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Words of the Week

As we approach Yom HaShoah, so many of the words shared during this recent New York City event seem worth sharing.

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Pre-Shabbat Jewish Literary Links

Photo Credit: Reut Miryam Cohen

Photo Credit: Reut Miryam Cohen

Every Friday My Machberet presents an array of Jewish-interest links, primarily of the literary variety. This week, many folks are already offline for the conclusion of Passover; I’m forging on nonetheless.

  • Deadline approaching (6pm, Pacific time, this evening) for Poetry Super Highway’s 18th annual Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) issue.
  • If you have the good luck to be in the environs of the Yiddish Book Center on Sunday, you can enjoy their Community Open House, which will feature “Is There Such a Thing as Jewish Literature?”—an address by Adam Kirsch.
  • “In ‘Pumpkinflowers: A Soldier’s Story’ Mr. [Matti] Friedman has written a top-notch account of [the First Lebanon War], persuasively arguing that it heralded a new style of combat in the Middle East, though no one knew it at the time.” A terrific review for a book I’m hoping to read very, very soon.”
  • LETTERS TO SALA, Arlene Hutton’s stirring drama about a New York family coming to grips with the sudden disclosure of its matriarch’s hidden Holocaust past will have two concert performances on May 15 at 12 P.M. and 3:30 P.M. at the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust.” I’ve seen the play, and I recommend it, highly.
  • And ICYMI, lots of #JewLit content in my latest “midweek notes” post on my other blog.
  • Shabbat shalom.

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    Pre-Shabbat Jewish Literary Links

    Photo Credit: Reut Miryam Cohen

    Photo Credit: Reut Miryam Cohen

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

  • On my tbr list: The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem by Sarit Yishai-Levi (trans. Anthony Berris)–audio excerpt available via Israel in Translation.
  • Now available: video from an event that I attended a couple of weeks ago at the CUNY Graduate Center, “an evening of powerful readings [that] features new works by writers, artists, and thinkers who never lived through the Holocaust but who ‘inherited’ its trauma. For these ‘children of the Holocaust,’ whose relatives escaped from or died in the Shoah, it is relived, reimagined, and passed on across time. Reflecting on this haunting legacy, the participants include: Leon Botstein, Roger Cohen, Jeremy Eichler, Ruth Franklin, David Greilsammer, Marianne Hirsch, Daniel Mendelsohn, George Prochnik, Jonathan Rosen, Göran Rosenberg, and Sarah Wildman.”
  • The Baruch College Jewish Studies Center’s Sixth Annual Conference is slated for next Tuesday. Titled “Dissent and Dissension: Approaching Ultra-Orthodoxy,” it will include an author panel featuring Judy Brown, Shulem Deen, and Leah Vincent; Nathan Englander will deliver a keynote address. More info here (scroll down the page).
  • “That Episode Where Mary Tyler Moore Defended the Jews”–I didn’t remember the episode (then again, it aired for the first time when I was just three years old). But thanks to Jewniverse, I spent some time watching it this week.
  • “The Anolic Family Awards are now accepting applications for the 2016 cycle. This year there are three awards for artists in different career stages.” Includes one award for Jewish book arts.
  • Shabbat shalom.

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    Pre-Shabbat Jewish Literary Links

    Photo Credit: Reut Miryam Cohen

    Photo Credit: Reut Miryam Cohen

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

  • May the memory of Imre Kertész, Holocaust survivor and Nobel literature laureate, be a blessing.
  • “When people ask me, ‘How many Jewish books do we need?’ I have to answer, ‘ALL of them.’ However many books we produce to satisfy a quota is too few. Because not every kid came from The All of a Kind Family.” Thoughts from Laurel Snyder for We Need Diverse Books.
  • A couple of PJ Library jobs are being advertised at the moment: In Phoenix, they’re seeking a director; in the Greater New Haven area, they’re looking for a part-time program manager.
  • I had the pleasure of attending an event celebrating Boris Fishman’s new novel this week; get a good overview of the book in this New Jersey Jewish News article, which also notes the author’s upcoming appearance in Maplewood.
  • And speaking of author events: we’ve added a bunch of new ones to the Fig Tree Books event calendar. Check ’em out!
  • Shabbat shalom, friends.

