The ProsenPeople

Spies—in the Galapagos Islands?

Wednesday, July 27, 2016 | Permalink

Earlier this week, Allison Amend shared the facts she had about the real Frances Conway and how she became the protagonist of Enchanted Islands. Allison is guest blogging for the Jewish Book Council this week as part of the Visiting Scribe series on The ProsenPeople.

My latest novel, Enchanted Islands, is about the life story of an unlikely spy, a middle-aged Jewish woman who travels to the Galápagos Islands with her husband, Ainslie, a naval intelligence officer, to spy on the Germans living there.

My protagonist Frances Conway (based on a real-life resident of the Galápagos Islands, though perhaps not a spy, and perhaps not Jewish) may not be Mata Hari or a member of the Bletchley Circle, but she had her small but important role to play in the underreported South American theater: South America, and specifically the Galápagos Islands, was the site of myriad covert activities in during World War II.

The Galápagos Islands are of strategic naval importance. 500 miles off the coast of Ecuador, they played a significant role in the United States’ victory in the War of 1812: Captain David Porter captured three armed British whaling vessels that had stopped at the Islands to gather fresh water and tortoises to put in the hold to feed its men. (There’s an apparently apocryphal story that sailors put mail in the Floreana Island post office barrel with their destination, which allowed the United States to find them).

Flash forward about 120 years or so and the Galápagos were again a strategic stronghold. The United States feared that the Japanese navy would muster in the Galápagos and from there attack the Panama Canal, which would have crippled American supply lines. In response, the United States Air Force built a base on the Island of Seymour North, or Baltra, familiarly known as The Rock.

Meanwhile, on the mainland, rumors were swirling that Hitler had included South America in his plans for world domination sooner rather than later. German spies had infiltrated Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Chile and other countries, engaging in intelligence gathering and subterfuge. Additionally, Spain was transferring paper intelligence and equipment from South America to Berlin. Roosevelt possessed what was likely a British forgery of a map purporting to show Hilter’s plans to divvy up South America among the Axis powers and subsequently invade northward. Roosevelt used this map to help convince America to enter the war; it was essentially the Niger yellowcake document of the previous century.

When the real Frances and Ainslie Conway moved to the Galápagos Islands in 1937, they lived for six months on Santiago Island with an Ecuadorian family and a lone Norwegian for company. After six months, they were forcibly moved by the Ecuadorian government to Floreana, which had a history of housing Germans (though by the time Frances and her husband arrived, there was only one German family left). The speculation that Frances and Ainslie were government agents sent to spy is based in part on Ainslie’s military past and an anonymous feasibility study for an air base on Floreana Island, which he most likely authored.

In making my fictional Frances Conway a Jewish spy, I placed her in a situation where she must lie about her culture and religion. As the stakes get higher and higher (at one point, the United States’ security is at risk), the tension this subterfuge creates stresses her to near her breaking point, forcing her to draw on reserves she wasn’t aware she possessed to save the day.

A graduated of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, Allison Amend is the author of Things That Pass for Love, Stations West, and A Nearly Perfect Copy. She is currently on tour with her new book, Enchanted Islands, for the 2016 – 2017 through the JBC Network.

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Here's What I Know About the Real Frances Conway

Monday, July 25, 2016 | Permalink

With the recent release of her new novel, Enchanted Islands, Allison Amend is guest blogging for the Jewish Book Council this week as part of the Visiting Scribe series on The ProsenPeople.

“Wait, so you just made her Jewish?”

When people hear that I based my most recent novel, Enchanted Islands, on a real person, they immediately want to know how much I made up and how much is true to life.

Here’s what I know about the real Frances Conway: she wrote and published two memoirs about her time in the Galapagos before and after the Second World War. She died in 1968 in Los Gatos, California.

I attempted to research her, but was unable to find out much about her other than where she was buried. (There’s a rumor that she and her husband were spying on the Germans who lived there, but it’s unsubstantiated). That’s it. Not a lot to go on.

Frances’s memoirs are interesting both because they are the story of living on a deserted island, but also for what they leave out: any personal information. Nowhere does she mention her motivation for moving to an island in the middle of the Pacific. Nowhere does she talk about how she and her husband—who was 11 years her junior—met or got together, and she gives only the vaguest sketch of their lives before the islands.

