What to do about books with Jew­ish char­ac­ters – who are clear­ly Jew­ish – but with a plot that is not at all about being Jew­ish? When the sto­ry could be just as eas­i­ly about some­one not Jewish…only it isn’t. Is this Jew­ish lit­er­a­ture? Maybe not. But it’s a book about Jews. So then what? Do Jews make the lit­er­a­ture Jew­ish? Is any book nar­rat­ed by a female char­ac­ter nec­es­sar­i­ly women’s lit­er­a­ture”? But then, how could the cul­ture, any cul­ture that sur­rounds a lead char­ac­ter, not infuse the plot, seep into the struc­ture of the sto­ry? And if the sto­ry as a whole is influ­enced by a cul­ture, then doesn’t that put that book, that sto­ry, into the cat­e­go­ry of that cul­ture? In this sce­nario, Jew­ish cul­ture and Jew­ish lit­er­a­ture specif­i­cal­ly. There are a num­ber of recent books that have come out in the past few years whose char­ac­ters are Jew­ish, whose tones are Jew­ish, but – if asked to point to the Jew­ish content…well, it would be hard to find some­thing explic­it oth­er than it being about peo­ple who hap­pen to be Jews. What to do when, for many, the Jew­ish expe­ri­ence is not real­ly about the actions or struc­tures of Judaism, but more broad­ly defined. And there­fore, these new works of lit­er­a­ture couldn’t real­ly be said to be overt­ly Jew­ish. Do we extend our def­i­n­i­tion? But then, how many Jew­ish” books from pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions, those about immi­grants on the Low­er East Side, for exam­ple, were real­ly about being Jew­ish as opposed to being about Jews who are liv­ing a par­tic­u­lar experience?

Miri joined the JBC team in Win­ter, 2004 upon grad­u­at­ing from Bran­deis Uni­ver­si­ty. Orig­i­nal­ly from Philadel­phia, she has lived and stud­ied in Israel and Lon­don. Pri­or to work­ing with JBC, she interned for the Jew­ish Pub­li­ca­tion Soci­ety. After sev­en years as the direc­tor of the JBC Net­work pro­gram, Miri has shift­ed her focus to book clubs, work­ing to devel­op resources to bet­ter serve book club readers.