Guide to Jewish Literature - January/February 2024
A selection of books to entice any reader. Everything from novels to nonfiction, memoirs to mysteries, cookbooks to kids’ books.
This critically-acclaimed bestseller presents the captivating story of Clara Prinz, a remarkable woman forced to leave her native Berlin in 1939. As Clara traveled alone on a voyage into the unknown, she turned 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. Through Clara’s chance encounters with notable personalities of the period, Clara’s Secretweaves an unforgettable tapestry of personal and historic events. Clara’s Secret is ultimately a compelling story of the advancement of humankind and the survival of its decline.
“Talia Carner, long established as one of the strongest voices in Jewish historical fiction, returns with her finest work to date. Spanning WWII Europe to the struggling early state of Israel, Carner’s latest brings to light important history in a spellbinding and unforgettable human drama.”— Pam Jenoff, bestselling author of Code Name Sapphire. From acclaimed author of The Third Daughter comes an epic historical novel of ingenuity and courage, of love and loss, spanning postwar France when Israeli agents roamed the countryside to rescue hidden Jewish orphans—to the 1969 daring escape of the Israeli boats of Cherbourg.
On sale January 30, 2024. Paperback, 432 pages. To purchase visit www.taliacarner.com/the-boy-with-the-star-tattoo/.
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.
Available on Amazon and Bookshop.org.
Drawing on biographical and historical sources, Bessie reimagines the early life of Bess Myerson—the musically talented daughter of poor Russian immigrants—who, in the bigoted milieu of 1945, remarkably rises to become the first, and to date only, Miss America, and a woman who used her fame to battle antisemitism, racism, and sexism. MSmagazine.com said Bessie is “Nuanced, complex and insightful….” Hadassah Magazine said it’s “impressively researched … comes to a crescendo in her vivid and artful portraits of real-life characters…”
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.
A story about one young man’s struggle to deal with his Nazi father’s legacy from the Holocaust to his adoption by a Jewish American doctor at the end of the war, and his participation in the fight to establish the State of Israel. The book intertwines the story of the boy’s birth father, an SS officer, with his adoptive father, a field surgeon during Israel’s 1948 War of Independence, and the boy, now a young man undertaking a dangerous mission for Israel’s Mossad in Egypt before the Yom Kippur War, that brings him face to face with his past.
Available on Amazon and Bookshop.org. Book trailer available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TzQcr7NCI-k.
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.
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.
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.
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.
All Ground Up tells the story of people just trying to survive Covid. Both funny and sad, it explains how people got through these turbulent times with the help of family and friends. Mary says: ” I needed this book.”
Shaindel Pogrebiski’s life is shattered by the senseless pogroms that follow the Ukrainian civil war in 1919. To survive, she and her young daughter must flee the turmoil. But where will they go? What country will take in refugees? The world seems indifferent to the bloodbath upending their lives.
Most Southern Jewish ladies living in the twentieth 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, doing things in her unique fashion. This memoir is rich in Atlanta Jewish history, the talk of domestic women of color, and segregation in the South. The book’s characters vividly come to life. A quick read full of sass and rebellion!
Available in paperback, audio, and e-book on Amazon.
Hope triumphs over fear in this poignant true story of the Holocaust—a delicate introduction to World War II history for older picture book readers. In the concentration camp Terezin, a group of Jewish children and their devoted teacher planted and nurtured a smuggled-in sapling. Over time fewer and fewer children were left to care for the tree, but those who remained kept lovingly sharing their water with it. Nearly eighty years later the tree’s 600 descendants around the world are thriving, including one that was planted at New York City’s Museum of Jewish Heritage in 2021.
The story of a Jewish mother and daughter who overcome adversity, based on five years of correspondence that starts when the daughter enters Brandeis in the fall of 1962. The letters demonstrate how each of them was able to move past their sorrow to become more self-confident and more independent of the other, staying closely connected even as they were less intertwined.
Available on Amazon.
In this illustrated chapter book set in 1947, Barbara not only has to deal with her father going to Europe to help Jewish refugees, but she’s left with the problem of a stray peacock in their yard, much to her mother’s dismay. Barbara devises a plan to earn the peacock’s trust and return it to its home at the zoo.
Available wherever books are sold and at orcabook.com.