Whatever the reason, I can’t understand why some writers seem so intent on distancing their work from being identified as “Jewish.” That they do so while simultaneously benefiting from the “label” and showing no evidence of suffering from any career-stultifying “ghettoization” only adds salt to the wound.
From an essay of mine just published on JewishJournal.com.
These days, we attend more closely to the role of our biblical matriarchs. But while Sarah, Rebecca, Leah and Rachel occupy the spotlight, most of us haven’t thought much about another female antecedent: Noah’s wife.
As I mentioned here recently, Rebecca Kanner’s new novel, “Sinners and the Sea,” imagines the experiences of that woman. I recently had the opportunity to interview Kanner, who is based in Minneapolis, for The Forward‘s Sisterhood blog.
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.
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).
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.
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?