's discussion and a reader's understanding of how the book came together. 

What separates a good book discussion from a blah one? When you've left your book club feeling like you had a really good conversation, what is it that set it apart from previous conversations? Was it the depth or thoughtfulness of the comments? The sharing of ideas and personal reflections? Something you learned or that you thought about in a new way? 

Book groups, actually, are one of the few places, outside of a classroom, where these kinds of conversations occur. They are, by nature, often a comfortable setting in which people are inspired to read and think, share ideas, respond to the ideas of others, and start new conversations – and they can be on any topic. So while book groups are fun and social, an informal place to sit back, take off your shoes, and pore over the contents of the book in your lap, they are also place of education and study. 

 So many books can inspire a great conversation, and sometimes completely unexpectedly. When many readers look for a book to read with their book clubs, it's often a work of fiction or possibly narrative non-fiction in the form of a memoir, biography, or history. A good book from one of these genres is a wonderful catalyst to a lively, passionate, thoughtful conversation. However, books from other genres, many of which are not considered to be good "book club books", can also provide an interesting reading experience and an engaging discussion. 

Take a book like Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz's Biblical Images: Men and Women of the Book. This is a book of scholarship and Jewish thought that explores and elaborates on characters in the Bible. Not a book that most book clubs choose on a regular week. But when you view it as a character study of figures with whom many people already have some familiarity, it can become the centerpiece of one of those thoughtful and interesting book group talks. If this kind of conversation sparks your interest, JBC Book Clubs developed a reader's guide for Biblical Images for The Global Day of Jewish Learning (next Sunday, Nov. 16), both for a single chapter and for the entire book, which can be downloaded as part of the toolbox at www.theglobalday.org

Another book that might get overlooked as "not a book club book" is Ruth Calderon's A Bride for One  Night: Talmud Tales. This book, a collection of stories from the Talmud accompanied by MK Calderon's own expansion of the narratives, reads like a short story collection that will raise questions and examination at every turn. For a book group looking for fascinating, thought-provoking stories (that also happen to have a basis in Jewish texts) to discuss, it's a book to consider (and MK Calderon will be speaking as part of The Global Day's 24x24 series, so you can watch her live!). 

 Of course, finding the right book for you or for your book group isn't simple. And finding a book that will touch off a spirited conversation is never a given, no matter how interesting, thoughtful, or popular a book is. But when you find one that works, it can be an invigorating and enlightening hour or two.

Doreen Rappaport Speaks on Holocaust Remembrance Day

Thursday, November 06, 2014 | Permalink

by Michal Hoschander Malen

Doreen Rappaport, author of numer­ous highly acclaimed books for children and young adults, spoke on Holocaust Remembrance Day at the Great Neck Library, a public library in suburban New York. Her most recent book Beyond Courage: The Untold Story of Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust is a comprehensively compiled and beautifully told recounting of numerous instances of Jewish resistance, of fighting back in ways large and small, of unbowing strength in the face of the Nazi onslaught, something so many are sadly unaware is also an important part of the Holocaust story. Of course, the huge, senseless, incalculable tragedy can never be denied and should never be forgotten. We have, fortunately, an ever-growing body of literature, reflected in the Jewish Book Council's reviews, testifying and bearing witness to cruelty and slaughter and the martyrdom which ensued. But Rappaport reminds adults, and more importantly their children, that there was another aspect to the Jewish experience of the time which we should remember with pride and glory and from which we can draw lessons important to our future survival and health as a people, that of showing resis­tance in any way possible and of showing, too, a kind of courage difficult to imagine in our day. She is convinced that today’s children need to hear the stories of pushing back and be inspired by them. Coupling survivor testimonies with stories of courage and resistance is an effective and telling way to teach young people about the way it was. She focuses on several types of resistance in her book and in her talk, some more dramatic than others, but all significant and vitally important including escapes, uprisings (in ad­dition to the well-known one in the Warsaw ghetto), sabotage, ges­tures within the camps such as the lighting of Chanukah candles, and the saving of children. This last, the saving of children, was vitally important to older Jews who knew that they would probably not survive. The push to smuggle, hide and otherwise save children seemed like the only hope for any possible future and was treated with the utmost seriousness. Rappaport spends much time writing and talking about this crucial and highly emotional topic.

