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My Year In Jewish Books

StarFor the past two years, I’ve found it useful (and kind of fun) to look back on “my year in Jewish books.” So, borrowing some of the same introductory wording, I’m going to attempt to do something similar for 2013, even if Hanukkah came so early this year that this 2013 iteration lacks the same usefulness a gift-inspiration guide.

Reviewing my reading for 2013 (thank you, Goodreads!), I can see that I do not and would not ever limit my reading to “Jewish books” exclusively. (By the way, in case you haven’t heard me say this before, I define “Jewish books” as books with substantive Jewish content. In my view, non-Jewish authors can write “Jewish books.” And Jewish authors can write books that don’t strike me as particularly Jewish.)

But this year, as usual, I did read quite a few books that fall within the “Jewish book” category. And, as an advocate for Jewish literature, I’m proud of that.

Below, you will find these books presented in the order in which I read them. Please note that, where appropriate, I have included links to reviews, essays, and newsy items I have written; interviews I have conducted; and the odd blog post. I have also disclosed how I obtained each book: P (purchase), R (complimentary review copy/complimentary seminar copy), L (library). Continue reading ›

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SAJL Plans Special Issue on Canadian Jewish Writing

The peer-reviewed journal Studies in American Jewish Literature: A Journal of Literary Criticism and Theory is devoting a special issue to the subject of Canadian Jewish writing. Submissions are invited that consider the poetry, prose, drama, life writing, and creative non-fiction of Canadian Jewish writers. Papers on Yiddish writers, French writers, ‘lost’ and lesser-known writers, canonical writers, and contemporary writers—poets, novelists, dramatists, memoirists, and essayists—are welcome.

Please click here for the full call for submissions.

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Jewish Literary Links for Shabbat

Photo Credit: Reut Miryam Cohen

Every Friday morning My Machberet presents an assortment of Jewish-interest links, primarily of the literary variety.

  • “What really brings Ayelet Tsabari’s stories to life are her characters, people that you rarely meet in Israeli fiction.” The Times of Israel‘s Ellis Shuman’s verdict on Israeli-Canadian Tsabari’s The Best Place on Earth: “Highly recommended.” I agree!
  • “3G” writer and scholar Anthony Levin is among the panelists featured in this recording from Australia, “Keeping the Memory and the History of the Shoah Alive.”
  • New Yorkers: “LABA is a non-religious Jewish house of study and culture laboratory at the 14th Street Y. Every year LABA selects a group of around 10 fellows — a mix of artists, writers, dancers, musicians, actors and others — to join us for a yearlong study of classical Jewish texts centered around a theme, and then interpret these texts in their work which is featured in LABAlive events and the quarterly online journal.” The theme for 2013-14 will be “Mother,” and fellowship applications are due by July 31, 2013.
  • The Yiddish Book Center has an interesting project under way, “a series of ongoing interviews with relatives of Yiddish authors,” with some examples already online.
  • Last, but by no means least: a blog post by one of the JCC Boston Diller Teen Fellows, “selected yearly based on their leadership aptitude, commitment to Jewish learning, interest in exploring their connection to Israel, and passion for serving their community.” I’ve known Hannah since before she was born–I’m kvelling!
  • Shabbat shalom.

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    Jewish Literary Links for Shabbat

    Photo Credit: Reut Miryam Cohen

    Every Friday morning My Machberet presents an assortment of links, primarily of the literary variety.

  • From the The Jewish Week: “Elie Wiesel’s ‘Open House’”.
  • The Canadian Jewish News catches up with JewishFiction.Net and its editor, Nora Gold, who has a new novel coming next year (I can’t wait to read it!).
  • Even if I hadn’t had the privilege of meeting YIVO Executive Director Jonathan Brent this week, his important reflections on “the last books” for Jewish Ideas Daily would have made this list.
  • A few words about “Germany After 1945: A Society Confronts Anti-Semitism, Racism and Neo-Nazism,” a traveling exhibition that is making its U.S. debut in NYC.
  • And my review of “Holocaust Literature: A History and Guide,” by David Roskies and Naomi Diamant, in The Forward.
  • Shabbat shalom.

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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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