I have no evidence that she was Jewish, though her books are dedicated to “Rosaline and Clarence Fisher.” So why make her Jewish? I was interested in the rivalry between German and Eastern European Jews at the turn of the century in this country. What it would mean to this character to have to hide her religion for the sake of her job; what tensions would that create within her? I was also interested in exploring the two women’s changing attitudes toward Judaism— Rosalie, raised without much religion, becomes observant, while Frances, raised in a traditional household, abandons many of the traditions she grew up with.

At readings and online, people want to know why, if I knew so little about the real Frances Conway, did I not just change her name? I wanted to honor the spirit I discovered in her memoirs—an intrepid woman who lived during a tumultuous time in history and whose sense of adventure (and humor, and ability to laugh at herself) buoyed her through. I’m hoping that a renewed interest in her memoirs allows others to fall in love with her as I have.

A graduated of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, Allison Amend is the author of Things That Pass for Love, Stations West, and A Nearly Perfect Copy. She is currently on tour with her new book, Enchanted Islands, for the 2016 – 2017 through the JBC Network.

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30 Days, 30 Authors: Allison Amend

Thursday, November 12, 2015 | Permalink
Celebrate Jewish Book Month with #30days30authors! In honor of the 90th anniversary of Fanny Goldstein's tribute to Jewish books in the West End's branch of the Boston Public Library, Jewish Book Council invited 30 leading authors, one for each day of the month, to answer a few questions.

Allison Amend, a graduate of the Iowa Writer's Workshop, is the author of the novels A Nearly Perfect Copy and Stations West, which was a finalist for the 2011 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature and the Oklahoma Book Award. She is also the author of the Independent Publisher's Award-winning short story collection Things That Pass for Love and the forthcoming novel, Enchanted Islands. She lives in New York City where she teaches creative writing.


What, I’m Jewish! You Want I Should Write a Happy Ending?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013 | Permalink

This week, Allison Amend, the author of A Nearly Perfect Copy and the Sami Rohr Prize finalist Stations Westblogs for The Postscript on the endings and why they are not always so happy. 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. 

To "host" Allison at your next book club meeting, request her through JBC Live Chat

My father has a cousin, Joanie, who is a “reader” in the old fashioned sense of the word: books, lots of them. Though her eyesight is deteriorating, rare is the week Joanie doesn't demolish at least three books. She favors mysteries, hard-boiled detective stories, but there's rarely been a genre which didn't somehow strike her as worth reading. 

Joanie is a hoot; she may be prouder of me than my own proud parents. Still, when I saw her at my book party, she frowned at me through her drawn-on eyebrows (the pencil the same magenta color as her hair), and said, "Honey, why don't you write a happy book? Why are all of your books so sad?" 

"Because," I replied, "life is full of pain and suffering, and as a Jew you should know that." Then I smiled to show I was joking. I'm actually a rather optimistic person. I believe everything works out ok in the end. I've also been accused of being funny. But my books are certainly not the kind where the protagonist rides off into the sunset.             

Why not? Because life is full of pain and suffering, duh. To quote The Princess Bride, anyone who says differently is selling something.             

Also, endings are tricky. They are the most complained-about portion of books, my nonscientific poll suggests. 

As readers, we enter into relationships with these characters—we know their innermost thoughts, their faults, their dreams. And we want them to succeed the way we want our children to succeed, to live happily. But what life is lived without adversity? And why on earth would we want to read about such a life?             

The best endings make the reader gasp in surprise and then recognize the conclusion as inevitable. The characters’ live extend beyond the reach of the novel; and we’re left to think about what their journey tells us about ourselves.

Of course, many books end happily. There are entire genres devoted to reuniting separated couples, or bringing murderers to justice, or vanquishing alien aggressors. And these novels are comforting to us the way the predictability of a 3-minute pop song is comforting, or a cup of Starbucks coffee. But these are not pieces of culture that stay with us, that change us or move us.        

My novel, A Nearly Perfect Copy, is the story of two art-world denizens (a director of an auction house in New York and a Spanish artist living in Paris) who turn to forgery to get what they want, their principles thus sacrificed in the hopes that the end will justify the means. There is no way that the resolution of their story can involve puppies and rainbows.             

Which is not to say that you’ll finish my book imbued with hopelessness and despair. As my fellow novelist Nelly Reifler says, “even a dark ending can be uplifting, exhilarating, as long as it seems to hover in space and time — because then it reflects life to us as it is: unresolved, eternally unresolvable.” 

