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 Wests 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 author — makes this book in its own way as Jew­ish as my first nov­el. Well, almost as Jewish.

Read more about Alli­son here.

Alli­son Amend, a grad­u­ate of the Iowa Writ­ers’ Work­shop, is the author of the Inde­pen­dent Pub­lish­er Book Award-win­ning short sto­ry col­lec­tion Things That Pass for Love and the nov­els Sta­tions West (a final­ist for the 2011 Sami Rohr Prize for Jew­ish Lit­er­a­ture and the Okla­homa Book Award) and A Near­ly Per­fect Copy. She lives in New York City.