Eri­ka Drei­fuss first book, Qui­et Amer­i­cans, will be pub­lished on Jan­u­ary 19th. Check back all week for her posts on the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and MyJew­ish­Learn­ings Vis­it­ing Scribe.

Ear­ly next month, four oth­er writ­ers—Andrew Fur­manKevin HaworthMar­got Singer, and Anna Solomonand I will gath­er in a con­fer­ence room for a pan­el titled Beyond Bagels & Lox: Jew­ish-Amer­i­can Fic­tion in the 21st Cen­tu­ry.” (Hope­ful­ly, some sem­blance of a crit­i­cal mass of an audi­ence will be there as well.)

This ses­sion is just one among a dizzy­ing array of offer­ings orga­nized by the Asso­ci­a­tion of Writ­ers and Writ­ing Pro­grams (AWP) for its annu­al con­fer­ence. If you aren’t famil­iar with AWP, you may find this descrip­tion from Exec­u­tive Direc­tor David Fen­za to be helpful:

The mis­sion of The Asso­ci­a­tion of Writ­ers & Writ­ing Pro­grams is to fos­ter lit­er­ary tal­ent and achieve­ment, to advance the art of writ­ing as essen­tial to a good edu­ca­tion, and to serve the mak­ers, teach­ers, stu­dents, and read­ers of con­tem­po­rary writing.

More than any oth­er lit­er­ary orga­ni­za­tion, AWP has helped North Amer­i­ca to devel­op a lit­er­a­ture as diverse as the continent’s peo­ples. This, of course, is also a boast for the demo­c­ra­t­ic virtues of high­er edu­ca­tion in North Amer­i­ca and the many pub­lic uni­ver­si­ties that com­prise AWP. AWP’s mem­bers have pro­vid­ed lit­er­ary edu­ca­tion to stu­dents and aspir­ing writ­ers from all back­grounds, eco­nom­ic class­es, races, and eth­nic origins.

True to this mis­sion, the con­fer­ence trav­els around North Amer­i­ca. We’ll gath­er in D.C. this win­ter; next year, the con­fer­ence returns to Chica­go. After that, Boston, Seat­tle, and Min­neapo­lis will play con­fer­ence host.

I hes­i­tate to speak for my co-pan­elists, but it’s prob­a­bly safe to say that we’re all very pleased to be part of this year’s con­fer­ence pro­gram. Since we’re hop­ing to run our pan­el on some­thing akin to a round­table mod­el, we won’t be read­ing indi­vid­ual papers seri­al­ly (as is often the case at academic/​scholarly con­fer­ences). Rather, we are aim­ing to offer a live­ly dis­cus­sion — among our­selves and with the audi­ence — in line with what our offi­cial descrip­tion in the con­fer­ence pro­gram promises:

Jew­ish-Amer­i­can fic­tion has long been seen as a lit­er­a­ture of emi­gra­tion from the shtetl, assim­i­la­tion­ist angst, and over­pro­tec­tive par­ents. But what’s nu? How do Amer­i­cans born decades after the Holo­caust and the birth of the State of Israel deal with those com­plex sub­jects in fic­tion? Who are the new” Jew­ish immi­grant char­ac­ters? How does Amer­i­can Jewry’s more than 350-year his­to­ry inspire plot/​setting? And how are writ­ers today influ­enced by Judaism’s rich mul­ti­lin­gual and spir­i­tu­al legacy?

When we sub­mit­ted our pan­el pro­pos­al last spring, we were also required to share a brief state­ment of mer­it” for the con­fer­ence orga­niz­ers to con­sid­er. Here is what we wrote:

Although many Jew­ish-Amer­i­can writ­ers par­tic­i­pat­ed in the 2010 AWP con­fer­ence, not one pan­el ses­sion was devot­ed specif­i­cal­ly to Jew­ish-Amer­i­can writ­ing — in any genre. Our pan­el not only enrich­es the conference’s already dis­tinc­tive mul­ti­cul­tur­al char­ac­ter, but also sur­veys the vari­ety with­in con­tem­po­rary Jew­ish-Amer­i­can fic­tion, offer­ing sup­port, inspi­ra­tion, and resources for attend­ing writ­ers whose work address­es mate­r­i­al sim­i­lar to that reflect­ed in the pan­elists’ publications.

If you peruse this year’s sched­ule, you’ll see that the AWP con­fer­ence indeed pos­sess­es a won­der­ful­ly mul­ti­cul­tur­al char­ac­ter. You may even notice that Beyond Bagels & Lox” is not the only pan­el fea­tur­ing Jew­ish-Amer­i­can writ­ers or writ­ing. And I sus­pect that those oth­er ses­sions, like ours, will demon­strate diver­si­ty with­in them­selves, too. For, as our lit­er­a­ture teach­es us, there are innu­mer­able facets to Jew­ish-Amer­i­can experience.”

The impor­tant point is this: Jew­ish-Amer­i­can writ­ing belongs at the mul­ti­cul­tur­al lit­er­ary table, as was not­ed at a dif­fer­ent con­fer­ence one year ago. Next month, when AWP meets in our nation’s cap­i­tal, it will be.

Check back all week for more posts from Eri­ka Drei­fus.

Eri­ka Drei­fus’s lat­est book, Birthright: Poems, was pub­lished by Kel­say Books in Novem­ber 2019. Her short-sto­ry col­lec­tion Qui­et Amer­i­cans was named an Amer­i­can Library Association/​Sophie Brody Medal Hon­or Title for out­stand­ing achieve­ment in Jew­ish lit­er­a­ture. An Adjunct Assis­tant Pro­fes­sor of Eng­lish at Baruch Col­lege of The City Uni­ver­si­ty of New York, Eri­ka is deeply engaged with and con­ver­sant in con­tem­po­rary lit­er­a­ture, pub­lish­ing, and Jew­ish writ­ing. She is also the edi­tor and pub­lish­er of The Prac­tic­ing Writer, a free (and pop­u­lar) e‑newsletter that fea­tures oppor­tu­ni­ties and resources for fic­tion­ists, poets, and writ­ers of cre­ative nonfiction.