Letters to a Buddhist Jew by Akiva Tatz and David Gottlieb
Editorial Reviews (found at amazon.com) Review
"This is a fascinating book: the most serious contribution in this field to date." --Zoketsu Norman Fischer, Everyday Zen Foundation
"A far-reaching discussion that touches on many of Judaism's deepest insights... a must read for any searching Jew." --Jonathan Rosenblum, Author and Jerusalem Post columnist
www.aish.com, May 15, 2005
"One of the most important Jewish books published in English in recent times." -- Sarah Yoheved Rigler
It began as a correspondence between an Orthodox rabbi and a Jewish man seeking a return to Judaism. It culminated in LETTERS to a BUDDHIST JEW, a far-reaching correspondence that plumbs the depths of Jewish knowledge and answers the questions disaffected Jews have sought for decades. This book is a must-read for anyone seeking to understand why Jews are drawn to other faiths -- and what can draw them back.
About the Author
DAVID GOTTLIEB is a free-lance writer and affordable housing developer. Born and raised in the Chicago area, David underwent lay ordination as a Zen Buddhist in May 2002. He received his B.A. from Amherst College, where he was awarded the Peter Burnett Howe Prize for Prose Fiction Writing, and his Master of Fine Arts from the University of North Carolina. RABBI DR. AKIVA TATZ, South African born physician and author, lectures at the Jewish Learning Exchange in London and internationally on Jewish philosophy and medical ethics. His book "Anatomy of a ASearch" documents the transition of secular lifestyles into the world of observant Judaism. In "Living Inspired" he explores fundamental themes in Torah thought; his "Worldmask" reveals depths beneath the surface of everyday experience. In "The Thinking Jewish Teenager's Guide to Life" he presents an approach to life's most important issues for thinking young adults. He is founder and director of the Jerusalem Medical Ethics Forum. His work has been translated into Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese and Russian.
From the Inside Flap
Eliza Naumann, a seemingly unremarkable nine-year-old, expects never to fit into her gifted family: her autodidact father, Saul, absorbed in his study of Jewish mysticism; her brother, Aaron, the vessel of his father's spiritual ambitions; and her brilliant but distant lawyer-mom, Miriam. But when Eliza sweeps her school and district spelling bees in quick succession, Saul takes it as a sign that she is destined for greatness. In this altered reality, Saul inducts her into his hallowed study and lavishes upon her the attention previously reserved for Aaron, who in his displacement embarks upon a lone quest for spiritual fulfillment. When Miriam's secret life triggers a familial explosion, it is Eliza who must order the chaos.
Myla Goldberg's keen eye for detail brings Eliza's journey to three-dimensional life. As she rises from classroom obscurity to the blinding lights and outsized expectations of the National Bee, Eliza's small pains and large joys are finely wrought and deeply felt.
Not merely a coming-of-age story, Goldberg's first novel delicately examines the unraveling fabric of one family. The outcome of this tale is as startling and unconventional as her prose, which wields its metaphors sharply and rings with maturity. The work of a lyrical and gifted storyteller, Bee Season marks the arrival of an extraordinarily talented new writer.
" Bee Season is a profound delight, an amazement, a beauty, and is, I hope, a book of the longest of seasons."
--Jane Hamilton, author of A Map of the World and The Book of Ruth
"Myla Goldberg's Bee Season is a bittersweet coming-of-age in which wise little Eliza Naumann's quirky passion for spelling bees unites and divides her family while revealing universal truths about the often crippling pain of love."
--Martha McPhee, author of Bright Angel Time
"There is such joy and pain thrumming inside Myla Goldberg's spelling bees! She delicately captures one family's spinning out by concentrating equally on the beauty and the despair. Bee Season is a heartbreaking first novel."
--Aimee Bender, author of The Girl in the Flammable Skirt
"In a story told with unique delicacy and brave inventiveness, a young girl, innocent and all-knowing, learns how much there is to lose, and what it takes to win."
--Elizabeth Strout, author of Amy and Isabelle
The Freedom Writers Diary:
How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to
Change Themselves and the World Around Them by Erin Gruwell
Straight from the front line of urban America, the inspiring story of one fiercely determined teacher and her remarkable students.
As an idealistic twenty-three-year-old English teacher at Wilson High School in Long Beach, California, Erin Gruwell confronted a room of “unteachable, at-risk” students. One day she intercepted a note with an ugly racial caricature, and angrily declared that this was precisely the sort of thing that led to the Holocaust—only to be met by uncomprehending looks. So she and her students, using the treasured books Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl and Zlata's Diary: A Child's Life in Sarajevo as their guides, undertook a life-changing, eye-opening, spirit-raising odyssey against intolerance and misunderstanding. They learned to see the parallels in these books to their own lives, recording their thoughts and feelings in diaries and dubbing themselves the “Freedom Writers” in homage to the civil rights activists “The Freedom Riders.”