And that, Cousin Joanie, is the reason why my books don’t have “happy” endings. Also [insert Borscht-Belt comedian accent] what, I’m Jewish! You want I should write a happy book? 

To read more from Allison, see her Visiting Scribe posts here

Allison Amend's JBC Network Lessons

Friday, April 19, 2013 | Permalink
Earlier this week, Allison Amend wrote about writing, and not writing, Jewish fiction and the Jewish connection to art. She has been blogging here all week for Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning.

In 2011, I was a finalist for the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature. Thanks to this honor, I was invited to speak at several Jewish book groups all over the country. I would hate to keep the expertise in Jewish book groups all to myself, and so, forthwith, here are:

1. Jews buy books. I don’t know what the statistics are on this, but I’d guess that Jewish women are singlehandedly floating the entire publishing business. They even buy hardcovers.

2. The mad dash at the end of your reading is not to have you sign your magnum opus for posterity, but rather to partake of the slightly dry coffee cake.

3. Members of the JBC Network read your book, and if they don’t like it, they will let you know.

4. Everyone claims to know someone who they want to set you up with, but no one ever follows through on it.

5. It is acceptable to order bacon-wrapped scallops at a pre-reading dinner.

6. In every group, there is always someone who knows my mother.

7. Most people know my father too.

8. The questions I get asked most often: How do you think of your ideas? Did you have to do a lot of research?

9. The two questions I get asked least often: What do you like to eat for breakfast? Why are so many in your generation marrying outside the faith?

10. If you think you’ve met someone before, it’s probably just that she looks like one of your cousins.

Allison Amend's most recent novel, A Nearly Perfect Copy, is now available. Read more about Allison here.

Almost Jewish

Wednesday, April 17, 2013 | Permalink
Earlier this week, Allison Amend wrote about the Jewish connection to art. She will be blogging here all week for Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning.

So why would a nice Jewish girl not write nice Jewish fiction? My last book, Stations West, was about Jewish immigrants in 19th century Oklahoma. It was very “Jewish.” It was so Jewish it was nominated for the Sami Rohr Prize (but not so Jewish that it won). One would expect that my next book would be even more “Jewish.” Yet, on the outside it perhaps doesn’t appear to be.

The book jacket calls my new novel A Nearly Perfect Copy "a smart and affecting novel of family and forgery set amidst the rarefied international art world. Elm Howells has a loving family and a distinguished career at an elite Manhattan auction house. But after a tragic loss throws her into an emotional crisis, she pursues a reckless course of action that jeopardizes her personal and professional success. Meanwhile, talented artist Gabriel Connois wearies of remaining at the margins of the capricious Parisian art scene, and, desperate for recognition, he embarks on a scheme that threatens his burgeoning reputation. As these narratives converge, with disastrous consequences, A Nearly Perfect Copy boldly challenges our presumptions about originality and authenticity, loss and replacement, and the perilous pursuit of perfection."

There is also a subplot involving a famous ceramicist Holocaust survivor and an art dealer seeking reparations for European Jewish families whose art was stolen by the Nazis. But the main protagonists aren’t Jewish. I would argue, though, that it is still a Jewish novel.

Stations West’s characters were outsiders who, through successive generations, never managed to assimilate into American culture. Similarly, Gabriel is a Spanish artist who feels othered by his language and culture. Despite the fact that he’s resided in Paris almost longer than in his native Spain, he views French culture from the outside looking in. The other protagonist, Elm, is likewise alienated, first, because her branch of her illustrious family is out of favor and second because her grief at the death of her son has created a rift between her and reality. She is no longer able to relate to others in her family or at work.

This experience of being simultaneously outside a culture while attempting to assimilate is a particularly Jewish one. The struggle with issues of national identity, of feigning integration in your own country is one that we all deal with every day, and this way of viewing the world—in the case of A Nearly Perfect Copy, a world created by a Jewish authormakes this book in its own way as Jewish as my first novel. Well, almost as Jewish.

Read more about Allison here.

The Jewish Connection to Art

Monday, April 15, 2013 | Permalink
Allison Amend's most recent novel, A Nearly Perfect Copy, is now available. Allison was a finalist for the 2011 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature for her novel Stations West. She will be blogging here all week for Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning.