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    Words of the Week

    “With the writers of Orringer’s generation who choose the Holocaust as a subject, we’re watching an inevitable transition from a literature that can remember to a literature that can only imagine. Does the winking magic realism of Jonathan Safran Foer’s ‘Everything is Illuminated’ call more attention to the author than to his subject? Does the Hollywood-style feel-goodery of David Benioff’s ‘City of Thieves’ put too smooth a polish on mass suffering and death?

    Orringer avoids these pitfalls and many more by making brilliant use of a deliberately old-fashioned realism to define individual fates engulfed by history’s deadly onrush. She maintains a fine balance between the novel’s intimate moments — whose emotional acuity will be familiar to admirers of her 2003 story collection, ‘How to Breathe Underwater’ — and its panoramic set-pieces. Even those monumental scenes manage to display a tactful humility: This is a story, they keep reminding us, and it’s not bringing anybody back. With its moving acknowledgment of the gap between what’s been lost and what can be imagined, this remarkably accomplished first novel is itself, in the continuing stream of Holocaust literature, an invisible bridge.

    Source: Donna Rifkind (The Washington Post)

    NB: This is not a new find–but I returned to it this week as I prepared for a seminar (happening later this morning) in which we’ll be discussing Orringer’s novel. And the words are all the more powerful this morning, as I consider remarks offered last night at a most special event at the CUNY Graduate Center, and as I discover news of the death today, in Hungary, of author Imre Kertesz.

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    From My Bookshelf: Looking Ahead During Women’s History Month

    As mentioned today on the Fig Tree Books blog, March is Women’s History Month here in the USA (and today is International Women’s Day), which means that it’s an especially propitious moment to consider women’s contributions to American Jewish fiction. And the Fig Tree blog post does a good job doing that (if I say so myself).

    Here on the My Machberet blog, I’d like to shift focus slightly and alert you to some forthcoming fiction titles by American Jewish women. (Disclosure: All three authors are friends of mine.)

    In order of publication:

    Emily Barton‘s The Book of Esther is animated by this premise: “What if an empire of Jewish warriors that really existed in the Middle Ages had never fallen—and was the only thing standing between Hitler and his conquest of Russia?” What if, indeed? The Book of Esther is billed as “a profound saga of war, technology, mysticism, power, and faith. This novel—simultaneously a steampunk Joan of Arc and a genre-bending tale of a counterfactual Jewish state by a writer who invents worlds ‘out of Calvino or Borges’ (The New Yorker)—is a stunning achievement. Reminiscent of Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union and Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America.” Sounds good to me! This novel, Barton’s third, will be out in June.

    In Anna Solomon‘s Leaving Lucy Pear, the action 9781594632655begins one night in 1917, when “Beatrice Haven sneaks out of her uncle’s house on Cape Ann, Massachusetts, leaves her newborn baby at the foot of a pear tree, and watches as another woman claims the infant as her own. The unwed daughter of wealthy Jewish industrialists and a gifted pianist bound for Radcliffe, Bea plans to leave her shameful secret behind and make a fresh start. Ten years later, Prohibition is in full swing, post-WWI America is in the grips of rampant xenophobia, and Bea’s hopes for her future remain unfulfilled. She returns to her uncle’s house, seeking a refuge from her unhappiness. But she discovers far more when the rum-running manager of the local quarry inadvertently reunites her with Emma Murphy, the headstrong Irish Catholic woman who has been raising Bea’s abandoned child—now a bright, bold, cross-dressing girl named Lucy Pear, with secrets of her own.” Leaving Lucy Pear will be published in late July; you may recall Anna’s debut novel, also a work of historical fiction, titled The Little Bride.

    Photo credit: Pamela Frame.

    Photo credit: Pamela Frame.

    Rachel Hall‘s Heirlooms “begins in the French seaside city of Saint-Malo, in 1939, and ends in the American Midwest in 1989. In this collection of linked stories, the war reverberates through four generations of a Jewish family. Inspired by the author’s family stories as well as extensive research, Heirlooms explores assumptions about love, duty, memory and truth.” Heirlooms will be published in the Fall of 2016 by BkMk Press as the most recent winner of the G.S. Sharat Chandra Prize for Short Fiction. I’ve had the good fortune of reading the manuscript, and I can tell you that this book won’t simply make my list for favorite reads of 2016; it has secured a place on my list of favorite books, forever.

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