From My Bookshelf: Story Collections by Max Apple and Ellen Litman

(cross-posted on My Machberet)

A few weeks back I wrote that Max Apple’s The Jew of Home Depot and Other Stories had caught my attention. Since then I’ve had a chance to read it. And it’s definitely a recommended read.

I’m particularly intrigued by the way Apple handles some potentially dicey cross-cultural issues (black-Jewish relations, in particular). Incidentally, despite the book’s title and coverage in the Jewish press, the opening story, “Yao’s Chick,” is not overtly “Jewish” in terms of its characters or content. Apple is apparently not intimidated to write about characters from different ethnic backgrounds. I think that’s a good and admirable thing, but I can’t help wondering if that’s worked against him in some readers’ eyes.

Another recent read I’d encourage others to pick up is Ellen Litman’s debut collection, The Last Chicken in America. I had the opportunity to hear Litman talk about her experiences shaping this story collection at the recent Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) Conference in New York City, so reading the book shortly after that was particularly meaningful.

Litman’s primary subject–running through the linked stories–is life within the Russian-Jewish immigrant community in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Different from Apple’s work, to be sure; reading them sequentially and considering them together I’m reminded of something that’s too often lost in discussions of “Jewish-American literature”–how truly varied it can be.