In hon­or of Wom­en’s His­to­ry Month, we asked sev­en Jew­ish women writ­ers with books of their own com­ing out this spring to each rec­om­mend two favorite titles. The picks are wide-rang­ing, from clas­sic short sto­ry col­lec­tions and recent nov­els, to soul-search­ing auto­bi­ogra­phies and provoca­tive graph­ic mem­oirs. Tak­en togeth­er, the books make a great intro­duc­tion to con­tem­po­rary Jew­ish wom­en’s writ­ing. Keep read­ing for selec­tions from Julie Orringer, Mandy Berman, and more. 

Leah Cohen, author of Strangers and Cousins (May 14)

After Abel and Oth­er Sto­ries by Michal Lemberger

It could so eas­i­ly have felt like a gim­mick: retell Bible sto­ries from the point of view of their bare­ly-men­tioned female char­ac­ters. But as Lem­berg­er inhab­its these women — from the well-known to those so obscure they remain unnamed — each comes vivid­ly alive. Their voic­es ring true. More than that, their voic­es ring out. In prose that is unsen­ti­men­tal, direct, and deeply mov­ing, Lem­berg­er grants these char­ac­ters their ful­ly com­plex human­i­ty, ren­der­ing their sto­ries new­ly intrigu­ing and relevant.

Bewil­der­ments: Reflec­tions on the Book of Num­bers by Avi­vah Got­tlieb Zornberg

The live­li­ness of Torah radi­ates from this explo­ration of the book we know so bor­ing­ly in Eng­lish as Num­bers. In Hebrew it’s Bamid­bar, or In the Wilder­ness,” which is pre­cise­ly where the author fear­less­ly plunges us: into kalei­do­scop­ic wilds of inter­pre­ta­tion. A Torah schol­ar, Zorn­berg is as com­fort­able read­ing through the prisms of art, psy­cho­analy­sis, poet­ry, and phi­los­o­phy as she is cit­ing the ancient sages. Learned with­out being pedan­tic, wise with­out sac­ri­fic­ing play­ful­ness, she is a qui­et­ly thrilling guide.

Sarah Light­man, author of The Book of Sarah (May 23)

Toward a Hot Jew: Graph­ic Essays by Miri­am Libicki

These extra­or­di­nary graph­ic essays explore Jew­ish iden­ti­ty, Zion­ism, Israeli pol­i­tics, angst, ambiva­lence, and attach­ment through the most exquis­ite and apt pen­cil work, bright inks, and rich blur­ring wash­es of water­col­or. Libicki’s engage­ment with the per­son­al and the polit­i­cal is as rich, dynam­ic and lay­ered as her mate­ri­als: from the Israeli sol­dier that her younger self lust­ed over who is now an adorable oppres­sor,” to the anx­ious in-law in Cana­da who she dis­obeys (“Promise me you won’t go to Haifa”), to the dig­i­tal peti­tion she signs against the depor­ta­tion of African refugees from Israel while at home with her Cana­di­an baby.

Glitz-2-Go Diane Noomin Col­lect­ed Comics by Diane Noomin

Comics pio­neer Diane Noomin, in the intro­duc­tion to this remark­able col­lec­tion, tries to char­ac­ter­ize her rela­tion­ship with DiDi Glitz — her id or alter ego,” or non-per­son­al per­sona.” DiDi is amorous, bouf­fant, busty, fab­u­lous, and fat­ed as she shares her wis­dom and life expe­ri­ences. But per­haps DiDi is best under­stood in I was a Red Dia­per Baby,” in which Noomin uses pho­tos and post­cards to uncov­er what was hid­den in her own child­hood in Hemp­stead, Long Island: her parent’s secret lives in the Com­mu­nist under­ground, revealed by the mimeo­graph hid­den in the attic.

Lori Got­tlieb, author of Maybe You Should Talk to Some­one (April 2)

Inher­i­tance by Dani Shapiro

This is a sur­pris­ing book because even though the osten­si­ble mys­tery at the heart of Dani’s sto­ry — who her bio­log­i­cal father real­ly is — is solved at the begin­ning of the mem­oir, the book reads like a sus­pense­ful exis­ten­tial thriller as she unrav­els the big ques­tions of iden­ti­ty that are both spe­cif­ic to her and uni­ver­sal to the human con­di­tion. How much of our essence is deter­mined by genet­ics? By envi­ron­ment? By who loved us or did­n’t love us the way we want­ed to be loved? How do even the best-kept secrets seep into our lives any­way? And how do we make sense of our her­itage when it was­n’t all that it seemed?

Ein­stein and the Rab­bi by Nao­mi Levy

While this is a fas­ci­nat­ing sto­ry about a let­ter that Ein­stein sent to com­fort a rab­bi, it’s also Rab­bi Nao­mi Levy’s sto­ry, which is no less riv­et­ing. It’s hard to cat­e­go­rize this book — it’s not self-help but does offer use­ful guid­ance; it’s not pure mem­oir, though Levy delights us with expe­ri­ences from her own life, rang­ing from hilar­i­ous to poignant; and while Jew­ish texts are explored, the wis­dom applies to peo­ple of any faith. The result is both sooth­ing and thought-pro­vok­ing, ask­ing us to ask our­selves to take a clos­er look at our souls, because we might just be pleas­ant­ly sur­prised by what we find.

