Jo Joe

  • Review
By – May 13, 2013

After the death of her grand­moth­er, Jo is mys­te­ri­ous­ly sum­moned back to the town of Black Bear, Penn­syl­va­nia, a place where she had sworn nev­er to return. And the first per­son she meets upon return­ing is Joe, her once-upon-a-time best friend and boyfriend and now her enemy. 

As the plot unfolds in this nov­el set in the beau­ti­ful­ly detailed fic­tion­al town of Black Bear nes­tled in the Pocono Moun­tains Jo, now an urbane Parisian and renowned philanthro­pist, is forced to con­front the demons that sent her away sev­en­teen years ago. Not only was Jo an orphan sent to live with her elder­ly grand­par­ents, she was a black child liv­ing in a white world. And she was a Jew in a town that nei­ther knew any­one like her nor want­ed to know any­one like her. 

Through a series of plot twists and turns we dis­cov­er that the woman who had been Jo’s sav­ior, her beloved Gram­ma, was not the woman Jo believed her to be. 

Sal­ly Wiener Grot­ta weaves a tale of his­to­ry and romance, love and grief, Jew­ish recogni­tion and ulti­mate accep­tance in a very gen­tile world, in this enchant­i­ng nov­el. While many of the themes are uni­ver­sal, the Jew­ish touch is what sets this nov­el apart from so many others.

Relat­ed content:

Dis­cus­sion Questions

1. Is there a dif­fer­ence between prej­u­dice and bigotry?

2. Do you know any­one of mixed race and/​or reli­gion? How do you think their lives are dif­fer­ent from yours?

3. Do you think Joe made the right choice when they were chil­dren? Why?

4. If Joe and Judith had mar­ried, would it have last­ed? Why? What do you think their life togeth­er would have been like?

5. Why did­n’t Joe become like his father and broth­er? Is big­otry and hatred inherited?

6. Would the sto­ry have been dif­fer­ent if they had gone to high school today rather than 20 years ago? In what way?

7. Does being Black affect Judith’s Judaism? Does being Jew­ish affect her iden­ti­ty as a Black woman? How?

8. How would Judith’s life have been dif­fer­ent if she had been raised a Christian?

9. What do you think of the grand­moth­er? In what ways was she right and/​or wrong?

Mic­ah D. Halpern is a colum­nist and a social and polit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor. He is the author of What You Need To Know About: Ter­ror, and main­tains The Mic­ah Report at www​.mic​ah​halpern​.com.

Discussion Questions