With funds raised by a “Read-a-thon for Tolerance,” they arranged for Miep Gies, the courageous Dutch woman who sheltered the Frank family, to visit them in California, where she declared that Erin Gruwell's students were “the real heroes.” Their efforts have paid off spectacularly, both in terms of recognition—appearances on “Prime Time Live” and “All Things Considered,” coverage in People magazine, a meeting with U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley—and educationally. All 150 Freedom Writers have graduated from high school and are now attending college.
With powerful entries from the students' own diaries and a narrative text by Erin Gruwell, The Freedom Writers Diary is an uplifting, unforgettable example of how hard work, courage, and the spirit of determination changed the lives of a teacher and her students.
The authors' proceeds from this book will be donated to The Tolerance Education Foundation, an organization set up to pay for the Freedom Writers' college tuition. Erin Gruwell is now a visiting professor at California State University, Long Beach, where some of her students are Freedom Writers. APL has numerous copies, including books on tape.
To listen to "The NPR Talk of the Nation Podcast - Diane Ackerman discusses The Zookeeper's Wife", go to
The Queen's Fool by Philippa Gregory
A young woman caught in the rivalry between Queen Mary and her half sister, Elizabeth, must find her true destiny amid treason, poisonous rivalries, loss of faith, and unrequited love.
It is winter, 1553. Pursued by the Inquisition, Hannah Green, a fourteen-year-old Jewish girl, is forced to flee Spain with her father. But Hannah is no ordinary refugee. Her gift of "Sight," the ability to foresee the future, is priceless in the troubled times
of the Tudor court. Hannah is adopted by the glamorous Robert Dudley, the charismatic son of King Edward's protector, who brings her to court as a "holy fool" for Queen Mary and, ultimately, Queen Elizabeth. Hired as a fool but working as a spy; promised in wedlock but in love with her master; endangered by the laws against heresy, treason, and witchcraft, Hannah must choose between the safe life of a commoner and the dangerous intrigues of the royal family that are inextricably bound up in her own yearnings and desires.
Teeming with vibrant period detail and peopled by characters seamlessly woven into the sweeping tapestry of history, The Queen's Fool is another rich and emotionally resonant gem from this wonderful storyteller.
For information about the author, go to http://authors.simonandschuster.com/Philippa-Gregory
The publisher offers a reading guide at http://books.simonandschuster.com/9780743269827
People of the Book: A Novel by Geraldine Brooks
One of the earliest Jewish religious volumes to be illuminated with images, the Sarajevo Haggadah survived centuries of purges and wars thanks to people of all faiths who risked their lives to safeguard it. Geraldine Brooks, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of March, has turned the intriguing but sparely detailed history of this precious volume into an emotionally rich, thrilling fictionalization that retraces its turbulent journey. In the hands of Hanna Heath, an impassioned rare-book expert restoring the manuscript in 1996 Sarajevo, it yields clues to its guardians and whereabouts: an insect wing, a wine stain, salt crystals, and a white hair. While readers experience crucial moments in the book's history through a series of fascinating, fleshed-out short stories, Hanna pursues its secrets scientifically, and finds that some interests will still risk everything in the name of protecting this treasure. A complex love story, thrilling mystery, vivid history lesson, and celebration of the enduring power of ideas, People of the Book will surely be hailed as one of the best of 2008. --Mari Malcolm
For a reading guide and an interview with the author, go to
Standing on My Sisters' Shoulders
The award-winning documentary “Standing On My Sisters' Shoulders” takes on the Civil Rights movement in Mississippi in the 1950's and 60's from the point of view of the courageous women who lived it – and emerged as its grassroots leaders. These women stood up and fought for the right to vote and the right to an equal education. They not only brought about change in Mississippi, but they altered the course of American history. The Civil Rights movement brought forth many heroes, such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X and Rosa Parks, who have been made famous by their commitment to the cause. Yet most of us have never heard of Fannie Lou Hamer, Annie Devine, Unita Blackwell, Mae Bertha Carter, or Victoria Gray Adams. But without the efforts of these women, the Civil Rights movement in Mississippi would not have been possible. In a state where lynching of black males was the highest in the nation, a unique opportunity for women emerged to become activists in the movement. This is their story of commitment, bravery and leadership in the face of a hostile and violent segregated society.
More information is available at http://www.sisters-shoulders.org/film.html
Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace...
