The ProsenPeople

Book Cover of the Week: Turning Inside Out

Thursday, December 01, 2016 | Permalink

Posted by Nat Bernstein

I was so taken with the content of Steven Shankman’s Turning Inside Out: Reading the Russian Novel in Prison I almost failed to notice the book cover, which certainly stands on its own:

Put Fyodor Dostoevsky, Vasily Grossman, and Emmanuel Levinas together in one sentence and I’m already hooked, but Shankman’s story is even more intriguing and important than a discussion of those three oeuvres: it’s an account of holding that discussion between university campuses and prison classrooms in the United States. Turning Inside Out promises to be a worthy successor to Andrew D. Kaufman’s Give War and Peace a Chance: Tolstoyan Wisdom for Our Troubled Times and Avi Steinberg’s stunning debut memoir, Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian, and the artwork on this book cover is perfection: a graphic blend of literal and abstract representation of the story that strikes the appealing balance of spare clutter, painted in just the right colors.

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Book Cover of the Week: Judas by Amos Oz

Tuesday, November 08, 2016 | Permalink

Posted by Nat Bernstein

It’s a great day for America: not only do we get to fulfill our civic duty and wear cool stickers (and even get free doughnuts, if you know where to go), but the English edition of Amos Oz’s newest novel comes out today!

As intriguing as the book cover looks on the screen, it doesn’t fully capture the glory of the physical hardcover. That bronze color you see on the lettering for Judas? It’s actually a lustrous gold in real life, and the overall effect of this juxtapositional gilded simplicity is practically breathtaking. (And the content of the novel ain’t bad, either.) So stop in your local bookstore and grab a copy to read while you’re waiting in line at your polling place—because you are voting today, right? RIGHT???

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Book Cover of the Week: All Grown Up

Thursday, September 29, 2016 | Permalink

Posted by Nat Bernstein

First you hear that Jami Attenberg, the author of The Middlesteins and Saint Maizie, has a new novel in the works, and you think: yes. Then you see the book cover, and you think: YES.

All Grown Up is a novel told in a series of vignettes from the perspective of Andrea Bern, a single woman in her late thirties whose notion of adulthood differs drastically from the choices of her closest friends—and those of her brother and expectant sister-and-law. But the arrival of Andrea’s niece brings about an upheaval no one in her family could ever have imagined, and Andrea’s untethered self-identity is thrown into utter chaos.

The artwork for the book cover is sure to catch browsers’ eyes when All Grown Up hits the shelves March 2017. Great color blocking and clean lines, contrasted with the squirrelly text across our hero’s bangs and forehead above an outline of the New York City skyline in a solidly two-dimensional image. Looking forward to reading this one come spring!

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Book Cover of the Week: A Hat for Mrs. Goldman

Tuesday, September 20, 2016 | Permalink

Posted by Nat Bernstein

It’s rare that a children’s book about doing a mitzvah tugs at adult readers’ heartstrings, but a new story by Michelle Edwards nearly reduced me to weeping at the office this morning:

A Hat for Mrs. Goldman: A Story About Knitting and Love is about a friendship between a young girl from a Mexican American family named Sophia and her neighbor, the eponymous older Jewish woman who knits hats for newborns, children, and adults in their community. “Keeping keppies warm is our mitzvah,” Mrs. Goldman tells Sophia, “and a mitzvah is a good deed.”

Sophia makes pom-poms for Mrs. Goldman’s hats and accompanies her on walks with Mrs. Goldman’s besweatered dog, Fifi. But as the weather turns cold, Sophie begins to worry: Mrs. Goldman doesn’t have a hat of her own! “Mrs. Goldman’s keppie must be very cold,” Sophia frets, and decides to knit her neighbor a hat herself—but when she finally casts off, her hat for Mrs. Goldman is full of lumps and bumps and holes!

You can guess how the story ends, but Edwards adds a couple unexpected, tender details to the story’s resolution that adults, too, will find touching—I actually sighed aloud reading it on my own! The book includes knitting instructions for making a hat and pom-poms just like Sophia’s, and lovely illustrations by G. Brian Karas.

