Fertile Ground: Jewish Literature | Collection Development, July 2013

ljx130701webColdev Fertile Ground: Jewish Literature | Collection Development, July 2013

I’ve been reading, speaking about, and thinking on Jewish literature for a long time, and I’m continually amazed at how diverse it is and how Jewish writers continue to illuminate and reflect Jewish life in all its amazing variety. Jewish writers find fertile ground in every genre in order to explore the ways Jews live, think, and interact with the world around them.

The question of what makes a book Jewish is not easily answered; ask three people, and you’ll get four answers. For purposes of this article, I’ve chosen books that were written by Jewish authors in English, Hebrew, or Yiddish, have recognizably Jewish characters, and deal with Jewish themes. And Jewish themes turn out to be universal: the search for identity, the relationship with a supreme deity, issues of family and civic responsibility, and the concepts of guilt, exile, and redemption. These are books that everyone can enjoy and that you can suggest to your readers without hesitation. In several cases, I’ve noted non-Jewish read-alikes. If the subject of what makes a book Jewish intrigues you (or your patrons), there’s a wonderful collection of essays by well-known Jewish authors on the subject: Who We Are: On Being (and Not Being) a Jewish American Writer (Schocken. 2005. ed. by Derek Rubin. ISBN 9780805242393. $25).

Excitement in the literature

The last few years have introduced some exciting new authors, along with new novels from favorite authors, many of whom are represented below. In genre fiction, there’s a new and very promising mystery series from an Israeli author; historical fiction set in biblical times such as The Red Tent; a Jewish “take” on the Scandinavian noir thrillers we all love; and several wonderful memoirs. For page-turning, ripped-from-the-headlines thrillers, look no further than Daniel Silva, with his perennially best-selling series about Gabriel Allon, art restorer and Mossad agent. Do your patrons enjoy magical realism? Two books out this year will fill the bill: Helene Wecker’s The Golem and the Jinni and Rebecca Miller’s Jacob’s Folly. Jewish literary fiction is alive and well with a number of critically acclaimed novels and prizewinners, including a terrific present-day version of Edith Wharton’s Age of Innocence, titled The Innocents.

Now that Philip Roth has announced he won’t be writing novels any longer (can it possibly be true?), we can take a breath, review our holdings of his works, and fill in and replace the worn-out copies. You’ll be able to see which titles are most popular in your library, but make sure you have serviceable copies of the titles listed in the Classics section below. For older titles, citations are to recent trade paperback editions, as many older titles have been reissued in new editions with more attractive covers and introductions that provide context.

Timing is everything

July is a good time for librarians to think about their Jewish literature collections. With the major Jewish holidays coming up in early September this year, there’s just enough time to purchase those titles you’ve missed and freshen up the older, perennially popular titles. Be ready to talk up new titles with readers and reading groups, set up displays, promote books online, etc.

Consider these online collection development resources for the very active and vibrant world of Jewish American literature for continuing collection development assistance. The Jewish Book Council (www.jewishbookcouncil.org) is the organization that gives out the annual National Jewish Book Awards. Its website is a great resource for information about books new and old. The website of the Association of Jewish Libraries (www.jewishlibraries.org) is a useful resource for booklists for reading groups and Jewish Book Month (the 30 days leading up to Hanukkah). Its quarterly review of new books is a helpful resource; a subscription requires membership. Check out also the annual American Library Association–sponsored Sophie Brody Award (www.ala.org/rusa/awards/brody) “for outstanding achievement in Jewish literature,” given out since 2006.

Jewish literature is written the world over, in many countries, in many languages. I’ve focused on books written in English-speaking countries and in Israel. All titles have U.S. publishers and should be easily available.

This article is divided into two parts. The first group of annotated titles consists of recent, noteworthy books in various genres. Although they’re all worth having in your collection, the must-haves are starred (OrangeReviewStar Fertile Ground: Jewish Literature | Collection Development, July 2013). The second group consists of classics every library should own.