Rappaport is not only a wonderful writer who knows how to bring history alive for a young reader through the written word, she is a lively and engaging speaker, as well, with a charming and welcoming style. Hearing her describe the process of birthing this book was positively fascinating. It began ten years ago, when she was in the process of writing a completely different book on Jewish-Americans. A librarian kept plying her, unasked, with materials about Jewish resistance during the Holocaust. Her mind was focused on the topic at hand but somehow, the unsolicited material caught her interest and the seed for Beyond Courage was planted.

Rappaport described the research for the project and cited help from librarians, experts at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, two research trips to Israel, and the dedicated assistance of many survivors who were witnesses to the events described in the book. She noted the emotional connection she has made with some of these survivors and described what it was like to help them sort out some of their memories of that difficult time. Many are bril­liant and resourceful people and it is evident that they drew upon those traits in their resistance activities.

When the time came to write, there were many decisions to be made about what to put in and what to leave out. What actually constitutes resistance? It isn’t always an easy concept to define. Does it include self-help? Secret schools? Archives left for future generations? Diaries and records of daily life? Even just survival is resistance in its own way and luck plays a part in nearly every story. The definitions and decisions as to what to include were complex. Then came the fact-checking. Many of the events in this book are based on people’s recollec­tions and memories of a time already long ago and in a non-fiction book like this one, care must be taken to authenticate and verify every detail, not always an easy task.

As the book is geared to children and young adults, stories about children are featured. But framing these stories which can be harsh and uncomfortable to hear into a form that children can read and respond to in a positive way was a challenging task requiring a creative approach. At times, she noted, it helped to imagine scenes cinematically in her mind.

The gathering of the photographs, the culling of them and the placing of them within the text was also a challenging task. They help bring the book to life for the reader and are an important part of the learning experience but incorporating them into the whole for maximum effect was not a simple process.

The design of the book was also the subject of deep thought as the symbolism of the choices intertwined so thoroughly with the message being conveyed. As the Star of David is, in the minds of many, an important symbol, and as Rappaport felt it had been de­based and disrespected so often during the Holocaust years, it was important to her to redeem and “rescue” the Star in a symbolic manner within the pages of her book. She had many meetings with the book designer, who is a non-Jew, and was able to convey the importance of the concept. The Star is used creatively throughout the book from the cover onward as a graphic symbol representing hope and healing and the future of the Jewish people; when reading the book, it is worth noting the subtleties of this design feature and how it quietly enhances the overall message.

Audience response to Rappaport’s talk was warm and enthusiastic. Audience members asked questions and shared many of their own stories about World War II. Many were survivors themselves; one was an American soldier who was involved in liberating the camps. There were young people in the audience, as well, and this was noted appreciative­ly by Rappaport. She also drew atten­tion to all the material she was not able to include in this book and said she hopes to write more on the topic at a future date. She left the audience with one thought: all her books (there are about 48 of them so far, and the topics are wide-ranging) share a common theme, and this one is no exception: her theme is empowerment. Empowerment is vital; empowerment is all. Rappaport clearly left her audience feeling more empowered.

Michal Hoschander Malen is a librarian and editor of reference books. She is the children’s and young adult section editor of Jewish Book World.

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Book Cover of the Week: A Thousand Pieces of You

Wednesday, November 05, 2014 | Permalink

Posted by Nat Bernstein

Yesterday was not only the 2014 United States midterm elections; it was also the release date for the first installment in a new Young Adult Fiction series, Firebird:

A Thousand Pieces of You by New York Times bestselling author Claudia Gray has been long awaited in the literary blogosphere, which has taken a particular interest in the novel's book cover. It's not hard to see why.

Basking in comparisons to Cloud Atlas and Orphan Black, the novel's story sounds like The Amber Spyglass with cool new gadgets. Protagonist Marguerite Caine's parents are renowned physicists whose crowning achievement is the Firebird, a device that enables travel through alternate dimensions. When her father is killed, Marguerite pursues his murderer through worlds accessible only to those wielding her parent's invention. But with each new dimension she traverses, Marguerite's mission becomes less and less clear.

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