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From My Bookshelf: The Property, by Rutu Modan (trans. Jessica Cohen)

PropertyThese days, motivated in part by space constraints (I live in a New York City apartment and I’ve run out of bookshelves), and in part by financial ones, I think very hard before I buy a book. Generally speaking, I depend on libraries for many of the books that I don’t receive as review copies. And when I do buy a book, I’m often inclined to purchase the Kindle version.

All of this a preface of sorts. Because something unusual happened a few days ago. I began reading Rutu Modan’s latest book, The Property. Translated by Jessica Cohen, this graphic novel depicts a grandmother-granddaughter pair on a journey from Israel to the grandmother’s native Poland, ostensibly to investigate the reclamation of the grandmother’s former home. About two minutes into my reading, I knew that this book was something special. And even though I read the entire book in one setting, I knew that I’d want to read it again. Maybe more than once. Maybe even after it was due back in the library. So I’ve gone ahead and purchased a copy of my own: a print copy.

In short, I loved this book. But instead of writing a more complete review/description/analysis of my own, I’m going to point you to some illuminating items that are already available online. (I’ll also note that, to date, several of the five-star Goodreads reviews that I’ve read echo my own impressions.) I hope that these materials will help convince you to spend some time with The Property, too:

  • Review in Paste magazine (includes several sample pages/panels)
  • Profile of Modan in Publishers Weekly
  • Extensive interview with Modan in The Comics Journal (also includes excerpts from the book)
  • And a briefer, but still noteworthy, interview with Modan in Maisonneuve.
  • Finally, as a bonus of sorts, you might want to read through Modan’s account of “a week in culture” for The Paris Review (trans. Sivan Ben-Horin).

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    From My Bookshelf: Biography of the Heroic Herman Stern

    ShoptaughAs mentioned on my other blog (Practicing Writing), I recently had the opportunity to speak about Quiet Americans with a group of readers at New York’s Museum of Jewish Heritage. Following our meeting, we toured the museum’s new exhibit, “Against the Odds: American Jews and the Rescue of Europe’s Refugees, 1933-1941.”

    I found the exhibit fascinating and returned another day to explore it more carefully. I also took notes. I was particularly captivated by the exhibit’s introduction to Herman Stern, a German-born Jew who immigrated to the U.S. in 1903. He was 16 at the time. Subsequently, Stern became a successful businessman in North Dakota. And from North Dakota, he managed to help more than 100 Jews escape from Nazi Europe.

    I wanted to know more details than the exhibit provided, so I put my research skills to work. Soon enough, I located a biography of Stern in a local college library: Terry Shoptaugh’s “You Have Been Kind Enough to Assist Me”: Herman Stern and the Jewish Refugee Crisis, published in 2008 by the Institute for Regional Studies at North Dakota State University. Continue reading ›

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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.

  • Library Journal has published a nice article with some Jewish literature suggestions for librarians. Titles past and present are included.
  • “There are millions of stories that need to be told – each one unique and heartbreaking and filled with truths and teachings.” So says author Deb Levy in an interview focused on her new book, Bury the Hot, which describes the life experience of Holocaust survivor Sal Wainberg.
  • I love Rebecca Klempner’s writing. Check out her latest, beautiful essay for Tablet, filled with layered meanings for Tisha B’Av.
  • Appreciate having discovered author Gloria Goldreich’s essay on “The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Zionist” in Hadassah magazine.
  • And on a related note, this “dialogue with a western leftist,” though not exactly new, is too perfect not to share. (via @JeffreyGoldberg)
  • Shabbat shalom.

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    Upcoming Seminar on Teaching Holocaust Literature; Applications due October 21

    The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum has issued a call for applications for participation in the 2014 Jack and Anita Hess Faculty Seminar, “Holocaust Literature: Teaching Fiction and Poetry,” which will run January 3-8, 2014.

    The Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies announces the 2014 Jack and Anita Hess Faculty Seminar. This year’s Hess Seminar is designed for professors who are teaching or preparing to teach English, Jewish studies, modern languages, literature, or other courses that have a Holocaust-related literature component. Sessions will focus on imaginative responses to the Holocaust created by a variety of writers, from those writing during the Holocaust to survivors to second generation authors to those without an explicit family connection to this event.

    The seminar will be co-led by Anita Norich, from the Department of English Language and Literature and the Frankel Center for Judaic Studies at University of Michigan, and Erin McGlothlin, from the Departments of Germanic Languages and Literatures and of Jewish, Islamic and Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at Washington University in St. Louis.

    Applications are due on October 21, 2013. For application guidelines, please visit the museum’s website.

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    Jewish Literary Links

    Okay, they’re a couple of days early–usually, I post these links on Friday morning, pre-Shabbat. But I’m traveling this week, so I thought I’d get these out to you ahead of time. Shabbat shalom in advance!

  • Check out these calls for artists/writers from Jewish Currents.
  • The Israel Institute is offering research grants of up to $10,000 for scholars, academics, and independent researchers to conduct substantive research on issues related to modern Israel. Areas for research may include, but are not limited to, Israeli history, politics, economics, and law. The grants are aimed at facilitating the publication of a book or a number of scholarly articles that make a serious contribution to the field of Israel Studies or promotes a greater understanding of modern Israel.” Next deadline is August 1.
  • Over on Tablet, discover a new group of “baal teshuvahs—a small but influential movement of incoming Chabad artists who are reinventing the arts in the Hasidic community.”
  • Last weekend, I saw the beautiful new Israeli film, “Fill the Void,” which is being described as “Jane Austen for Jews.”
  • Also last weekend, I read Miriam Katin’s new graphic memoir, Letting It Go, the primary focus of which is, as noted in Tahneer Oksman’s review for the Jewish Book Council, “Miriam’s inability to accept her adult son’s decision to move to Berlin, a city that represents her dark past.” It is a stirring and visually beautiful book. Recommended.
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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 is “Jewish fiction”? In this video from a recent event in Toronto, Dr. Nora Gold shares some thoughts and cites reflections from Allegra Goodman, A.B. Yehoshua, Marge Piercy, Ruth Wisse, and D.G. Myers.
  • Ruth Franklin reviews Holocaust Literature: A History and Guide, by David Roskies and Naomi Diamant.
  • An review of and an excerpt from Rutu Modan’s The Property (trans. Jessica Cohen).
  • “Zutot: Perspectives on Jewish Culture is delighted to announce the establishment of ‘The Amsterdam Prize’ – an annual short essay competition for young scholars.”
  • I meant to share this earlier: one cantor’s reflections on the Unetaneh Tokef prayer, complete with multiple audio clips.
  • Shabbat shalom.

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