Rosalind Reisner, a retired Librarian, is the author of the award-winning Jewish American Literature: A Guide to Reading Interests and Read On…Life Stories: Reading Lists for Every Taste (both Libraries Unlimited). She chairs the reading committee for the Great Group Reads list of recommended books for National Reading Group Month: www.nationalreadinggroupmonth.org. She speaks and writes about Jewish literature, memoirs, and readers’ advisory service. Visit her website/blog at www.areadersplace.net

Literary Fiction/Short Stories

Attenberg, Jami. The Middlesteins. Grand Central. 2012. 273p. ISBN 9781455507214. $24.99.

Edie Middlestein’s successful, suburban life is threatened by her out-of-control eating. When she loses her job, her husband, and her health, her children and their families are drawn into Edie’s failure to deal with her cravings. But is Edie the only one at fault? Attenberg’s sly and compassionate family drama will resonate with all readers. (LJ 7/12)

Auslander, Shalom. Hope: A Tragedy. Riverhead: Penguin Group (USA). 2012. 292p. ISBN 9781594488382. $26.95.

Solomon Kugel, world-class worrier, decides to leave the city and resettle his family in a quiet upstate New York town, but he hasn’t bargained for the lunatic who’s burning down farms in the neighborhood, or the iconic Holocaust survivor hiding in his attic. As usual, Auslander spares no sacred cows in his absurdist comedy. (LJ 12/11)

Bender, Karen E. A Town of Empty Rooms. Counterpoint. 2013. 291p. ISBN 9781619020696. $25.

Serena and Dan Shine, both grieving for lost family members, are forced to leave New York for small-town North Carolina, where their neighbors appear confused and threatened by having a Jewish family in their midst. With their marriage under stress, Serena and Dan embark on a search for community that leads them down some questionable paths.

OrangeReviewStar Fertile Ground: Jewish Literature | Collection Development, July 2013 Englander, Nathan. What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank: Stories. Knopf. 2012. 207p. ISBN 9780307958709. $24.95.

Whole novels are contained in these short stories about Jews in Israel and the United States. A group of observant Jewish boys on Long Island grapple with the correct response to an anti-Semitic bully, a woman in West Bank Israel claims the child whose life she saved as an infant, and a man encounters the wrong people at a peep show. Filled with humor and insight, this collection was a finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize. (LJ 6/15/12)

Karmel, Miriam. Being Esther. Milkweed Editions. 2013. 187p. ISBN 9781571310965. $22.

Esther Lustig realizes that although she still feels like herself, others, seeing an 85-year- old woman, have a different perception. Resisting her children’s entreaties to move to an assisted living facility, she searches for meaning as she reviews a life filled with struggles and regrets.

Keret, Etgar. Suddenly, a Knock on the Door: Stories. Farrar. 2012. 189p. tr. from Hebrew by Miriam Shlesinger & others. ISBN 9780374533335. pap. $14.

Keret’s stories “take the world by storm and stealth,” wrote LJ’s reviewer. Filled with magical realism and absurdist humor, they pack a unique punch. (LJ 4/1/12)

OrangeReviewStar Fertile Ground: Jewish Literature | Collection Development, July 2013 Segal, Francesca. The Innocents. Voice. 2012. 282p. ISBN 9781401341817. $25.99.

Edith Wharton’s Age of Innocence underpins this novel set in a Jewish enclave in London in the present day. Adam Newman, engaged to Rachel Gilbert, wonders if he’s submitting too easily to the expectations of his family. Then he meets Rachel’s free-spirited cousin Ellie, who offers him the opportunity to escape from his embracing but parochial community. Winner of the National Jewish Book Award for fiction, Segal’s warm and compassionate story will enchant readers. (LJ 4/1/12)

Stanger-Ross, Ilana. Sima’s Undergarments for Women. Penguin Group (USA). 2010. 320p. ISBN 9780374533335. pap. $15.

Sima runs a lingerie shop in the religious neighborhood of Borough Park, Brooklyn. A chance meeting with Timna, the young Israeli woman who becomes her new seamstress, makes Sima see her own life in a new light. Readers who enjoyed Rachel Joyce’s The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry for its homely insights into friendship and marriage will find some of the same qualities here. (LJ 10/15/08)

Steinberg, Janice. The Tin Horse. Random. 2013. 340p. ISBN 9780679643746. $26.

