Guide to Jewish Literature - November/December 2023
A selection of books to entice any reader. Everything from novels to nonfiction, memoirs to mysteries, cookbooks to kids’ books.
This critically acclaimed Amazon Bestseller begins with the captivating story of Clara Prinz, a remarkable woman forced to leave her native Berlin in 1939. As Clara travels alone on a voyage into the unknown, she turns to memories of her adolescence during La Belle Époque – the Beautiful Era filled with optimism and cultural transformation at the dawn of the twentieth century.
Days are bad in the Great Depression of the 1930s. But for little Willie Mittleman and the Mittleman clan in their Bronx, NY neighborhood, life is still good, proving that laughter and love will always be the lifesaving forces to rescue us from adversity and pain. A big-hearted gem. Funny, touching and insightful. For readers of all ages.
The award-winning author of Rashi’s Daughters takes characters inspired by Chaim Potok and ages them into young adults in Brooklyn in the mid-1950s. When journalist Hannah Eisin interviews Rabbi Nathan Mandel, a controversial Talmud professor, she persuades him to teach her the mysteries of the text forbidden to women, though it might cost him his job if discovered. Secret meetings and lively discussions bring the two to the edge of a line neither dares to cross, testing their relationships with Judaism and each other.
Maggie is happy to meet with groups or book clubs; contact info on www.TheChoiceNovel.com.
Jewish fathers have long recorded their wisdom for their heirs in what is called an ethical will. This book is the ethical will of a father who has spent a lifetime studying Jewish tradition. It is organized around eighteen words that form the foundations of human life, taken from the Hebrew word for “life,” chai, which is eighteen. Among these words are goodness, gratitude, prayer, love, and others. David Patterson is a winner of the National Jewish Book Award and the Hadassah Myrtle Wreath Award. Available from Wipf and Stock Publishers and Bookshop.org.
Available from Wipf and Stock Publishers and Bookshop.org.
Based on true events, set on the turbulent home front America of 1943, a proud, small town Jewish girl and a complex Jewish soldier from Brooklyn with horrific memories of another war – A bittersweet love story about two strangers struggling with personal challenges and childhood trauma in the shadow of antisemitism, racism, and the uncertainty of war.
Available on Amazon and BN.com.
A coming-of-age graphic memoir set in the West Bank, Good Girls Go to Hell depicts the reality of growing up in a region split by religious tensions—and sometimes violent conflict. From political protests to personal struggles with school, body image, and relationships with family and friends, Tohar Sherman-Friedman’s life is an inspiring story of conflicting convictions, rebellion, and personal growth. Tohar recounts her experience as the youngest of seven children in a conservative Jewish family, navigating a life buffeted by high expectations for school performance and religious adherence at home and tense conflict in the world outside.
In WWII Poland, two sisters fight against the darkness engulfing their homeland, one by entering a daring network of women sheltering Jewish children and the other by joining the ranks of Poland’s secret army. As Warsaw buckles under German oppression, they must rely on the courage that calls the ordinary to resist.
Shop at BakerBookHouse.com for 30% off and free U.S. shipping.
Based on a true story of an immigrant Jewish family that settles in Brooklyn. The family’s assimilation and eldest son Irv’s service in WW2 and his Korean War weapons work with Robert Schwartz (US Army Weapons Hall of Fame). At Picatinny Arsenal, they developed the world’s first tactical atomic bomb. Described in 1953 as the biggest breakthrough since Oppenheimer’s bomb, Atomic Annie, made the US Army the strongest Army on earth, changing US military history. This family story also covers some fascinating history: atomic fission, Picatinny Arsenal, Ghost Army of WW2, classic NFL games, Truman-Eisenhower conflict, and the Korean War.
Available on Amazon e-book and paperback.
Kill Brothers is a pulse-pounding, cold case thriller that delivers page-turning twists and turns, weaving together historical fiction (World War II) and modern-day DNA analysis. Will NYPD’s Detective Mills murder investigation link him back to Greta Weber’s shocking secret of nearly a century before? From the 1920s Germany to 2018 in Brooklyn, Kill Brothers will keep readers racing through the pages until its mind-bending conclusion.
A musical story full of fun, family and friends. Everyone celebrates together—even a kangaroo—at a parade and shares music and daycation memories. Use the QR code printed inside the book to download the songs. Read along! Sing along! Music and stories by singer, songwriter, author, and bubbie Elaine Serling.
