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Meet National Jewish Book Award Winner Erika Meitner

Tuesday, February 05, 2019| Permalink

In advance of the 68th Annual National Jewish Book Awards ceremony on March 5th, 2019 (which you can buy tickets for here), Jewish Book Council is sharing short interviews with the winners in each category.

Erika Meitner's Holy Moly Carry Me is the winner of the 2018 Berru Poetry Award in Memory of Ruth and Bernie Weinflash. As reviewer Emily Heiden writes, the book "taps into national conversations on topics including motherhood, infertility, terrorism, Judaism, school shootings, the 2016 election, and race . . . A real, honest, scared voice [pervades] the work, asking questions like: How are we so vulnerable? How do we care for each other? How can we stay safe? Meitner gives voice to the fears of the moment in this portrait of a very unsettled American time."

Which three Jewish writers, dead or alive, would you most like to have dinner with?

I would love to go for Sunday morning dim sum with Grace Paley, Tillie Olsen, and Barbara Myerhoff.

What's your favorite book that no one else has heard of?

My current favorite book no one has heard of is Yuri Herrera's Signs Preceding the End of the World (translated by Lisa Dillman), an amazing novella about crossings and translations.

Which Jewish writers working today do you admire most?

There are so many amazing younger Jewish poets writing right now: Jason Schneiderman, Rachel Zucker, Jehanne Dubrow, Rosebud Ben-Oni, sam sax, Chanda Feldman, Robin Beth Schaer, Ilya Kaminsky, Alicia Jo Rabins, Laura Eve Engel, Hadara Bar-Nadav, Matthew Lippman—I could go on and on. In terms of novelists, I am perpetually amazed by Idra Novey, Rachel Kadish, and Eduardo Halfon.

What are you reading right now?

I usually read many books at one time. Right now I'm actually reading two books—Milkman by Anna Burns (which is about Northern Ireland, where I was a Fulbright Fellow in 2015), and Laura Eve Engel's Things That Go (poems, just published this month, which are partially a retelling of the story of Lot's wife).

What are your greatest creative influences (other than books)?

I adore visual art of all kinds—but especially photography, sculpture, and painting—and when I'm back in New York City (or any city, really) I always try to make it to museums or gallery shows for inspiration! The Hilda af Klimt show at the Guggenheim, and the David Wojnarowicz and Andy Warhol shows at the Whitney were both fabulous!

What do you hope readers will take away from your book?

I hope my book complicates narratives of Appalachia, and moves people beyond stereotypes. I also hope it challenges readers to think about the ways in which we often see people as 'other,' and to consider what it really means to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Image credit: Toya Earley

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