Twinship, identity, and family secrets are the ingredients in this multigenerational family saga about Barbara and Elaine Greenstein, growing up in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles, when it was a Jewish enclave. The sisters couldn’t have been more different, and when Elaine vanishes, it puts a hole in the heart of the family that takes Barbara decades to unravel. A strong sense of setting and well-delineated characters contribute to this satisfying tale. (LJ 10/1/12)

Historical Fiction/Holocaust

OrangeReviewStar Fertile Ground: Jewish Literature | Collection Development, July 2013 Cantor, Jillian. Margot. Riverhead: Penguin Group (USA). Sept. 2013. 338p. ISBN 9781594486432. pap. $16.

What if Anne Frank’s sister, Margot, had survived the war and had come to Philadelphia as Margie Franklin, no longer Jewish? That’s the premise of this novel in which fact (Margot wrote a diary that was never found) and fiction (a romance with Peter) create a powerful story about the effects of hiding.

Hoffman, Alice. The Dovekeepers. Scribner. 2011. 504p. ISBN 9781451617474. $27.99.

Hoffman tells the story of the Jewish Zealots who held out against the Romans in the fortress of Masada from the point of view of the four women who tended the doves. Fiercely independent, they come to rely on each other as the Roman siege draws to its grisly close. (LJ 6/15/11)

Kanner, Rebecca. Sinners and the Sea. Howard Bks: S. & S. 2013. ISBN 9781451695236. $22.99.

Noah’s wife, unnamed in Genesis, tells how she married 600-year-old Noah, a righteous iconoclast who serves the God of Adam in a world filled with sinners. And in a very modern version of the tale we all know, she and their three sons join Noah on the Ark to save the world. This is for readers who enjoy reimagined history, e.g., Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent, from a woman’s point of view.

Markovits, Anouk. I Am Forbidden. Hogarth: Crown Pub. Group. 2012. 302p. ISBN 9780307984739. $25.

In 1939 Transylvania, a young Jewish boy saves the life of Mila when her parents are killed. She’s taken in by a religious family and grows up like a sister to their daughter, Atara, but the girls’ lives diverge in unexpected ways when Atara forsakes the strict teachings of her rabbi father. (LJ 2/1/12)

Rich, Roberta. The Midwife of Venice. Gallery Bks: S. & S. 2012. 335p. ISBN 9781451657470. pap. $15.

Hannah Levi’s reputation as a midwife in the Jewish community in 16th-century Venice brings her to the attention of a Christian nobleman whose wife needs Hannah’s help. Although it’s illegal, Hannah helps the woman in order to raise money to ransom her husband, Isaac, who’s been taken prisoner in the Holy Land. Alternating between the two cliffhanger stories, Rich provides an atmospheric setting and well-researched historical background.

OrangeReviewStar Fertile Ground: Jewish Literature | Collection Development, July 2013 Richler, Nancy. The Imposter Bride. St. Martin’s. 2012. 357p. ISBN 9781250010063. $24.99

Lily Azerov, a young refugee, arrives in Montreal, the promised bride of Sol, who rejects her at first sight. She marries his brother, gives birth to Ruth, and abandons them. In the ensuing years, Ruth searches for the truth that unites her with her enigmatic mother. (LJ 11/1/12)

Richman, Alyson. The Lost Wife. Berkley: Penguin Group (USA). 2011. 344p. ISBN 9780425244135. pap. $16.

Lenka and Josef married in Prague in 1939 but were separated; Josef managed to get to America where he became an obstetrician, but Lenka was sent to the camps where her artistic talents gave her access to an underground network of artists. Each believed the other dead for more than 60 years, until the day Josef recognized Lenka at his grandson’s wedding. An unusual and very emotionally charged Holocaust story.

Magical Realism

Miller, Rebecca. Jacob’s Folly. Farrar. 2013. 371p. ISBN 9780374178543. $26.

