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From My Bookshelf: Three Reading Recommendations

I’ve been reading some wonderful new books lately. Although I may not have the opportunity to write full reviews of all of them, I wanted to make sure I brought at least three of this spring’s releases to your attention. All three can described as “Jewish books”–and they’re all books of fiction–but I think that they also demonstrate what I’m always trying to point out: “Jewish literature” is, in fact, remarkably diverse.

Tsabari
First up: Ayelet Tsabari’s The Best Place on Earth. Tsabari is an Israeli-born writer of Yemeni descent who currently lives in Canada. Her new book of short stories hasn’t yet been published in the United States, but once I became familiar with her work, I simply had to splurge and order my copy via Amazon.ca. I’m so glad that I did. These finely crafted stories feature the voices and experiences of Mizrahi Jews–Jews from the Middle East/North Africa–a group that I haven’t often seen depicted in fiction (at least, not in English-language or translated fiction).

Sinners and the Sea
Next: Minnesota-based Rebecca Kanner‘s Sinners and the Sea. If you liked the way that Anita Diamant brought the biblical Jacob’s daughter Dinah to life in The Red Tent, you’ll surely admire Kanner’s novel as well. Sinners and the Sea depicts the story of Noah and the famous Ark from the perspective of Noah’s wife (who doesn’t even get a name in the Bible). Creative and compelling. I consider myself lucky to have been offered a review copy.

gerber
Finally: Merrill Joan Gerber’s The Hysterectomy Waltz, which traces–with sly wit and humor–the diagnosis, surgery, and recovery of a Brooklyn-born Jewish woman. I requested a review copy from the publisher, Dzanc Books, after reading an excerpt online in The Literarian. I suggest that you read the excerpt, too, and if it appeals, be sure to put the novel on your list (it will be out in May). Although Gerber’s work is new to me, she has published many books (now available in digital formats through Dzanc’s rEprint series), and is a past recipient of Hadassah‘s prestigious Ribalow Prize for outstanding Jewish-themed fiction.

What have you read lately that you’d recommend?

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  1. Thank you for these recommendations, Erika. A novel I like that also demonstrates the diversity of Jewish fiction is The Lowlife by Alexander Baron. Set in a now vanished London, it tells the story of a betting man, who happens to be Jewish, and, to my mind, is one of the best depictions of compulsive gambling ever written. And yes, I include Dostoevsky’s The Gambler in that comparison.

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