Books

From Latvia, With Ambiguity

David Bezmozgis, whose first novel is just out, reflects on the nature of ideologies like Communism and Zionism.
04/04/2011 - 20:00
Staff Writer

The story of the refuseniks is a heroic one. Thousands of Soviet Jews risked their lives, facing imprisonment or worse, so they could live openly as Jews.

“The novel is not an attack on any one [ideology],” says David Bezmozgis.

Running From South Africa

In “My Race,” a Jewish athlete describes what it was like to grow up amid apartheid.
03/28/2011 - 20:00
Staff Writer

After her grandchildren — twin girls — were born 12 years ago and she became a grandmother for the first time, Lorraine Abramson started thinking about her own, long-gone grandparents.

Growing up in South Africa during the heart of the apartheid era, Abramson, a prominent amateur athlete and member of a Jewish (i.e., white) family, knew three of her grandparents, who had grown up in Eastern Europe in a time of open anti-Semitism.

They had led entirely different lives than she did.

Lorraine Abramson with some of the artifacts she brought back from a trip to her grandparents’ hometowns in Eastern Europe.

You Can Take A Boy Out Of The ‘Hood…

No novel has mined Philadelphia’s Jewish working class as powerfully as ‘Rich Boy.’
03/21/2011 - 20:00
Jewish Week Book Critic

Robert Vishniak grew up on a Northeast Philadelphia street lined with identical narrow row houses, with clotheslines laced between them, canvas work shirts flapping in the wind. It was part of the Oxford Circle neighborhood of Sharon Pomerantz’s first novel “Rich Boy” (Twelve), which was crowded with Vishniak relatives and others who kept few secrets. Robert’s father shuttled between two jobs, as a postal worker and security guard; his mother ferried school kids to safety as a crossing guard; and Robert determined to have a very different life.

Pomerantz’s first novel.

British Jewish Culture Surging Into The Mainstream

From a Booker Prize-winning novel to a hit film to hip JCC programming, a new Jewish confidence alongside increased anti-Semitism.
03/21/2011 - 20:00
Special To The Jewish Week

‘Things are beginning to be vibrant — there is a new, unapologetic and unashamed generation, less worried about what will happen if the British notice there are Jews living here,” said British Jewish novelist Howard Jacobson, the 2010 winner of Britain’s most important literary prize, the Man Booker Prize, for his novel “The Finkler Question.”

Total Recall

Joshua Foer’s journalistic journey down memory lane.
03/07/2011 - 19:00
Jewish Week Book Critic

Back in 2006, journalist Joshua Foer found himself seated on a stage in the Con Ed headquarters in New York City, wearing earmuffs over earplugs, sweating as he flipped through two decks of shuffled playing cards in order to memorize their order.

Like a marathoner, Foer kept to a strict memory training regimen.

The Road Back To Haiti

New story in 'Haiti Noir' collection brings Mark Kurlansky back to the island nation.
01/18/2011 - 19:00
Staff Writer

Nearly all of the 18 short stories in the new "Haiti Noir" collection are written by Haitians. The book's editor, the prominent Haitian writer Edwidge Danticat, made an exception, however, for Mark Kurlansky.

A 62-year-old Jewish writer who lives in New York City, Kurlansky is well known for his best-selling histories of food - on salt, on cod, on oysters. But writers that know him well, like Danticat, are well aware of his longtime involvement with Haiti.

Mark Kurlansky

Funny Girls

Three Jewish women humorists bring light and lightness to the end of 2010.
12/27/2010 - 19:00
Jewish Week Book Critic

This was a year of growth for the e-book and flourishing for the Jewish American novel, with fine new fiction across the generations.

Judith Viorst and Nora Ephron offer up new memories and life stories in their end-of-year memoirs.

The Chabad Scribe

Yehoshua November’s award-winning debut poetry collection brings the divine presence to everyday life.
12/13/2010 - 19:00
Jewish Week Book Critic

‘Sometimes you see them/in the dressing area/of the ritual bath,” Yehoshua November begins his poem, “Baal Teshuvas at the Mikvah.

God's Optimism

Montaigne’s Jewish Question

How much did the French philosopher know about his Jewish roots?
12/06/2010 - 19:00
Staff Writer

It should be no surprise that author Sarah Bakewell found in the 16th-century French writer Michel de Montaigne a voice that is entirely of the present.

“I’m flummoxed as to what to make of this whole story,” says author Sarah Bakewell, referring to Montaigne’s elusive Jewish back

Concerto For Interfaith Dialogue

Conductor Gilbert Levine reflects on his musical and personal relationship with Pope John Paul II.
12/06/2010 - 19:00
Staff Writer

If Gilbert Levine had fulfilled his lifelong dream to spend his days making music, but never conducted some of the world’s leading orchestras — dayenu. It would have been enough.

If he had gone to Poland in 1987 as artistic director of the Krakow Philharmonic, the first American to lead an orchestra in still-communist Eastern Europe, but never met Pope John Paul II — dayenu.

Gilbert Levine has conducted a personal effort of reconciliation between Judaism and the Catholic Church. Tony Gale
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