The phrase fly on the wall takes on new meaning in Miller’s story about Jacob, a French Jew from the 18th century, reincarnated as a fly in contemporary Long Island, NY, where he observes—and manipulates —the lives of a firefighter and a young observant Jewish woman. The novel combines magical realism, picaresque adventure, and historical fiction in a comic and utterly original story. (LJ 4/15/13)

OrangeReviewStar Fertile Ground: Jewish Literature | Collection Development, July 2013 Wecker, Helene. The Golem and the Jinni. HarperCollins. 2013. 496p. ISBN 9780062110831. $26.99.

Owing to circumstances beyond their control, a golem and a jinni (genie) find themselves in New York in the year 1900, where they must figure out what it means to be human and how to make sense of the lives they’ve been given. Readers who enjoy magical realism will find themselves captivated by this lighthearted but heartfelt story. (LJ 2/1/13)

Mysteries & Thrillers

OrangeReviewStar Fertile Ground: Jewish Literature | Collection Development, July 2013 Miller, Derek B. Norwegian by Night. Houghton Harcourt. 2013. 304p. ISBN 9780547934877. $26.

A complex, layered thriller set in Norway, in which the elderly Sheldon Horowitz, living with his granddaughter and her Scandinavian husband, witnesses a murder and goes on the run with the victim’s small son. Themes of dislocation, identity, and the effects of war on returning soldiers propel this unusual thriller in the mode of Stieg Larsson, ­Henning Mankell, and Jo Nesbø. (LJ 2/15/13)

Mishani, D.A. The Missing File. HarperCollins. 2013. 289p. tr. from Hebrew by Steven Cohen. ISBN 9780062195371. $25.99.

When a teenage boy goes missing in a Tel Aviv suburb, police detective Avraham Avraham is puzzled by the things that don’t add up, especially comments by the strange upstairs neighbor. Readers who enjoyed the late Batya Gur’s police procedurals may enjoy this new series. (LJ 4/1/13)

OrangeReviewStar Fertile Ground: Jewish Literature | Collection Development, July 2013 Silva, Daniel. The English Girl. HarperCollins. 2013. 432p. ISBN 9780062073167. $27.99

In this 13th outing, Gabriel Allon, master art restorer and Mossad operative, is living quietly in Jerusalem, but when a young Englishwoman diplomat is kidnapped, he’s called in to find her and save a prime minister’s career. Silva’s many appearances on the New York Times best sellers list augur well for this new title.

Memoirs

OrangeReviewStar Fertile Ground: Jewish Literature | Collection Development, July 2013 De Waal, Edmund. The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance. Picador. 2011. 354p. ISBN 9780312569372. pap. $16.

An exquisite collection of 264 netsuke—Japanese miniature carvings—is the thread that runs through this memoir of the sophisticated Ephrussi family, European bankers in Paris and Vienna until World War II ended the dynasty. A remarkable story by a fifth-generation family member that combines art, literature, and politics with the relentless trajectory of 20th-century European Jewish history.

Feldman, Deborah. Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots. S. & S. 2012. 254p. ISBN 9781439187005. $23.

Feldman was brought up by her grandparents in the Hasidic Satmar community in Brooklyn, daughter of a mentally disabled father and a mother who fled for a secular life. Strictly raised, she was married at 17 to a man she met briefly. When her son was born, she decided to flee the sect for a different life.

Shalev, Meir. My Russian Grandmother and Her American Vacuum Cleaner. Schocken. 2011. 212p. tr. from the Hebrew by Evan Fallenberg. ISBN 9780805242874. $25.95.

This hilarious and tender memoir about the author’s grandparents, especially his grandmother and her obsession with cleanliness, is also about the generation of Eastern European Jews who came to Israel in the 1930s and their hopes, fears, and attitudes toward everyone else. (LJ Xpress Reviews, 4/17/11)

Graphic literature

OrangeReviewStar Fertile Ground: Jewish Literature | Collection Development, July 2013 Spiegelman, Art. MetaMaus: Art Spiegelman Looks Inside His Modern Classic, Maus. Pantheon. 2011. 299p. illus. ISBN 9780375423949. $35 w/DVD.