Jen­nifer Ack­er, author of The Lim­its of the World (April 16)

The UnAmer­i­cans by Mol­ly Antopol

An imme­di­ate sen­sa­tion when it was released five years ago, Antopol’s debut col­lec­tion of sto­ries of love, ambi­tion, and politi­cized world­views bur­rows deep inside Jew­ish fam­i­lies — large­ly dis­si­dents, artists, and intel­lec­tu­als — from Los Ange­les to Prague to Jerusalem over the course of the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry. Each tale is both swift and thought­ful, and the end­ings are a mar­vel — sat­is­fy­ing read­ers’ nar­ra­tive crav­ings while mak­ing us hunger for the next savory and metic­u­lous­ly con­coct­ed course.

When We Argued All Night by Alice Mattison

Dis­agree­ments are a sta­ple of good fic­tion, but Alice Mat­ti­son rais­es them to high art. This vibrant and event­ful nov­el chart­ing the inter­con­nect­ed polit­i­cal and famil­ial lives of two Jew­ish New York­ers, Harold and Artie, opens in 1936 and car­ries us rip-roar­ing through the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry. Come for the friend­ship, stay for the argu­ments; laugh, cry, and learn along the way. 

Mandy Berman, author of The Learn­ing Curve (May 28)

How Should a Per­son Be? by Sheila Heti

Heti is the daugh­ter of Hun­gar­i­an Jew­ish immi­grants, and her fic­tion­al­ized mem­oir grap­ples, among oth­er things, with the strug­gles of her ances­tors. As Heti her­self said in a New York Times inter­view, The char­ac­ters in my book are wan­der­ing; they’re aim­ing for the Promised Land, but, like the Jews of the Bible, are fat­ed not to enter it.” The auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal narrator’s Jew­ish­ness is inte­gral to the nov­el, as is the ques­tion­ing she does of her her­itage and of herself.

My Year of Rest and Relax­ation by Otes­sa Moshfegh

Reva, the Jew­ish best friend of this novel’s self-involved nar­ra­tor, is every­thing the nar­ra­tor is not: gen­er­ous, loy­al, and deeply feel­ing. Reva is also plagued with an eat­ing dis­or­der and a dying moth­er, and my heart broke for her more than it has for a fic­tion­al char­ac­ter in a long time. She’s the emo­tion­al core of this nov­el, an empath serv­ing as a con­trast to its often unfeel­ing antihero.

Rachel Baren­baum, author of A Bend in the Stars (May 14)

If All The Seas Were Ink by Ilana Kurshan

In this pas­sion­ate mem­oir the uber-brave Kur­shan opens her heart and takes us through her sear­ing, per­son­al jour­ney. From a dev­as­tat­ing divorce and the lone­li­ness of liv­ing in Israel as a new­ly sin­gle olah chadashah (immi­grant), through the painstak­ing steps of build­ing her­self back up, Kur­shan leans on the pow­er of books, humor, and daf yomi (dai­ly page of Tal­mud), and blazes a trail — reveal­ing that heart­break can lead to even greater love and that romance is not dead.

The Mar­riage of Oppo­sites by Alice Hoffman

This lumi­nous, for­bid­den love sto­ry set in the Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty that strad­dled St. Thomas and Paris in the 1800s fol­lows the extra­or­di­nary life of Rachel, the moth­er of the painter Camille Pis­sar­ro, as she’s forced into a love­less mar­riage and then jumps into a defi­ant, pas­sion­ate affair. The mag­ic of island life bleeds into every line of this aston­ish­ing novel.

Julie Orringer, author of The Flight Port­fo­lio (May 7)

Feast Your Eyes by Myla Goldberg

The amaz­ing Myla Gold­berg returns with a fine­ly wrought nov­el in the form of notes from a pho­tog­ra­phy exhi­bi­tion cat­a­logue — writ­ten not by a dis­pas­sion­ate crit­ic, but by the photographer’s daugh­ter. Lil­lian Pre­ston, the pho­tog­ra­ph­er, earned noto­ri­ety for her nude pho­tos of her child; in an assem­blage of let­ters, jour­nal excerpts, and descrip­tions of the work itself, her daugh­ter blows aside the clouds of pub­lic oppro­bri­um to reveal a bril­liant and com­pli­cat­ed artist — and a lov­ing, if imper­fect, mother.

The Col­lect­ed Sto­ries by Grace Paley

Rarely do we find more truth in fic­tion than in Grace Paley’s sto­ries, where life in New York meets moth­er­hood, artist­hood, hoods, pro­gres­sive pol­i­tics, exis­ten­tial phi­los­o­phy, and self-aware sec­ond-wave fem­i­nism. In draw­ing from her home idiom — a Russ­ian- and Yid­dish-tinged Eng­lish — as well as from the New York Eng­lish of the street — she cre­ates a lan­guage, a dia­logue, that feels like its own new music, yet is as famil­iar and true as our own grand­moth­ers’ voic­es. Her cast of char­ac­ters quick­ly becomes beloved fam­i­ly, and her sto­ries are our sto­ries, now and forever.