Non­fic­tion

How to Spell Chanukah and Oth­er Hol­i­day Dilem­mas: Eigh­teen Writ­ers Cel­e­brate Eight Nights of Lights

Emi­ly Franklin, ed.
  • Review
By – February 20, 2012

OK, I’ll skip the rant. You know which rant. The one about Chanukah hav­ing become pret­ty much the sole mark­er of Jew­ish obser­vance for many Amer­i­can Jew­ish fam­i­lies. Of course, I’m not expect­ing a flood of mass-mar­ket lit­er­ary offer­ings about Tisha B’Av, but, hey, Purim’s fun. I guess I didn’t man­age to skip it, after all. 

Be that as it may, this book of Chanukah themed essays is a delight. Eigh­teen writ­ers each con­tributed a heart­felt and thought­ful sto­ry, rem­i­nis­cence, or opin­ion piece about Chanukah and about Amer­i­can Jew­ish life as each sees it from his or her per­son­al per­spec­tive. Some of the con­trib­u­tors have a com­fort­able niche with­in that world; oth­ers lament or at least acknowl­edge that their perch is awk­ward or uncer­tain. As a whole, the book reflects the diver­si­ty and com­plex­i­ty of the Amer­i­can Jew­ish experience. 

Of note are Jill Kargman’s rem­i­nis­cence of Chanukah in Ida­ho, Jonathan Tropper’s humor­ous admis­sion of an ulte­ri­or motive for join­ing the school choir, Edward Schwarzschild’s mus­ings on the Mac­cabeestyle rela­tion­ship he had with his broth­ers, Amy Klein’s Israeli Chanukah expe­ri­ence, and Eric Orner’s poignant sto­ry about a col­lege stu­dent stuck in the dorm dur­ing win­ter break. Although these are stand­outs, each includ­ed essay is a qual­i­ty con­tri­bu­tion well worth reading. 

So then, how do you spell Chanukah? The eigh­teen authors rep­re­sent­ed here would prob­a­bly agree — you spell it any way that’s mean­ing­ful to you!

Michal Hoschan­der Malen is the edi­tor of Jew­ish Book Coun­cil’s young adult and chil­dren’s book reviews. She has lec­tured on a vari­ety of top­ics relat­ing to chil­dren and books and her great­est joy is read­ing to her grand­chil­dren on both sides of the ocean. Michal lives in Great Neck, NY and Efrat, Israel.

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