Twenty-five years after publication, Spiegelman’s two-volume graphic memoir, Maus, with Jews portrayed as mice and Nazis as cats, remains an unforgettably powerful Holocaust story about his parents’ experiences in the camps and Spiegelman’s relationship with these two survivors. MetaMaus fills in the backstory—what propelled him to write it, early drafts, photos, interviews, and information about his family. (LJ 6/1/11)   

Classics

Chabon, Michael. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. Random. 2000. 639p. ISBN 9780679450047. $30.

Chabon’s Pulitzer Prize–winning novel brings to life the early years of the comics industry as two cousins create a popular comic book hero, the Escapist, which allows them to explore the unresolved themes of exile, revenge, and sexual identity in their own lives. (LJ 10/15/00)

de Rosnay, Tatiana. Sarah’s Key. St. Martin’s. 2007. 294p. ISBN 9780312370831. $25.95.

When an American journalist, researching the 1942 Vel d’Hiv roundup of Jews in Paris, discovers that her in-laws’ apartment housed one of the affected families, she becomes determined to learn this particular story, not knowing that it will affect her own future. The two mesmerizing stories are told in alternating chapters. (LJ 5/15/07)

Diamant, Anita. The Red Tent. Picador. 2007. 352p. ISBN 9780312427290. pap. $15.

From a single line in Genesis, Diamant has created a full history of Dinah, daughter of Jacob and Leah, bringing to life the ancient world in which she lived. In slow, rich detail, Dinah tells a story of love, jealousy, tribal hatreds, ritual, and superstition learned from Jacob’s wives in the women’s tent. (LJ 5/15/01)

Foer, Jonathan Safran. Everything Is Illuminated. Perennial: HarperCollins. 2005. 276p. ISBN 9780060792176. pap. $13.95.

A young American, accompanied by a most unusual translator, travels through Ukraine in search of the woman who may have saved his grandfather from the Nazis. Multiple points of view and English-language pyro­technics combine in a moving work of memory and guilt. (LJ 2/1/02)

Grossman, David. To the End of the Land. Vintage.2010. 672p. tr. from Hebrew by Jessica Cohen. ISBN 9780307592972. $26.95

When Ora’s son is called up for army service during the Intifada, she convinces Avram, an old friend and lover, to take a long hike in northern Israel. Over the course of several days, their intense conversations reveal not only their own lives but the way war has marked life in that country. (LJ 8/10)

Horn, Dara. The World To Come. Norton. 2006. 336p. ISBN 9780393329063. pap. $14.95.

This layered novel revolves around a stolen Chagall painting, the American family that owns it, and the way their lives are affected by its complicated, emotional history. Filled with mystical stories and folklore, it shifts from early 20th-century Russia to the present day and the world to come. Readers may also enjoy Nicole Krauss’s Great House about a desk that passes through many hands. (LJ 10/15/05)

Jewish American Literature: A Norton Anthology. Norton. 2000. 1221p. ed. by Jules Chametzky & others. ISBN 9780393048094. $39.95.

This extensive collection of fiction, poetry, drama, essays, cartoons, and even song lyrics provides a window into the literary life of the Jewish community in America starting in 1645. The introductory material alone is worth the price of the book. (LJ 10/15/00)

OrangeReviewStar Fertile Ground: Jewish Literature | Collection Development, July 2013 Malamud, Bernard. The Assistant. Farrar. 2003. 246p. ISBN 9780374504847. pap. $15.

Morris Bober, barely able to make a living from his grocery store, is the victim of a robbery; in an act of charity, he later unknowingly accepts one of the thieves—Frank Alpine—as his assistant. In Malamud’s hands, Frank’s efforts at self-understanding, his guilt and shame over his crime, and his attraction to Morris’s daughter take on biblical symbolism. (Winner of the National Jewish Book Award.)