People ask me how much research I had to do on art forgery for my new book A Nearly Perfect Copy. The answer is: a lot. Some of it was even necessary. Some of it was just procrastination.

To that end, I wandered into the Musée d'art et d'histoire du Judaïsme in Paris on one hot day, more in search of a bathroom than in search of wisdom. But, reader I found both (and if you’ve been to Paris, you know how valuable a quality public bathroom is).

The exhibits were what you’d expect (Sephardic artifacts, Vichy government deportation narratives, synagogue records, suitcases—Jewish museums always have a lot of suitcases…), but the true gem here is the library. It’s small but comprehensive, and the librarian was exceedingly helpful when I asked for information

I’m not sure I found anything I couldn’t have found in other English language archives, but this pleasant air conditioned afternoon in a quiet and free study space made me think of two things.

First, there are an extraordinary number of Jewish museums. I am in the middle of a project with two friends in which we visit every museum in the five boroughs of New York City (a project that started out interesting and fun and has deteriorated into a duty as we slog through the last 29 museums. You can find a blog about the project here). There are seven Jewish museums out of the 110 museums in New York (eight if you count the Tenement Museum, ten if you count museums founded by Jews). No other ethnicity or culture or religion has as many museums devoted to it (and we’re not even counting memorials, which are not technically museums).

There are of course many reasons for the proliferation of Jewish museums: there is the rich history of the Jewish presence in New York; museums can be seen as a response to the Holocaust’s attempt to wipe out Judaism. But there is also the long history of Jewish involvement in the arts.

A subplot in my new novel A Nearly Perfect Copy is the attempt to gain reparations for art stolen from Jews during the Holocaust. These attempts continue in real life, and encounter thorny legal issues. How can a family prove ownership when the records were destroyed? How do you award a painting to what is now dozens of inheritors? What if the current owners acquired the painting by legal means? Who determines the value of the paintings, and what government should be responsible for paying reparations? In my book, characters exploit these complicated ethical issues for their own financial benefit.

Though I ultimately chose not to focus on this battle (other books, fiction and non have done an excellent job of chronicling the theft—particularly from dealer and collector Paul Rosenberg—and the Nazis’ interest in art), it is worth thinking about the Jewish connection to art.

Read more about Allison here.

A Kvetchy Correspondence

Monday, April 08, 2013 | Permalink

Between February 15, 2013 and March 10, 2013, Allison Amend and Austin Ratner, two members of the 2011 Sami Rohr Prize "class," discussed literary fiction in society, their JBC Network tours, and the publication of their new novels—Allison's new novel, A Nearly Perfect Copy, will be published this week, and Austin's new novel, In the Land of the Living, was published last month. Read their redacted kvetchy correspondence below:


Dear Austin,

 So great to be having an email conversation with you. Having won the Sami Rohr Prize, you are official a Really Big Deal. My first question: How does it feel to be a Really Big Deal?



Ha! I wish I did feel that way. There are so many anxieties surrounding the publication of a book. What if no one likes it? What if I should have written a different book in a different way? What if it is in fact a great book but the robots are about to take over? What if the robots find it boring?

Anyway, this leads me to a question for you: There are so many challenges that lie in the way of creating a book—no amount of whining can ever really tell the tale of how hard it is—and yet when the victory comes and the author copies arrive, I can barely enjoy it. Can you? If so, how?


Dear Austin,

I worry a bit more about the zombie apocalypse rather than the robot revolution, but that's just my meshugas...

I believe we cannot enjoy the moment for two reasons. One, we are writers, and so are a particularly navel-gazing bunch. When we look up from the navel, we worry that even though our books are doing well, they could have done better…

I don't have children, but I imagine publishing must be like sending your child to kindergarten. You're proud, and yes, she is ready to go out on her own, but what if someone throws sand at her on the playground?

Two, we are Jewish, and I was raised by my grandmother to believe that if anything good happens and you enjoy it, you're just begging for Almighty to cut you down to size.

And speaking of being Jewish, did you go to a lot of JBC Network events, and, if so, do you have favorite moments (change the names/locations to protect the innocent)?



The JBC Network is a magnificent resource to Jewish writers. Of course, some of the events go better than others. Here is one particularly memorable story that sticks in my mind:

[The following correspondence has been partially redacted.]