A musical story celebrating the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren. This book features fresh lyrics and a toe-tapping melody. The colorful illustrations mirror the joy of this special bond. Use the QR code printed inside the book to download the song. Prepare to make memories to last a lifetime—listening, reading and singing together!
Available from www.elaineserling.com. 800-457-2157; $19.95 + $3 shipping.
Routed in World War II history and the realities of the modern Arab-Israeli conflict, this story follows brothers Yaakov and Lazor through their escape from a Nazi transport and their struggles to survive. As the story continues, the brothers’ sons become the focus as they experience the challenges born out of what had happened to their fathers so many years ago. Sample Reader reviews: “An engaging, interesting, and electrifying story…I couldn’t stop blinking..” “A fantastic plot, with intense action, and thrills around every corner…” “This book deserves more than five stars…” “A reading experience I never had before…”
In this lively collection of stories and recipes, Rachel Gordin Barnett and Lyssa Kligman Harvey celebrate the unique food history of Jewish South Carolina. Featuring more than eighty recipes —including Jewish staples like kreplach dumplings, southern favorites such as peach cobbler, and modern fusions like grits and lox casserole—from seventy contributors, Barnett and Harvey explore the African American and regional influences of cherished dishes. Kugels & Collards invites readers into family homes, businesses, and community centers to share meals and memories.
Hardcover, $36.99 | 8×10, 256 pages, 26 b&w and 60 color photos. To purchase, visit uscpress.com/Kugels-and-Collards or call HFS at 1-800-537-5487.
Explore the themes of Purim – moral courage, masking our feelings, good versus evil, the moon – in this award-winning, bittersweet coming-of-age novel about Mira Adler and what she learns about life and love from her violin and Yiddish teacher, Chaver B, a mysterious and paradoxical recent immigrant from Prague, who Mira believes harbors a painful secret. Kirkus Reviews named it one of the Best Books of 2021, calling it “compelling…poignant and eloquent.” Ideal for bat/bar mitzvah gifts, book clubs, and classrooms, and for anyone who enjoys a good story. Discussion guide available.
This daring literary exploration reimagines well-known Biblical narratives with a sensual twist. In this provocative collection, familiar Torah characters are brought to life in intimate and passionate encounters that challenge traditional interpretations. These tales provide a fresh perspective on desire and human connection while inviting readers to view the Bible from a new and captivating angle that the author calls sexual midrash.
Available in paperback, Kindle and audiobook at Amazon.com.
A tale of the Hotel Brickman. The author, Patti Posner, the boss’s daughter, reveals the inner workings of the famous Catskill resort, along with the human story behind it all. Learn about the family drama, explosive secrets, drugs, familiar love and commitment. Patti’s memoir is a piece of Jewish American History.
Available on Amazon.
An amazing story of how a medieval Jewish cemetery caused extraordinary emotions. At Vitoria transports the reader from 1950s Bayonne, France, back to medieval Spain and weaves a story of success, love, terror and honor. The historical and cultural details make for an evocative narrative that draw the reader in and provide an engaging sense of realism.
256 pages, Available online at Bookshop.org and Amazon paperback ($11.96), ebook/Kindle ($2.99).
Forced to return to her parents’ roots in the Orthodox Syrian Jewish community in Brooklyn, Casey Cohen faces two opposing worlds as she explores the unfamiliar culture and finds love. “…a read-alike for Meg Wolitzer’s The Wife and Melissa Bank’s A Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing and sets the weight of familial, romantic and cultural expectations against the terrifying freedom of the unknown.”—Booklist.
A five-decade story of a teen in Brooklyn who becomes a boxer in the 1932 Golden Gloves, goes to war WWII, marries his sweetheart, overcomes anti-Semitism to build a plumbing business – and saves his family when his wife at 44 is crippled by a drunk driver. Recipient the U.S. 2022 National Literary Award for excellence in Memoirs– and ranked a “best-seller” on Amazon’s Jewish book list.
Hardcover, Paperback 386 pages or eBook, available on all book platforms. Inscribed copies from author at email@example.com.
Friends Ben and Don embark on a last minute road trip. Don is worried about Ben who recently lost his wife Ann. Or has he? Ben can hear his wife when no one is around. His psychiatrist says Ann is merely a bereavement hallucination but Ben knows she is as real as the wind. Almost Magic is a gentle look at love, loss and maybe moving on.