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Book Cover of the Week: These Are the Names

Tuesday, August 30, 2016 | Permalink

Posted by Nat Bernstein

I've been haunted by Tommy Wieringa's These Are the Names since picking up an advance copy last month. The original edition of the Dutch novel deservedly won the 2013 Libris Prize, but before I knew that or anything else about the book the the cover alone instantly captured my attention:

Of course, once I opened its pages I was spellbound by Tommy Wieringa's masterful (and eerie) storytelling. These Are the Names balances the mundane and the mysterious between two seemingly inharmonious stories—the famine-swept journey of a pack of wanderers trekking thought the Eurasian wilderness and a solitary policeman's investigation into the death of a rabbi, leaving only one other Jew remaining in their reduced border town—without ever striking a discordant note.

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Book Cover of the Week: Fascinating—The Life of Leonard Nimoy

Thursday, August 25, 2016 | Permalink

Posted by Nat Bernstein

I always have an eye out for good books for young Jewish readers—stories that break the mold of what we consider "Jewish children's literature" and introduce interesting ideas along with evocative imagery that appeals to the artistic sensibilities of kids and adults alike. Combine those qualities with my love for all things Leonard Nimoy, and you can see why I'm excited for Richard Michelson and Edel Rodriguez's new illustrated biography:

Accessible to readers of all religious or Trekkie affiliations, Fascinating: The Life of Leonard Nimoy delivers strong Jewish content without overpowering the universal story of first-generation achievement in the United States. Exploring Nimoy's childhood in Boston's West End, Fascinating depicts the assiduous actor's decision to take on his iconic half-Vulcan role in light of the alienation his parents experienced as American immigrants from Iziaslav—reflected in the cover illustration of Mr. Spock's profile superimposed with the face of young Leonard.

Intrigued? Richard Michelson will share more about the book as a Visiting Scribe here on The ProsenPeople over the first week of Elul—the week after next!

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Book Cover of the Week: Mamaleh Knows Best

Tuesday, August 16, 2016 | Permalink

Posted by Nat Bernstein

Only two weeks until Marjorie Ingall's long-awaited guide to Jewish parenting, Mamaleh Knows Best: What Jewish Mothers Do to Raise Successful, Creative, Empathetic, Independent Children, comes out!

Is that a mom blowing two children out of a shofar?

Countering the negative stereotypes of the Jewish mothers, Mamaleh Knows Best is packed with history, statistics, and personal parenting anecdotes from raising two kids in New York's Lower East Side.

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Book Cover of the Week: Where the Jews Aren't

Tuesday, August 09, 2016 | Permalink

Posted by Nat Bernstein

One of my favorite nonfiction writers has a new book coming out at the end of the month that addresses the bizarre history of Birobidzhan, a Russian region granting autonomy to its Jewish settlers along the border with China:

Envisioned as a stronghold of Jewish culture, Birobidzhan became home to thousands of Jews within a couple years of its establishment in 1929 before it was plundered for intellectuals and elites in a wave of arrests in the late 1930s. Following World War II, refugees from the Jewish Pale of Settlement reinforced the remote region's population, only to succumb once more to the Soviet purges which effectively silenced Birobidzhan's inhabitants and their story—until now.

Those stories forming Where the Jews Aren't: The Sad and Absurd Story of Birobidzhan, Russia's Jewish Autonomous Region could not be left to a more capable custodian than Masha Gessen, whose previous books on Russian history and current events range from biographies of mathematicians to the love stories of LGBT Russians to the fate of the Soviet intelligentsia under Communism to the Pussy Riot revolution.

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Book Cover of the Week: Moonglow by Michael Chabon

Tuesday, August 02, 2016 | Permalink

Posted by Nat Bernstein

Yes, there's a new Michael Chabon novel coming out November 2016. And yes, it's good.

You'd better be prepared to pry this one out of your loved ones' grasp and gaze to get them to the table this Thanksgiving: Moonglow is an utterly absorbing "tale of madness and model rocketry, of war and adventure, of love and desire, of the shining aspirations and demonic underpinnings of American technological accomplishments at mid-century and, above all, of the destructive impact—and the creative power—of the keeping of secrets and the telling of lies." From the Jewish neighborhoods of Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Floridian retirement communities to penal colonies at home and war camps abroad, Chabon's newest journey proves well worth the wait.

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Book Cover of the Week: Leaving Lucy Pear

Tuesday, July 26, 2016 | Permalink

Posted by Nat Bernstein

Happy pub day to Anna Solomon on the release of Leaving Lucy Pear! I love the book cover (and the story behind it, which you will be able to read in Jewish Book Council's interview with the author later this summer) on the American edition, but the edition for English readers abroad is also worth a gander:

If either book cover isn't enough to whet your literary appetite, read the novel's opening scene!

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