Malamud, Bernard. The Fixer. Farrar. 2009. 335p. ISBN 9780374529383. pap. $15.

After his wife runs off, destitute Yakov Bok leaves his village to try his luck in the city. At his new job he incurs the enmity of his anti-Semitic coworkers, who accuse him of the ritual murder of a young boy. Thrown into jail, Bok suffers constant humiliation by the authorities as they try to extract a confession. Based on the historical Mendel Beiliss case of 1911. (Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award.)

Oz, Amos. A Tale of Love and Darkness. Houghton Harcourt. 2004. 538p. tr. from Hebrew by Nicholas de Lange. ISBN 9780151008780. $34.

Oz’s Jerusalem boyhood in the 1940s and 1950s was intellectually rich and filled with the political turmoil of the new state of Israel. This memoir contains remarkable set pieces about childhood and family, a testament to how a great writer can infuse memory with feeling and texture. (LJ 8/04)

Ozick, Cynthia. The Shawl. Vintage. 1990. 69p. ISBN 9780679729266. $12.

In this heartbreaking novella, Rosa unsuccessfully tries to protect her infant daughter Magda from death in a concentration camp by wrapping her in a shawl; in the companion novella, Rosa is living in Miami near her niece Stella, impoverished and desolate.  (LJ 8/89)

Potok, Chaim. The Chosen. Ballantine. 1996. 284p. ISBN 9780449911549. pap. $15.

Orthodox Reuven Malter and Hasidic Danny Saunders’s friendship is life-changing for both teens. Set in Brooklyn in the 1940s and 1950s, as the world learns about the Holocaust and the State of Israel is created, Potok’s novel combines insight into observant Jewish communities with a story about the value of faith and tradition in a secular world. (Winner of the E.L. Wallant Award.)

Potok, Chaim. My Name is Asher Lev. Anchor: Doubleday. 2003. ISBN 9781400031047. pap. $15.

As a child growing up in Brooklyn in the 1950s, Asher Lev’s artistic talent brings him into conflict with his parents and his Hasidic community. The engrossing story of his struggle to reconcile his two identities has made this a modern classic.

Ragen, Naomi. The Ghost of Hannah Mendes. Griffin: St. Martin’s. 2001. 384p. ISBN 9780312281250. pap. $16.99.

Catherine da Costa, diagnosed with a fatal illness, regrets that her family has no interest in their Jewish heritage. Inspired by the ghost of her famous ancestor, Dona Gracia Mendes, she sends her two granddaughters on a search for an old manuscript that takes them through several countries and out of their self-absorbed secular lives. Dona Gracia’s story of the role her faith played in escaping the Inquisition, is told in alternating chapters. (LJ 7/98)

Roth, Henry. Call It Sleep. Picador. 2005. 480p. ISBN 9780312424121. pap. $17.

The bond between David Schearl and his mother, Genya, cannot completely protect them from the fury of David’s father and the terrors of life for a small boy on New York’s Lower East Side in the early 1900s, which we see, hear, and smell through David’s frightened eyes. An absorbing and powerful first novel vividly rendered in two kinds of prose: the fractured English of the immigrants and the eloquent Yiddish of David’s parents. (LJ 8/05)

Roth, Philip. American Pastoral. Vintage. 1998. 432p. ISBN 9780375701429. pap. $15.95.

In this Pulitzer Prize winner, Nathan Zuckerman tells the story of Seymour “Swede” Levov, his high school classmate, who confounded the Jewish stereotype with his blond good looks and athletic prowess. When he married Miss New Jersey, he seemed to have it all, but misfortune struck, in ways that mirror the events and mores of the late 20th century. (LJ 10/1/97)

Roth, Philip. The Ghost Writer. Vintage. 1995. 192p. ISBN 9780679748984. pap. $14.

The young Nathan Zuckerman, just beginning to gain attention for his fiction, pays a visit to the reclusive older writer E.I. Lonoff, hoping to find a spiritual father for his artistic vision. In the Lonoff household, a delicately unbalanced ménage a trois, Zuckerman learns some lessons about the realities of the writing life and meets a young woman who may be Anne Frank. (LJ 10/15/95)

Roth, Philip. Goodbye Columbus and Five Short Stories. Vintage. 1994. 320p. ISBN 9780679748267. pap. $15.

