Books

A Passage To Guatemala

David Unger’s tale of dislocation, ‘The Price of Escape,’ follows his father’s trajectory from Nazi Germany to the Central American country.

05/31/2011
Staff Writer

Readers of literary fiction in America have coveted Latin American writers for years. Jorge Luis Borges and Roberto Bolaño are even household names here. But when was the last time you heard about a great Guatemalan author? And more specifically, one who is Jewish?

Enter David Unger, author of the dark and riveting new novel, “The Price of Escape,” which follows a Jewish refugee who flees Nazi Germany and ends up in Guatemala. The story was inspired by the strange journey Unger’s own father.

The Price of Escape Book Cover.

The ‘Theological Ping’

In ‘The Choosing,’ Rabbi Andrea Myers documents a coming out, a conversion, a life in Israel and much more.

05/10/2011
Jewish Week Book Critic

Rabbi Andrea Myers has many facets to her identity.

She is the daughter of a Sicilian Catholic mother and German Lutheran father; she came out as a lesbian while a student at Brandeis University, converted to Judaism in Israel and studied for the rabbinate in New York. Now 39 and married to a rabbi, she is rabbi and rebbetzin, a mother, teacher and writer.
“Any major life change should only make you more of who you are,” she says in an interview, noting these words have guided her own journey, and she uses them to help others.

Rabbi Myers’ memoir is joyful, but hers is a hard-won joy, and her brand of Judaism is embracing of all.

The Soul Behind ‘Great Soul’

In chronicling Gandhi’s life, Joseph Lelyveld was partly influenced by his own father, a civil rights activist and rabbi.

05/03/2011
Staff Writer

Many of the main points Joseph Lelyveld was trying to make in his new biography of Mohandas Gandhi were lost last month amid the outcry over the book’s most salacious suggestion: that the Indian leader may have been gay. But in an interview with the Jewish Week, Lelyveld, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, former editor of The New York Times, tried to set the record straight.

Joseph Lelyveld, says he is aiming for a less mythologized picture of the historical Gandhi. Janny Scott

Bloom’s Day (Or Year)

At 80, and with three new books, the literary critic-as-provocateur is still picking fights over the Bible, Kabbalah and Shakespeare.

04/18/2011
Staff Writer

Harold Bloom, the eminent literary critic at Yale, will turn 81 this summer, and he does not plan to exit the stage quietly.

“Christianity? Christianity?” he said in a recent phone interview, when asked about his views on the Christian interpretation of Judaism. “The New Testament is a violently anti-Semitic reading of the Hebrew Bible.”

Bloom’s latest book is a defense of his career-making “The Anxiety of Influence.

The Trouble They’ve Seen

The arc of two new memoirs moves from heartbreak to a hard-won affirmation of life.

04/18/2011
Jewish Week Book Critic

Bad things happen to a lot of people. Some very good books have resulted.

“Life can survive in the constant shadow of illness,” Diane Ackerman writes in “One Hundred Names for Love.” Toshi Otsuki

The Arendt Trial

In her new book on the Eichmann trial, Deborah Lipstadt ‘rescues’ the event from Hannah Arendt.

04/12/2011
Special To The Jewish Week

The trial in 1961 in Israel of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann has been well rehearsed by scholars, in the popular literature, and by journalists and Jewish professionals.

Lipstadt, a professor of history at Emory University, provides a needed historical context for the Eichmann trial.

From Latvia, With Ambiguity

David Bezmozgis, whose first novel is just out, reflects on the nature of ideologies like Communism and Zionism.

04/05/2011
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.

03/29/2011
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.’

03/22/2011
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.

03/22/2011
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.”

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