Find out what the Jewish Book Council staff is reading this month!
Sababa by Yamin Levy is an interesting book of two stories, both taking place in Jerusalem, but centuries apart. One story focuses on the Second Temple era while the other story takes place in the 21st century.
Meir Shalev’s Two She-Bears is a beautiful story set on a moshav in pre-state Israel, written by one of that country’s most eloquent writers.
Janis Cooke Newman’s A Master Plan for Rescue is a beautiful story about an American boy whose world is turned upside down by loss. The world is at war and Jack, a 12-year-old Irish American, comes face-to-face with the horrors of Nazi Germany in his Manhattan neighborhood. As Jack sets out to right the wrongs in his world, he learns that the stories we hear, the stories we tell, and the story we hope can come true can lead to true heroism.
I am finding Affinity Konar’s second novel, Mischling, both hard to pick up because of its horrific subject matter — Josef Mengele’s sadistic experiments on and torture of identical twins in Auschwitz — and impossible to put down: Konar’s powerful, original prose pulls the reader irresistibly into this nightmarish world.
As Close to Us as Breathing by Elizabeth Poliner delves into the complex relationship of a Jewish family in the late 1940s. Set in a Jewish beach community in Connecticut, the book shows daily life in the post-war time, and the societal changes that follow.
I’ve been reading Toward a Hot Jew, a collection of raw, incisive, and beautiful graphic essays by Miriam Libicki. I’m fascinated by the shifting relationship between Jews, visual arts, and body image throughout the centuries — and comics are the perfect medium for a contemporary take on the topic.
Jacob Bacharach’s The Doorposts of Your House and on Your Gates sucked me in from Page 1. The novel ponders the family tensions between the forefathers of Genesis and the women among them, retold as a modern-day story of a woman named Isabel following the collapse of an eight-year relationship and subsequent relocation from New York City to Pittsburgh, where she meets a young man named Isaac whose complicated relationship with his parents, Sarah and Abbie — an architect turned ignoble real estate developer — begins to leech into Isabel’s own life.
It’s been very interesting to read Bacharach’s novel alongside The House of the Mother: The Social Roles of Maternal King in Biblical Hebrew Narrative and Poetry by Cynthia R. Chapman, who challenges scholars to reconsider the traditional academic and rabbinical constructs of patrilineal social genealogy between and among the Biblical dynasties in favor of a greater appreciation for the maternal influences on house structure and political divisions in each generation.
And speaking of maternal influences, I also just finished a re-read of Mamaleh Knows Best: What Jewish Mothers Do to Raise Successful, Creative, Empathetic, Independent Children Marjorie Ingall, in anticipation of the talk she’s giving at the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance (JOFA) Conference next month. I hope to see plenty of Jewish Book Council’s readers there!
Armando Lucas Correa’s The German Girl is a great read! The story spans 70 years, beginning with the narrative of an eleven-year-old girl named Hannah in Nazi-occupied Berlin. The novel follows Hannah and her family on the S.S. St. Louis and into Cuba, together with the story of another girl her age in present-day New York, and sheds light on the life of the Jewish refugees aboard the St. Louis. It is a very timely story, especially with the recent changes in our access to Cuba.