The ****** event was ******. I was picked up at the airport by ************************. They asked ******************************* ****************** like, "************************************ *************************?" I explained about ***************** *************************. They seemed ********* and *** that the **************************************. ********, they explained, *** ***********************. ******************************************** ************************. (This is really true; it turned out that ******************************************************************* **************.) When we got to the ************ ***—this is also true—exactly *** *********************, and I think he was demented and had been looking for the toilet. So I ********* ************************************************************: the *********** JCC coordinator (who ***************************** *** *************** to ***** ************ and *************, she ******** *********************************); ******************************** *********************** *************************** fell asleep.

Meanwhile, I am about to move out of my apartment, which is the one quiet place I've ever lived in in NYC. (The irony being that my extremely loud children live inside it with me.) Proust supposedly lined his office walls with cork. Any trouble with noise? Any solutions?



[The following correspondence has been partially redacted.]

Network memories... At one event the woman who picked me up *****************. We had to go around and pick up everyone who couldn't drive anymore. Then we went to the kosher deli and she put the rolls in her purse.

I also remember a ******** woman who claimed that the demise of Judaism was being effected by my generation marrying outside the faith. I pointed out I wasn't married—to a Jew or a gentile—but if she knew anyone she should let me know.

As to noise, I'm not terribly sensitive, but there's noise, and then there's the noise of little children wanting to play with you, which, along with waterboarding and sleep deprivation, has been declared a torture method by our government.

I have belonged to writing spaces for years, mostly to get out of the house so I have to get dressed in the morning and converse with other humans. For a long time I belonged to the Writers Room in New York. Then I needed to look at different walls, so I joined Paragraph on 14th street. I love having an "office" to go to, and meeting in the kitchen to talk about writing. I've met lots of people who have introduced me to others in the community, and now I never stand awkwardly at a party again! And there's free coffee.

Ok, on a different topic, did you take time off of writing to promote/finish up In the Land of the Living? How do you juggle different projects in different phases? I’m trying to write something new, but I'm having trouble concentrating in anticipation of the book’s release.


I guess… there's a pleasing rhythm to your work as a writer if you have the good fortune to publish more than one book: you take a break from the creative work on the next book to do a little bit of work promoting the last one or earning some money. Even non-writing activities can be a welcome relief, since doing nothing but open yourself to the muses can be a kind of torture in its unadulterated form.

Let's pretend we had a genie in a bottle and could make a wish. Given the many difficulties of writing and publishing fiction, what one thing would you change about the way society treats writers of literary fiction?


Let's see... what I would like most from literary publishing would be to 1. earn a living wage from writing novels and 2. be paid a true advance like writers used to be paid. I get to live in New York, and I love to teach, but sometimes writing necessarily takes a secondary role to more pressing duties…there's often just not a lot of creative energy left over.

If you could wave your magic wand, what would you wish for?


I think I would cast a spell on myself that made it impossible for me to lose perspective when I hit all the little bumps and snags along the way in the writing life. Call it the bird's-eye view spell: avitus oculus visum. Serenity now.

Another question: how do you like giving elevator pitches about your book? You know, when people say what is it "about." What is your book about? And what would your elevator pitch be if you already knew you were speaking to your ideal reader?


I know all about the elevator pitch from some time I spent in LA, where you should always have a log line to your movie ready in case you get into an elevator with Steven Spielberg. (It just occurred to me that his last name is SPIELberg. Awesome.) I do try to have a 10-word answer prepared and a 75-word answer, just in case.

10-word: It's about art forgery and the impossibility of duplication or replication. (ok, it's 11 words)

75 word: It's the story of a woman who is the director of 18th-19th Century prints and drawings at a prestigious auction house in New York who is grieving her dead son. The other protagonist is a frustrated Spanish artist living in Paris who turns to forging artwork stolen by the Nazis during World War Two for recognition and money. Eventually their stories converge, and the book asks questions about authenticity and replication of the irreplaceable. (That's 76 words).

I have to resist the 1000 word answer, which is what I'd really like to give, to gift the reader all the nuances I've crammed into those 300 pages, but no one really wants to listen to that: It's about love! And death! And science! And art! And marriage! And being an artist! And growing older! And raising children! And living in Paris! And New York! And art stolen by Nazis! And the insufficiency of reparations!

The only question I hate getting, though, is "What kind of writing do you do?" I usually answer: "Literary fiction." When the person stares at me blankly I add: "You know, stuff they read in college or in Oprah's Book Club. Stuff no one buys."