In these disquieting stories, Roth delineates many aspects of the problems of assimilation in the post–World War II American Jewish community. In “Eli the Fanatic,” when a group of Holocaust survivors move into town, the Jewish community is afraid the immigrants’ “otherness” will jeopardize their hard-won acceptance. The title novella is a hilarious and painful love story that takes place in a wealthy New Jersey suburb; it was made into a movie in 1967. (Winner of the National Jewish Book Award and the National Book Award.) (LJ 4/15/99)

Roth, Philip. The Human Stain. Vintage. 2001. 384p. ISBN 9780375726347. pap. $16.

Nathan Zuckerman relates the story of his friend Coleman Silk, classics professor at Athena College, accused of racism and forced to resign. Silk’s life, with its secrets about race and religion, and his affair with a young illiterate woman, combine to form a complex story of human imperfection and the search for identity in the aftermath of the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War. (Winner of the National Jewish Book Award, PEN/Faulkner Award, Koret Jewish Book Award.) (LJ 3/15/00)

Roth, Philip. I Married a Communist. Vintage. 1999. 336p. ISBN 9780375707216. pap. $15.95.

Zuckerman encounters his old high school English teacher, Murray Ringgold, and during the course of several nights, listens to the tragic story of his boyhood idol, Murray’s brother Ira, aka Iron Rinn, a radio personality who was exposed as a communist by his actress wife in the McCarthy-era 1950s. Roth paints a vivid picture of the political turmoil of Depression-era and post–World War II America and Newark, NJ. (LJ 9/1/98)

Roth, Philip. The Plot Against America. Vintage. 2005. ISBN 9781400079490. pap. $15.95.

In this clever alternate history, Roth recalls the anti-Semitism of the period just before World War II and suggests what could have happened to the Jewish community if the wildly popular Charles Lindbergh had become the U.S. president. (LJ 6/15/05)

Singer, Isaac Bashevis. Gimpel the Fool and Other Stories. Farrar. 2006. 224p. tr. from Hebrew by Saul Bellow & others. ISBN 9780374530259. pap. $14.

The title story was the first of Singer’s short stories to appear in English, published in Partisan Review in 1953 to great acclaim. A whole village conspires against the naive Gimpel, who may or may not be a fool. The stories are set in rural villages, where poverty, superstition, and faith converge in miraculous ways. (LJ 6/15/04)

Singer, Isaac Bashevis. Enemies: A Love Story. Farrar. 288p. tr. from Hebrew by Aliza Shevrin & Elizabeth Shub. ISBN 9780374515225. pap. $16.

Believing that his wife and children are dead, Herman Broder marries Yadwiga, the peasant girl who hid him during the war, and they come to New York, where Herman has an affair with another survivor and discovers that his wife is alive. Singer blends elements of farce with the serious theme of the effects of the Holocaust on the survivors in his first novel set in America.

Wiesel, Elie. Night. Hill and Wang. 2006. 120p. tr by Marion Wiesel. ISBN 9780374500016. pap. $15.

Deported from his hometown of Sighet in Transylvania when he was 15, Wiesel and his father entered the hellish concentration camps of Auschwitz, Buna, and Buchenwald. This poignant account of how Jews were stripped of everything they owned, including their faith and often their humanity, was one of the first and is still one of the most powerful Holocaust novels. (LJ 11/15/99)

Yezierska, Anzia. Bread Givers. Persea. 2003. 336p. ISBN 9780892552900. pap. $10.

Sara Smolinsky, immigrant daughter of an Orthodox rabbi, rebels against her father’s Old World ways. Yezierska excels at capturing the dilemmas of women caught between the old and the new; her novels and stories burst with emotion.

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Comments

  1. Rachel says:

    Thank you for this wonderful list!

  2. Great to see this article in LJ.

  3. Lisa Silverman says:

    This list is really useful for us, thank you!

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