This book had me hooked with the cover. Made to look like a journal, it features a cartoon drawing of a bespeckled middle-aged daughter on one end of a fading sofa, facing her parents, who are seated with their arms crossed. In a bubble above his head, the father asks, “Can’t we talk about something more PLEASANT?” That question is the title of Roz Chast’s memoir of her parents’ final years, and her role as their only child.
Hannah Groff travels to Israel on assignment, to write about the murder of poet David Bellen. The poet had writen a book called “Kid Bethlehem,” with the biblical King David reimagined as a 20th-century gangster, and then his body was found in the village of Beit Sahour, outside of Bethlehem. As soon as Hannah arrives, she’s asked again and again, Why have you never been to Israel?
Bel Kaufman published her first poem, a paean to spring, as a 7-year-old in Odessa. It was four lines long, signed Belochka Koifman, in a Russian children’s magazine. When she was 11, she began a drama, and wrote 60 pages describing the characters in a notebook that she carried with her when the family moved to New York later that year, and which she kept through her life. Everyone in her family wrote: her mother Lyalya published stories; her father, a physician, was a poet and translator; and her grandfather, who wrote many letters to her, was the great Yiddish writer Sholem Aleichem.
Slava Gelman had the kind of grandmother who would have walked under a tank for him.
Boris Fishman’s impressive debut novel, “A Replacement Life,” (Harper) opens on an early summer morning in 2006 when Slava picks up the phone to learn from his mother that his beloved grandmother Sofia “isn’t.” In Russian, as the narrator explains, “you didn’t need the adjective to complete the sentence, but in English you did.”
Even as she works toward effecting change in Israel as a member of Knesset, Ruth Calderon remains a passionate student and teacher of Talmud. After her election as a member of the Yesh Atid party in February 2013, she gained international acclaim with her debut speech in the Knesset in which she taught a Talmudic unit — as well as the respect of her haredi colleagues who recognized their style of study in her own. Now, she co-leads a weekly Talmud class in the Knesset and has just published a new book, Ilana Kurshan’s fine translation of “A Bride for One Night” (Jewish Publication Society), originally published in Hebrew in 2001, that brings her eloquent conversation about Talmud to an English-speaking audience.