Image cred­it: Toya Earley

In advance of the 68th Annu­al Nation­al Jew­ish Book Awards cer­e­mo­ny on March 5th, 2019 (which you can buy tick­ets for here), Jew­ish Book Coun­cil is shar­ing short inter­views with the win­ners in each category.

Eri­ka Meit­ner’s Holy Moly Car­ry Me is the win­ner of the 2018 Berru Poet­ry Award in Mem­o­ry of Ruth and Bernie Wein­flash. As review­er Emi­ly Hei­den writes, the book taps into nation­al con­ver­sa­tions on top­ics includ­ing moth­er­hood, infer­til­i­ty, ter­ror­ism, Judaism, school shoot­ings, the 2016 elec­tion, and race … A real, hon­est, scared voice [per­vades] the work, ask­ing ques­tions like: How are we so vul­ner­a­ble? How do we care for each oth­er? How can we stay safe? Meit­ner gives voice to the fears of the moment in this por­trait of a very unset­tled Amer­i­can time.”

Which three Jew­ish writ­ers, dead or alive, would you most like to have din­ner with?

I would love to go for Sun­day morn­ing dim sum with Grace Paley, Tillie Olsen, and Bar­bara Myerhoff.

What’s your favorite book that no one else has heard of?

My cur­rent favorite book no one has heard of is Yuri Her­rera’s Signs Pre­ced­ing the End of the World (trans­lat­ed by Lisa Dill­man), an amaz­ing novel­la about cross­ings and translations.

Which Jew­ish writ­ers work­ing today do you admire most?

There are so many amaz­ing younger Jew­ish poets writ­ing right now: Jason Schnei­der­man, Rachel Zuck­er, Jehanne Dubrow, Rose­bud Ben-Oni, sam sax, Chan­da Feld­man, Robin Beth Schaer, Ilya Kamin­sky, Ali­cia Jo Rabins, Lau­ra Eve Engel, Hadara Bar-Nadav, Matthew Lipp­man — I could go on and on. In terms of nov­el­ists, I am per­pet­u­al­ly amazed by Idra Novey, Rachel Kadish, and Eduar­do Halfon.

What are you read­ing right now?

I usu­al­ly read many books at one time. Right now I’m actu­al­ly read­ing two books — Milk­man by Anna Burns (which is about North­ern Ire­land, where I was a Ful­bright Fel­low in 2015), and Lau­ra Eve Engel’s Things That Go (poems, just pub­lished this month, which are par­tial­ly a retelling of the sto­ry of Lot’s wife).

What are your great­est cre­ative influ­ences (oth­er than books)?

I adore visu­al art of all kinds — but espe­cial­ly pho­tog­ra­phy, sculp­ture, and paint­ing — and when I’m back in New York City (or any city, real­ly) I always try to make it to muse­ums or gallery shows for inspi­ra­tion! The Hil­da af Klimt show at the Guggen­heim, and the David Woj­narow­icz and Andy Warhol shows at the Whit­ney were both fabulous!

What do you hope read­ers will take away from your book?

I hope my book com­pli­cates nar­ra­tives of Appalachia, and moves peo­ple beyond stereo­types. I also hope it chal­lenges read­ers to think about the ways in which we often see peo­ple as oth­er,’ and to con­sid­er what it real­ly means to love our neigh­bors as ourselves.