Now even the youngest readers can celebrate Hanukkah by joining Latke and his zany friends for an eight-night-long party! Alan Silberberg brings his signature humor to the board book audience with a silly, accessible introduction to Hanukkah. Latke is having a party to celebrate the miracle of the oil, and before the holiday is over, all his friends will join him.
Board book, To purchase visit www.penguinrandomhouse.com $7.99 plus shipping.
In the small blue room there was a bubbala, and a little shmatta, and then—oy vey!—came the whole mishpacha! This festive parody reimagines a classic bedtime book as a lively Jewish family gathering complete with bubbies and zeydes—a perfect gift or read aloud that includes an exclusive latke recipe by Ina Garten, TV’s Barefoot Contessa!
Hardcover, To purchase visit www.penguinrandomhouse.com $17.99 plus shipping.
In 1941, Sadie Kleinberg’s ten-year-old niece, Rhoda was quarantined in the children’s polio ward at St. Giles Hospital in Brooklyn, NY. Rhoda was immobilized and bedridden. Visiting hours were restricted to two days a week for one hour. Aunt Sadie took it upon herself to be Rhoda’s cheerleader, advisor, comfort giver and entertainer by writing her niece daily letters. Each letter included at least one poem Sadie composed just for Rhoda. These 101 letters, written from November 1941 to March 1942, offer light, love, and coping lessons during a dark and frightening time.
Felice and Ira Zaslow’s love story spanned almost four decades, from the beaches of Far Rockaway to a comfortable suburban existence on the south shore of Long Island. Then came the morning of September 11, 2001. Through the days, weeks, and months that followed, Felice had to find her way through unfathomable trauma, on a path she had to forge herself, seeking guidance and role models along the way. This remarkable and inspiring memoir puts a very personal face on a national tragedy, facing down the darkness by looking for the light that is always present.
Features 25 carefully curated essays written from just before the start of WWII through to its immediate aftermath, offering readers the unique opportunity to bear witness to the shifts in Isaac Bashevis Singer’s perspective as history unfolded. While Singer’s foresight, expressions of hope, and scathing critique of demagogues and fascism are products of their time, they are just as essential—and as chillingly relevant—in 2023. The first in a three-volume series, Writings on Yiddish and Yiddishkayt serves both as a broader record of the past and a close look at a legendary writer coming into his own.
Paperback, hardcover, ebook, 207 pages. To purchase visit shop.yiddishbookcenter.org.
Have you ever wondered about the real story behind your favorite song? In Weinstein’s latest novel, inspired by fan favorite “Hey There Delilah,” Rolling Stone reporter Cecilia James is on the hunt to find the muse behind the title song “What You Do To Me.” Told in dual timelines, the story captures forbidden love, healing old wounds, and the singular power of music.
Most Southern Jewish ladies living in the 20th century behaved with a “rule book” of society norms. But our Rubye was a woman who loved romantic relationships, and the normal binds of a traditional marriage escaped her vocabulary. In this memoir you’ll see the behaviors of a beautiful, yet overweight, Southern Jewish “belle” who broke every rule of society as she went through her life with the unique attitude that she could do it her way. And for her entire lifetime, she “got” away with it! A fun and informative read – you’ll love learning about Georgia and Southern Jewry.
Available in paperback, audio, and e-book on Amazon.
The Greatest Hanukkah Gift—A History of Jews in Europe and around the Mediterranean. The book celebrates the vibrancy and diversity of Jewish life and culture in the “golden age” of the postcard, of a world largely extinguished by the Shoah and the expulsion of Jews from Northern Africa.
Available on www.vintage-press.co.uk.
Hardcover, 222 pages. Reviews, author info, and order links at https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250265722/impossibleescape.
The #1 New York Times bestselling author Mitch Albom returns with his most compelling novel yet, following a Jewish boy who has never lied who is tricked by the Nazis into deceiving his own people. A riveting, inspiring story, Booklist says, “This is Albom at his enthralling best.”
Pre-order your copy now. Available on November 14th wherever books are sold. Also available in e-book and digital audio.
