The ProsenPeople

Photos from the National Jewish Book Awards

Monday, March 09, 2009 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Enjoy these photos from the 58th Annual National Jewish Book Awards:


2008 National Jewish Book Award Winners


Kathy Kacer (The Diary of Laura’s Twin) and Katya Krenina (The Mysterious Guests)


Rabbi Andrea L. Weiss and Dr. Tamara Cohn Eskenazi, Winners of the Everett Family Foundation Jewish Book of the Year Award


Alana Newhouse and Ari L. Goldman, Hosts of the 58th Annual National Jewish Book Awards


Paul A. Flexner (What We Now Know About Jewish Education)

Edith Everett and Blu Greenberg present the Everett Family Foundation Jewish Book of the Year Award


Elie Wiesel in the New York Times

Thursday, March 05, 2009 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

The New York Times reviews Elie Wiesel’s new novel A Mad Desire to Dance here.

And, read the first chapter here.

Jewish Book World’s review will follow soon…

BookArmy.com is Open for Business

Thursday, March 05, 2009 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone

Another player in the book social networking game has entered the arena: BookArmy. We heard about them a few months ago, and have been eagerly anticipating the launch of their website. BookArmy connects books, authors and readers, providing a place to discuss, debate and recommend great books. Enter the name of a book you love, and BookArmy will search thousands of recommendations to suggest what book to read next. Build a personal list of favorite reads, and be connected with the people, discussions, groups, events and authors that best match your interest. Enjoy: http://www.bookarmy.com/

Anyone who joins Bookarmy before 9th of March, 2009 will be entered into their prize draw to win a luxury African holiday (and a big pile of books).

‘Jewish Mark Twain’ Shines In ‘Wandering Stars’

Tuesday, March 03, 2009 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone

Robert Siegel interviews the translator of Sholem Aleichem’s Wandering Stars on NPR. Click here to check it out.

This week on Shalom TV

Monday, March 02, 2009 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Can’t make it the National Jewish Book Awards ceremony this week? (If you’re in NYC, it’s free and open to the public!) Then catch History Winner Benny Morris (1948) and Women’s Studies Winner Aliza Lavie (A Jewish Woman’s Prayer Book) on Shalom TV throughout the United States from Sunday, March 1 through Saturday evening, March 7 all day, all week.

Shalom TV, America’s National Jewish Cable Television Network, is Free Video on Demand available in over 27 million homes (including 800,000 Jewish families) across America. To access the Network click on “Available” on the Menu line at www.shalomtv.com.

A clip of the television presentations are available on the home page of Shalom TV.

Historian Benny Morris outlines how the roots of Islam have influenced modern Arab thinking


Dr. Aliza Lavie on Judaism in Israel and the inspiration for A Jewish Woman’s Prayer Book

PW Interviews David Plotz

Thursday, February 26, 2009 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Remember back in November when we told you about David Plotz’s Good Book: The Bizarre, Hilarious, Disturbing, Marvelous, and Inspiring Things I Learned When I Read Every Single Word of the Bible? Well the publication date is finally upon us (March). Check out his Publisher’s Weekly interview here.

And stay tuned for a review of this title in the Summer issue ofJewish Book World.

Roth & Heller in The New York Times

Thursday, February 26, 2009 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Zoe Heller’s new book, The Believers, which tells the story of a liberal Jewish family living in Greenwich Village, will be published this week by HarperCollins. The New York Times published a profile of Heller yesterday. To read the profile, visit here.

And, there’s more. The New York Times Art Beat reports on two new Philip Roth novels, The Humbling and Nemesis here.


Tropical Jews

Tuesday, February 24, 2009 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Seven hundred and fifty Jewish refugees fled Nazi Germany and founded the agricultural settlement of Sosua in the Dominican Republic. Why did dictator General Rafael Trugillo admit these desperate refugees when so few nations would accept those fleeing fascism? In a new book out next month, Tropical Zion: General Trujillo, FDR, and the Jews of Sosua, Allen Wells, a noted historian of Latin American, and also the son of one of the original Sosua colonists, examines the story of the Jews of Sosua, combining vivid narratives about the founding of Sosua, the original settlers and their families, and the geopolitical relationships that led to the colony’s founding. Wells also explores FDR’s role in the colony and how his support strengthened U.S. relations with Latin America.

