Literary Guides

Family Secrets From The War

Four new memoirs involve detective-like journeys that lead to questions of identity and faith.

Culture Editor

“Hidden Inheritance: Family Secrets, Memory, and Faith,”  by Heidi B. Neumark (Abingdon)

“A Guest at the Shooter’s Banquet: My Grandfather’s SS Past, My Jewish Family, A Search for the Truth,”  by Ruth Gabis (Bloomsbury)

“Between Gods: A Memoir” , (Harper), by Alison Pick

“A Fifty Year Silence: Love, War and a Ruined House in France,” by Miranda Richmond Mouillot (Crown)

In “Hidden Inheritance,” Heidi Neumark, a Lutheran pastor here, discusses the discovery of her family’s Jewish past.

The Art Of The Steal

Three new books about Nazi plunder of Jewish collections raise questions about the art world’s moral blindness.

Special To The Jewish Week

The Orpheus Clock: The Search for My Family's Art Treasures Stolen by the Nazis, Simon Goodman (Scribner)

Hitler’s Art Thief: Hildebrand Gurlitt, the Nazis and the Looting of Europe’s Treasures, by Susan Ronald (St. Martin’s Press)

The Muralist: A Novel, by B. A. Shapiro (Algonquin)

In recent years, movies like “Woman in Gold” and “The Monuments Men” have placed a spotlight on the notorious looting of Europe’s art treasures by the Nazi regime before and during World War II.

Simon Goodman pieces together the story of his family’s treasures, and how they were lost. H. Zwietasch, Landesmuseum Wurttembe

Taking The Full Measure Of Primo Levi

New three-volume work shows him as a literary master who transcends the Holocaust genre.

Special To The Jewish Week

The Complete Works of Primo Levi, three volumes, edited by Ann Goldstein (W.W. Norton & Company) 

We thought we knew Primo Levi, the Holocaust memoirist and poet, and well-known suicide victim.

The massive “The Complete Works of Primo Levi” clocks in at 2,900 pages. Gianni Giansanti

Where Was Roosevelt?

It’s a question at the center of Jay Winik’s monumental survey of the last full year of the Second World War.

Special To The Jewish Week

I once held a postcard scribbled by my Warsaw family to relatives in  what was then Palestine, sent through Turkey via the Red Cross. The postcard was stamped with a swastika to show it had passed German censors. Holding it, I was scared not only for my soon-to-be murdered family, but for myself as well, as if by touching the postcard, I too was now in mortal danger. 

Winick’s book is at its most compelling when he recounts stories of singular heroism.

The War That’s With Us Still


The stories from World War II and the Holocaust — first-person Shoah testimonies, works of historical research based on newly opened archives, academic texts, fictional accounts, biographies, collections of artwork, second- and third-generation memoirs — never seem to end.

Children from the American Joint Distribution Committee-funded Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants. Jerome Silberstein/Courtesy of JDC

Fall Literary Guide November 2015

Roosevelt and the Jews. Primo Levi, Reconsidered. The Art of the Steal. Family Secrets from the War

Fall Literary Guide November 2015

A Short, Short Story


Note: Marina Rubin is the author of several volumes of poetry and “Stealing Cherries” (Manic D Press), a 2013 collection of very short (sometimes) autobiographical stories that each fit squarely into a block of text on a single page. The Jewish Week asked her to reflect — in her micro-story style — on her experiences writing the collection and taking it on the road.


I was proud. I had written three books of poetry and the last one had
surpassed even my own expectations in terms of craft, I called it Logic.
But when it came out no one cared, poetry was like a corset, constricting and archaic. I made the only logical decision — not to write again.

New Land, New Anxiety

A troika of émigré tales in a variety of genres.

Special To The Jewish Week

A Backpack, a Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka: A Memoir. By Lev Golinkin (Doubleday).

Panic in a Suitcase. By Yelena Akhtiorskaya (Riverhead Books).

Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel: A Graphic Novel. By Anya Ulinich (Penguin).

Yelena Akhtiorskaya, the 25-year-old author of “Panic in a Suitcase.” Sarah Shatz

Grandmother, Grandfather And Me

A Russian-American writer meditates on family, immigration and ‘material’ for his novel.

Special To The Jewish Week

‘Grandmother was not a semi-annual hair tousler. … She had raised him.” So begins the introduction to Slava Gelman’s grandmother, a Holocaust survivor, in my debut novel “A Replacement Life,” about a frustrated writer who begins forging Holocaust-restitution claims for old Russian Jews in Brooklyn, New York. It is Grandmother’s death that partly persuades Slava to invent stories of suffering — an opportunity to recreate on the page a grandmother he never got to know in real life. Hers is the presence that hovers over the novel.

Boris Fishman, in his younger days with his Russian émigré grandparents. At right, Fishman today. Boris Fishman/Rob Liguori

The Émigré Aesthetic

The newest chapters in the Russian-American-Jewish story.

Culture Editor

Some years back, new immigrants from the former Soviet Union who were participating in an English conversation class I was leading would ask about the American writer Jack London, whose “The Call of the Wild” and many other books are translated into Russian and widely read. With enthusiasm, they’d explain that they were drawn by his sense of adventure and struggle; London was an advocate for the rights of workers and the oppressed. One of the many things that surprised them about America was that London — whose works, like “The Call of the Wild,” were very popular in the U.S. during the early part of the 20th century — is no longer among America’s most popular writers.

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