One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin
The publisher offers a reading guide as well as an interview with the author at
Water for Elephants: A Novel by Sara Gruen
Jacob Jankowski says: "I am ninety. Or ninety-three. One or the other." At the beginning of Water for Elephants , he is living out his days in a nursing home, hating every second of it. His life wasn't always like this, however, because Jacob ran away and joined the circus when he was twenty-one. It wasn't a romantic, carefree decision, to be sure. His parents were killed in an auto accident one week before he was to sit for his veterinary medicine exams at Cornell. He buried his parents, learned that they left him nothing because they had mortgaged everything to pay his tuition, returned to school, went to the exams, and didn't write a single word. He walked out without completing the test and wound up on a circus train. The circus he joins, in Depression-era America, is second-rate at best. With Ringling Brothers as the standard, Benzini Brothers is far down the scale and pale by comparison.
Water for Elephants is the story of Jacob's life with this circus. Sara Gruen spares no detail in chronicling the squalid, filthy, brutish circumstances in which he finds himself. The animals are mangy, underfed or fed rotten food, and abused. Jacob, once it becomes known that he has veterinary skills, is put in charge of the "menagerie" and all its ills. Uncle Al, the circus impresario, is a self-serving, venal creep who slaps people around because he can. August, the animal trainer, is a certified paranoid schizophrenic whose occasional flights into madness and brutality often have Jacob as their object. Jacob is the only person in the book who has a handle on a moral compass and as his reward he spends most of the novel beaten, broken, concussed, bleeding, swollen and hungover. He is the self-appointed Protector of the Downtrodden, and... he falls in love with Marlena, crazy August's wife. Not his best idea.
The most interesting aspect of the book is all the circus lore that Gruen has so carefully researched. She has all the right vocabulary: grifters, roustabouts, workers, cooch tent, rubes, First of May, what the band plays when there's trouble, Jamaican ginger paralysis, life on a circus train, set-up and take-down, being run out of town by the "revenooers" or the cops, and losing all your hooch. There is one glorious passage about Marlena and Rosie, the bull elephant, that truly evokes the magic a circus can create. It is easy to see Marlena's and Rosie's pink sequins under the Big Top and to imagine their perfect choreography as they perform unbelievable stunts. The crowd loves it--and so will the reader. The ending is absolutely ludicrous and really quite lovely. --Valerie Ryan
The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir by Bill Bryson
From one of the most beloved and bestselling authors in the English language, a vivid, nostalgic, and utterly hilarious memoir of growing up in the 1950s
Bill Bryson was born in the middle of the American century—1951—in the middle of the United States—Des Moines, Iowa—in the middle of the largest generation in American history—the baby boomers. As one of the best and funniest writers alive, he is perfectly positioned to mine his memories of a totally all-American childhood for 24-carat memoir gold. Like millions of his generational peers, Bill Bryson grew up with a rich fantasy life as a superhero. In his case, he ran around his house and neighborhood with an old football jersey with a thunderbolt on it and a towel about his neck that served as his cape, leaping tall buildings in a single bound and vanquishing awful evildoers (and morons)—in his head—as "The Thunderbolt Kid."
Using this persona as a springboard, Bill Bryson re-creates the life of his family and his native city in the 1950s in all its transcendent normality—a life at once completely familiar to us all and as far away and unreachable as another galaxy. It was, he reminds us, a happy time, when automobiles and televisions and appliances (not to mention nuclear weapons) grew larger and more numerous with each passing year, and DDT, cigarettes, and the fallout from atmospheric testing were considered harmless or even good for you. He brings us into the life of his loving but eccentric family, including affectionate portraits of his father, a gifted sportswriter for the local paper and dedicated practitioner of isometric exercises, and OF his mother, whose job as the home furnishing editor for the same paper left her little time for practicing the domestic arts at home. The many readers of Bill Bryson's earlier classic, A Walk in the Woods, will greet the reappearance in these pages of the immortal Stephen Katz, seen hijacking literally boxcar loads of beer. He is joined in the Bryson gallery of immortal characters by the demonically clever Willoughby brothers, who apply their scientific skills and can-do attitude to gleefully destructive ends.
Warm and laugh-out-loud funny, and full of his inimitable, pitch-perfect observations, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid is as wondrous a book as Bill Bryson has ever written. It will enchant anyone who has ever been young.
Rashi's Daughters - Book 1: Joheved A Novel of Love and the Talmud in Medieval France by Maggie Anton
In 1068, the scholar Salomon ben Isaac returns home to Troyes, France, to take over the family winemaking business and embark on a path that will indelibly influence the Jewish world—writing the first Talmud commentary, and secretly teaching Talmud to his daughters.
Joheved, the eldest of his three girls, finds her mind and spirit awakened by religious study, but, knowing the risk, she must keep her passion for learning and prayer hidden. When she becomes betrothed to Meir ben Samuel, she is forced to choose between marital happiness and being true to her love of the Talmud.