About a year ago, Marion A. Kaplan also came out with a book on the Sosua colony called Dominican Haven; The Jewish Refugee Settlement in Sosua, 1940-1945, which was a finalist for the 2008 National Jewish Book Awards in Holocaust Studies. Her title expands our understanding of the challenges, opportunities and barriers to refugee settlement anywhere in the world and begins to answer many questions about this most peculiar case of refugee migration.The Dominican Haven is a companion volume to an exhibit that was open last year at the Museum of Jewish Heritage. Two examples of photographs from the book and exhibit are below:

Dairy Farming. American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) Archives [NY14917]

Sosua settlers Rosa and Heinz Lesser on their finca [farm]. Courtesy of Hanni Lesser Thuna


Yiddish Lit ONLINE

Tuesday, February 24, 2009 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Your Yiddish online needs have been heard by the National Yiddish Book Center! As a result of an alliance between the Yiddish Book Center and the Internet Archive of San Francisco, the full texts of over 10,000 works of modern Yiddish literature, comprising the National Yiddish Book Center’s Ste3ven Spielberg Digital Library, can now be read, downloaded, and printed in popular formats, FREE (YES–FREE!!) of charge, at www.yiddishbooks.org, or www.archive.org/details/nationalyiddishbookcenter. “It’s a historic moment for Yiddish culture,” says Aaron Lansky, founder and president of the nonprofit Yiddish Book Center (and author of Outwitting History). “The magnificent record of a civilization the Nazis sought to destroy has been brought fully into the 21st century.”

Meet Sami Rohr Prize Finalist…Dalia Sofer

Monday, February 23, 2009 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Our fifth, and final, installment of this year’s “Words from our Finalists”…Dalia Sofer

Dalia…meet our Readers
Readers…meet Dalia

What are some of the most challenging things about writing fiction?

Ensuring that the world you have created is engaging and cohesive, that all the narrative threads you have introduced early on are carried until the end, and that multiple layers are woven through the story without drawing attention to themselves. All of this should appear seamless to the reader.

What or who has been your inspiration for writing fiction?

I’m not sure I can pinpoint a specific inspiration—for me writing is a release, a device through which I digest thoughts and emotions. The final product—the book—is a vessel that holds all this mishmash for me.

I find myself consistently drawn to ambiguity–in behavior, in relationships, in memory, in history, in governments, even in promises. I am also fascinated by the idea of the wheel of fortune—that life is favorable one instant and seemingly disastrous the next. I find much of my inspiration in these grey areas.

Who is your intended audience?

The marine iguanas in the Galapagos Islands.

Do you think your work speaks predominantly to your generation? Future generations? Or, older generations?

I think (and hope) that it speaks to all generations. My novel is very much about loss, and everyone can relate to that on some level, regardless of age. Imprisonment is its most obvious and extreme manifestation—the man who had everything loses everything, literally overnight. But the loss is far greater than that: it’s the disappearance of a whole nation as it once was, the annihilation of a way of life. I’ve often thought of this novel as a kind of elegy to what once was.

W. G. Sebald once said, “the artistic self engages personally in […] a reconstruction, pledging itself to building a memorial.” The idea of the writer as builder of a memorial, however imperfect, struck a resonant chord with me.

Who is the reader over your shoulder?

My very discriminating cat Leo.

Are you working on anything new right now?

I am working on my second novel, about an elderly man in a remote village in Southwestern France.

What are you reading now?

I tend to read several books at once. Currently I am reading Peter Matthiessen’s Shadow Country, R.K. Narayan’s Malgudi Days, and (revisiting) Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. Oh, and I forgot to mention, Organizing for Dummies.

When did you decide to be a writer? Where were you?

The first time I felt jolted out of my isolation after arriving in America was while reading Edith Wharton’s Ethan Fromein eighth grade and identifying—despite the vast geographical and chronological gaps separating us—with the reticent but kindhearted protagonist, trapped in a loveless marriage in the bitter cold of a New England town. In Ethan Frome I had for the first time encountered a protagonist whose passivity I recognized all too well, and ironically, it was in this reticent man that I saw a world opening up to me—a world where all that is left unsaid in real life can finally be said—a world where fictive characters become the reflections of the tangled emotions of humans—the world of novels.

What is the mountaintop for you — how do you define success?

Knowing that I have connected with readers both emotionally and intellectually, and occasionally challenged them.

How do you write — what is your private modus operandi? What talismans, rituals, props do you use to assist you?

I carry a mandrake root in my pocket at all times. I play the pungi with a white turban around my head to charm my pet snake out of his basket. I wear a silk robe bought from Shanghai, drink absinthe and read Baudelaire into all hours of the night.

What do you want readers to get out of your book?

That’s not for me to say. But I’m always eager to hear what they did get out of the book.