Wait, there's a question I hate more: "How many pages is your book?" If I answer that, what will that tell you? I know it's just a question people ask when they don't know anything about writing and want to express polite interest.

I'm thrilled when someone wants to know that I do… and I'll happily give that 1000 word explanation to whomever is interested.

Your elevator pitch?


Your book sounds great to me. I love your idea of "replication of the irreplaceable."

My book is about loss in early, early childhood and how it projects itself throughout the rest of a person's life. The theme is played out across two generations of a Jewish family from Cleveland, Ohio.


Sounds like an important theme you’re exploring—I can’t wait to read it. Maybe I could even have a copy signed by the author?

This has been so much fun corresponding with you. I’m glad the JBC introduced us!


Likewise! Now, to the bar!

Read more about Allison Amend here and read more about Austin Ratner here.

Book Cover of the Week: A Nearly Perfect Copy

Wednesday, January 16, 2013 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Sami Rohr Prize finalist Allison Amend's newest novel, A Nearly Perfect Copy, will be available in April from Nan A. Talese. In the meantime, check out her last novel, Stations West, and her posts for the Visiting Scribe

2011 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature Finalists

Thursday, February 10, 2011 | Permalink




CONTACT: Kathleen Zrelak
Goldberg McDuffie Communications

February 2011 (New York, NY) – The Jewish Book Council today named five finalists for the 2011 Sami Rohr Prize in fiction for Jewish Literature, the largest monetary award of its kind given to writers of exceptional talent and promise in early career. Established in 2006, the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature awards $100,000 to its top winner, with a $25,000 Choice Award given to its first runner-up.

Hailed as a transformative award for emerging writers, the annual Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature honors the contribution of contemporary writers in the exploration and transmission of Jewish values and is intended to encourage and promote outstanding writing of Jewish interest in the future. Fiction and non-fiction books are considered in alternate years.

Today’s announcement caps a year-long process of reviewing books by a select panel of judges. On March 15th, the finalists will meet with the fiction judges of the Sami Rohr Prize in New York, and the winners will be announced shortly thereafter. The 2011 award ceremony will be held in New York City on May 31.

This year’s finalists for the fifth annual Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature are:

Allison Amend – Stations West (Louisiana State University Press)
Nadia KalmanThe Cosmopolitans (Livingston Press)
Julie OrringerThe Invisible Bridge (Knopf)
Austin Ratner – The Jump Artist (Bellevue Literary Press)
Joseph Skibell –A Curable Romantic (Algonquin Books)

Previous winners of the Sami Rohr Prize include Sarah Abrevaya Stein, for her book Plumes: Ostrich Feathers, Jews, and a Lost World of Global Commerce(Yale University Press) and Kenneth B. Moss for his book Jewish Renaissance in the Russian Revolution (Harvard University Press) in 2010; Sana Krasikov in 2009 for her story collection One More Year (Spiegel & Grau); Lucette Lagnado in 2008 for her nonfiction work The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit: My Family’s Exodus from Old Cairo to the New World (Ecco) and Tamar Yellin in 2007 for her novel, The Genizah at the House of Shepher (Toby Press).

The winners, finalists, judges and advisory board members of the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature meet biennially at the Sami Rohr Jewish Literary Institute, a forum devoted to the continuity of Jewish literature. The Institute, run under the auspices of the Jewish Book Council, creates an environment in which established and emerging writers can meet and exchange ideas and perspectives. Within a short period of time, the Sami Rohr Jewish Literary Institute has become an important meeting place for the leading lights of the American Jewish literary world.


After spending his early years in post WWII Europe, Sami Rohr moved to Bogota, Colombia, where he was a leading real estate developer for over 30 years. He currently lives in Florida and continues to be very active in various business endeavors internationally. His philanthropic commitment to Jewish education and community-building throughout the world is renowned. This prize is a gift by his family to honor his love of Jewish writing, and to help encourage the continuation of the magnificent legacy of the People of the Book.


The Jewish Book Council is a not-for-profit organization devoted exclusively to the promotion of Jewish-interest literature. Through an ever-growing list of projects and programs, including the National Jewish Book Awards, the Jewish Book NETWORK, and the quarterly publication Jewish Book World, the Jewish Book Council serves as a catalyst for the reading, writing, and publishing of books of Jewish interest.

For more information about The Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature, please visit our Awards page.