Post­ed by Nao­mi Firestone-Teeter

Ever won­der about the sto­ry behind a book’s cov­er? Well, we do. All the time. So, we asked Racelle Rosett, and the team behind her beau­ti­ful cov­er for Mov­ing Waters, Will Deutsch (the artist) and Char­lotte Strick (the design­er), a few ques­tions about how their cov­er came to be:

Racelle Rosett: I did a read­ing last spring of the title sto­ry from my col­lec­tion Mov­ing Waters at a launch par­ty for Zeek (spon­sored by LA Cen­ter for Jew­ish Cul­ture and Cre­ativ­i­ty, the Jew­ish Artist Ini­tia­tive, Jew­li­cious, and the Six Points Fel­low­ship). 

I met Will Deutsch there and had an imme­di­ate affin­i­ty for the work he was doing. Both of us were attend­ing to the ques­tion of ancient Jew­ish rit­u­al in mod­ern Jew­ish life here in LA — I came to it as a writer and he came to it as a visu­al artist. Lat­er we arranged to meet at the Farmer’s Mar­ket in Hol­ly­wood and he brought along his orig­i­nals, over a hun­dred images, and I was real­ly tak­en by them; I felt like there should be a set of them in every Rabbi’s study. This year Will was award­ed the Six Points Fel­low­ship for Emerg­ing Jew­ish Artists and has been select­ed as the Artist in Res­i­dence for the Fed­er­a­tion in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia. The mik­vah image was so spe­cif­ic and cor­rect for the col­lec­tion. I loved that, as a read­er, you felt like you were step­ping into this pool, that you would soon be immersed in this world.

I have been a fan of Char­lotte Strick’s work for many years. So often I would see a won­der­ful book cov­er and I would flip it over and see that it had been designed by Char­lotte. This was the case recent­ly with the cov­er Lis­ten to This — I crossed the floor at B&N just to pick it up and look at it — the sign of a very good cov­er. It was a joy to have Char­lotte bring her tal­ent to this project. When we start­ed this process she asked me which cov­ers I liked best and I said yours”. It was easy and a plea­sure to entrust her with these deci­sions. I brought her Will’s image and she under­stood imme­di­ate­ly how to enhance and sup­port it. 

Will Deutsch: I was inspired by Racelle’s treat­ment of her char­ac­ters as they found them­selves bump­ing into rit­u­al in their day-to-day exis­tence. In many ways this par­al­leled my own artis­tic prac­tice and inter­ests. It was in this inter­sec­tion that we became good friends and now artis­tic col­lab­o­ra­tors. Though this par­tic­u­lar piece was done before Racelle and I ever met each oth­er, it seems like it was made just for this book. And, in a way, I think it was. 

This image actu­al­ly comes from a larg­er body of work col­lec­tive­ly titled Notes From the Tribe’. It’s a series of 124 illus­tra­tions depict­ing var­i­ous Jew­ish tra­di­tions and expe­ri­ences as well as char­ac­ters from the Torah. The impe­tus for this art came from my expe­ri­ences grow­ing up in Orange Coun­ty (where there are more strip malls than Jew­ish peo­ple). In my fam­i­ly alone there is a Con­ser­v­a­tive Can­tor (my moth­er), an obser­vant Ortho­dox Jew, an athe­ist and an agnos­tic; yet all of us iden­ti­fy strong­ly as Jews. So I took it upon myself to make paint­ings that encap­su­late the essence of what it is that ties us all togeth­er. In regards to this spe­cif­ic image, I had nev­er seen a depic­tion of a woman in this day and age bathing in the mikveh. Her back is turned to the view­er as this is her own pri­vate ritual. 

I want­ed the images I cre­at­ed to incor­po­rate the Jew­ish cul­tur­al aes­thet­ics that I had come to know and love but had not yet been brought togeth­er in any spe­cif­ic way. So I began with the object that is the gen­e­sis for all our sto­ries, laws and traditions…the Torah. So each piece I make is done with a quill in black ink on a parch­ment like paper and in mul­ti­ples of 62. How­ev­er, a Torah is not sup­posed to con­tains pictures….which is a prob­lem when that is what you are cre­at­ing. So, I start­ed to look at what is actu­al­ly in a Torah-Hebra­ic cal­lig­ra­phy. My line work, espe­cial­ly in the faces, ref­er­ences var­i­ous parts of the Hebrew let­ter bro­ken down and reap­pro­pri­at­ed, from the okets (small pro­tru­sions which can be seen around the eyes to the gag (often the bod­ies of Hebrew let­ters which I use as cheek bones)) and even small tag­gin (crowns). One can see by the cov­er of this book that the process of draw­ing intri­cate lines in this man­ner helps to cre­ate what I feel is an inti­mate rela­tion between the view­er and the sub­ject. Both the form and con­tent show rev­er­ence for that which inspired them.

Design­er Char­lotte Strick dives in fur­ther and answers a few of our ques­tions about her process:

  • Can you tell us any­thing inter­est­ing about the design process for this cover?

Lucky for me, Racelle came to this project with an illus­tra­tion that not only made sense for her new col­lec­tion of sto­ries, but also which I could instant­ly see would make a strong cov­er image (with plen­ty of room for type). 

  • Do you have any pre­vi­ous drafts you could share? 

I have been cre­at­ing book jack­ets now for over a decade, and some­times the designs are labored over and go through many rounds while oth­ers, like Mov­ing Waters, just come togeth­er quick­ly. As soon as I saw Will’s illus­tra­tion it was obvi­ous where the type would sit. Racelle has a clean, mod­ern aes­thet­ic, and this type style paired well with her writ­ing. The title type was designed to feel like it was being revealed to us in the rip­ples of the pool.

Note from Racelle: I loved Char­lot­te’s choice of the mod­ern type style paired with the almost bib­li­cal imagery of the mik­vah — the sto­ries reside just at the place between ancient rit­u­al and mod­ern Jew­ish life so it felt just right to me.

  • What are the top 3 favorite cov­ers that you’ve designed?

This is a very hard ques­tion to answer! It’s like being asked who are your three favorite chil­dren (assum­ing you have a brood at home). A few recent favorites would have be Threats by Amelia Gray, All We Know: Three Lives by Lisa Cohen, and two plays by Denis John­son Soul of a Whore and Purvis.

Edi­tor’s Note: Char­lotte Strick also designed the cov­er of anoth­er recent Book Cov­er of the Week”: Net­work author Rich Cohen’s The Fish That Ate the Whale, as well as the fol­low­ing cov­ers on the JBC site:


Read more about Racelle, Will, and Char­lotte here.

Orig­i­nal­ly from Lan­cast­er, Penn­syl­va­nia, Nao­mi is the CEO of Jew­ish Book Coun­cil. She grad­u­at­ed from Emory Uni­ver­si­ty with degrees in Eng­lish and Art His­to­ry and, in addi­tion, stud­ied at Uni­ver­si­ty Col­lege Lon­don. Pri­or to her role as exec­u­tive direc­tor, Nao­mi served as the found­ing edi­tor of the JBC web­site and blog and man­ag­ing edi­tor of Jew­ish Book World. In addi­tion, she has over­seen JBC’s dig­i­tal ini­tia­tives, and also devel­oped the JBC’s Vis­it­ing Scribe series and Unpack­ing the Book: Jew­ish Writ­ers in Conversation.