Set between the World Wars, this suspenseful family saga, love story, and gangster tale brings to life the Feinsteins, a family forged in tragedy and hope, struggling to attain their dreams in Brooklyn’s teeming streets. The beautifully written and tender descriptions of Ben, Golda, Morty and Sylvia living amid the Jewish and Italian gangsters who ruled New York in the 1920s and 1930s, are realistic and captivating. Like Kraut’s acclaimed first novel, How to Make a Life, this page-turner is well researched and a great book club read, perfect for holiday gift giving. Author will Zoom with book clubs.
Available November 14, in paperback, audio and e-book on Amazon, Bookshop.org or wherever you buy books. www.forencereeisskraut.com.
Borrowed Time is retired UT-Austin professor Dennis Carlyle Darling’s documentary, through photographs and interviews, of those who survived the unique Nazi ghetto/camp located at Terezín, Czech Republic. Darling reveals Terezín as a place of painful contradictions, through striking and intimate portraits that retrace time and place with his subjects, the last remnants of those who survived the experience.
Hardcover. 288 pages, 114 duotone photos. To purchase visit www.utexaspress.com or call 800-621-2736. $55.00, plus shipping.
Inspired by details from the author’s life, this fictional coming-of-age graphic novel for readers 8+ follows Mia, a girl whose father is a member of the Muscogee Nation in Oklahoma and whose mother is Jewish and lives in Los Angeles. Can Mia learn to embrace the complexity, meaning, and deep love that comes from being part of two vibrant tribes?
Available now wherever books are sold.
This vital collection of survivor stories uplifts and inspires alongside recipes that nourish your soul. Read about daring partisans who fought in the woods, hidden children who sought comfort from strangers and those who endured unimaginable internment. For Holocaust survivors, food was a way to connect their lives before the war with the homes they created after. Culinary icons such as Michael Solomonov, Jonathan Waxman, Ina Garten and more contribute their own recipes as tribute to the remarkable survivor community. Author June Hersh gives readers a taste of history and a life-affirming message that honors the legacy of Holocaust survivors.
A portion of the proceeds from sales of this book will benefit organizations committed to Holocaust education. Available wherever books are sold.
Winner of the 2023 Canadian Jewish Literary Awards – Yiddish. While widely considered an endangered language, Yiddish has emerged as a vehicle for young people to engage with their heritage and identity, and as a site for creative renewal in the Jewish world and beyond. Yiddish Lives On explores diverse stories and strategies of resistance to language decline.
2023 | Cloth | $37.95 | 376pp | 20 photos, 5 tables. Available on Bookshop.org.
“As Oz himself put it: ‘Imagining the other is a powerful antidote to fanaticism and hatred.’ He saw imagination as ‘not only an aesthetic tool’ but ‘a major moral imperative.’ Oz’s pursuit of that imperative is a major theme of Amos Oz: The Legacy of a Writer in Israel and Beyond, a collection of illuminating essays on the author edited by Ranen Omer-Sherman.” — Wall Street Journal.
Paperback, 424 pages, ISBN 9781438492483, $37.95, 30% discount with code XHMG23 through 1/31/24, SUNYPress.edu.
A transformative spiritual companion and deep dive into disability politics that reimagines disability in the Bible and contemporary culture. Loving Our Own Bones invites readers to claim the power and promise of spiritual dissent, and to nourish their own souls through the revolutionary art of radical self-love. Scholar, activist, and rabbi Julia Watts Belser delves deep into sacred literature, braiding the insights of disabled, feminist, Black, and queer thinkers with her own experiences as a queer disabled Jewish feminist. This essential read will foster and enrich conversations about disability, spirituality, and social justice.
National Jewish Book Award Winner. From the award-winning author and writer Danya Ruttenberg comes a crucial new lens on repentance, atonement, forgiveness, and repair from harm—from personal transgressions to our culture’s most painful and unresolved issues.
Rooted in traditional Jewish concepts while doggedly accessible and available to people from any, or no, religious background, On Repentance and Repair is a book for anyone who cares about creating a country and culture that is more whole than the one in which we live, and for anyone who has been hurt or who is struggling to take responsibility for their mistakes.
Set in the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II and inspired by the actual Oneg Shabbat archive the occupants kept so their stories would not be lost, We Must Not Think of Ourselves by New York Times bestselling author Lauren Grodstein shares a piece of history few know about—and a stunning story about the power of love and defiance. “A masterpiece.” —Madeline Miller