Joshua: A Brook­lyn Tale

By – April 4, 2012

Joshua: A Brook­lyn Tale traces the lives of three char­ac­ters in Crown Heights, Brook­lyn dur­ing tur­bu­lent times. Rachel is the daugh­ter of a Holo­caust sur­vivor, a rab­bi who is a dis­ci­ple of the Rebbe, Men­achem Schneer­son, leader of the Lubav­itch Jews. She is a bril­liant, beau­ti­ful girl, des­tined to live her life strict­ly fol­low­ing her community’s ways, but she yearns for more. Paul was raised in an afflu­ent Long Island sub­urb in seem­ing­ly per­fect cir­cum­stances, but his par­ents are cold and detached. He longs for the warmth and atten­tion prof­fered by his pious bar mitz­vah teacher, a Has­sidic rab­bi from Brook­lyn. And Joshua is grow­ing up in crime-infest­ed East New York, with an ambi­tious moth­er who works as a maid in the sub­urbs and moves them upward to Crown Heights, hop­ing that her son will get an edu­ca­tion and become suc­cess­ful. As these three peo­ple and their fam­i­lies become inter­twined, we read about deep famil­ial love and hope­less roman­tic love, about des­per­a­tion and accep­tance. We learn about the Lubav­itch way of life and the lead­er­ship strug­gle with­in that com­mu­ni­ty. The author inter­weaves vivid details of real-life trag­ic events with fic­tion to explain the strug­gle of the Black com­mu­ni­ty. The story’s time­line spans four decades in a neigh­bor­hood plagued by racial ten­sions which have only just begun to ease as oppos­ing com­mu­ni­ties find ways to bet­ter com­mu­ni­cate and live togeth­er. This is a fine nov­el about a piece of New York his­to­ry that is still unfolding.

Miri­am Brad­man Abra­hams, mom, grand­mom, avid read­er, some­time writer, born in Havana, raised in Brook­lyn, resid­ing in Long Beach on Long Island. Long­time for­mer One Region One Book chair and JBC liai­son for Nas­sau Hadas­sah, cur­rent­ly pre­sent­ing Inci­dent at San Miguel with author AJ Sidran­sky who wrote the his­tor­i­cal fic­tion based on her Cuban Jew­ish refugee family’s expe­ri­ences dur­ing the rev­o­lu­tion. Flu­ent in Span­ish and Hebrew, cer­ti­fied hatha yoga instructor.

Discussion Questions

Cour­tesy of Andrew Kane

  • Do you think the author por­trayed these dif­fer­ent com­mu­ni­ties authentically?

  • Do you think the author was even hand­ed in deal­ing with the his­tor­i­cal con­flicts between these communities?

  • Did you find the rela­tion­ships between Joshua, Rachel, and Paul com­pelling and credible?

  • How does the author leave you feel­ing in terms of the future of these two com­mu­ni­ties, and racism and anti-Semi­tism in general?