Rich in period detail and drama, Joheved is a must read for fans of Tracy Chevalier's Girl With a Pearl Earring
"This carefully researched work provides a glimpse into the little-known medieval Jewish world in which Rashi lived and worked." -- Naomi Ragen, Dec 2004
Anton turns sketchy knowledge of Solomon ben Isaac (Rashi) and his family into an absorbing historical novel. -- Jewish Times News, August 18, 2005
Much like The Red Tent, it delves into rituals of women who were forgotten by history and marginalized by society. -- Library Journal, July 12, 2005
Recreates a medieval French community faithful to little-known details of Jewish ritual, including marital relations, childbirth, life-cycle events and holidays. -- The Jewish Press, Jan 11, 2006
Takes the torch from Anita Diamant, while using more research to explain the phenomenon that is Rashi and his daughters. -- The J of Northern California, August 25, 2005
The way Anton's extensive research and imagination combine to retrieve the lives of Jewish women is realistic and captivating. -- Dvora Weisberg, Nov 2004
Blending passages of Talmudic argument with imagined human dramas of the medieval scholar's household, it entertains and educates. -- Judith R. Baskin, Dec 2004
Rashi's Daughters - Book 2: Miriam by Maggie Anton
The engrossing historical series of three sisters living in eleventh-century Troyes, France, continues with the tale of Miriam, the lively and daring middle child of Salomon ben Isaac, the great Talmudic authority. Having no sons, he teaches his daughters the intricacies of Mishnah and Gemara in an era when educating women in Jewish scholarship was unheard of. His middle daughter, Miriam, is determined to bring new life safely into the Troyes Jewish community and becomes a midwife. As devoted as she is to her chosen path, she cannot foresee the ways in which she will be tested and how heavily she will need to rely on her faith. With Rashi's Daughters , author Maggie Anton brings the Talmud and eleventh-century France to vivid life and poignantly captures the struggles and triumphs of strong Jewish women.
Reviews MIRIAM gives us a fascinating glimpse into the world of Jewish women long ago. A wonderful read! -- Rabbi Elyse Goldstein, author ReVisions: Seeing Torah through A Feminist Lens
Once again, Maggie Anton has delighted us with an engrossing story of the family and the circle of students around Rashi, the medieval commentator on the Bible and Talmud. [This] is a sensitive portrayal of a complex young woman, a conscientious midwife and healer, who strives for learning, love and inner contentment. -- Jody Myers, Professor, Department of Religious Studies, Coordinator, Jewish Studies Program California State University, Northridge
Rashi and his extended family become real people with very familiar challenges and triumphs…. Well researched and absolutely intriguing to read... what a wonderful story this is! -- Rabbi Elliot N. Dorff, Rector and Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, American Jewish University, formerly the University of Judaism, Los Angeles
Who knew that traditional Jewish life in medieval France could be so bound up in physical desire? In this compelling and well-researched historical novel, Anton shows us the love, family, sex and death that made up the daily lives of those surrounding the greatest rabbinic commentator in history. -- David Shneer, Director, Center for Judaic Studies, Associate Professor, History, University of Denver
[Anton] has surpassed herself. She offers Talmudic insights, true to life yet colorful characters and a riveting plot, which together make for a most informative and enjoyable read. Not to be missed! -- Eva Etzioni-Halevy, Author of The Song of Hannah and The Garden of Ruth
"The Book Thief is unsettling and unsentimental, yet ultimately poetic. Its grimness and tragedy run through the reader's mind like a black-and-white movie, bereft of the colors of life. Zusak may not have lived under Nazi domination, but The Book Thief deserves a place on the same shelf with The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank and Elie Wiesel's Night. It seems poised to become a classic."
- USA Today
"Zusak doesn’t sugarcoat anything, but he makes his ostensibly gloomy subject bearable the same way Kurt Vonnegut did in Slaughterhouse-Five: with grim, darkly consoling humor.”
- Time Magazine
"Elegant, philosophical and moving...Beautiful and important."
- Kirkus Reviews, Starred
"This hefty volume is an achievement...a challenging book in both length and subject..."
- Publisher's Weekly, Starred
"Exquisitely written and memorably populated, Zusak's poignant tribute to words, survival, and their curiously inevitable entwinement is a tour de force to be not just read but inhabited."
- The Horn Book Magazine, Starred
"An extraordinary narrative."
- School Library Journal, Starred
"The Book Thief will be appreciated for Mr. Zusak's audacity, also on display in his earlier I Am the Messenger. It will be widely read and admired because it tells a story in which books become treasures. And because there's no arguing with a sentiment like that."
- New York Times
It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .
Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.
This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.
The publisher provides information about this author
A reading group guide is also available, at http://books.wwnorton.com/books/readingguidesdetail.aspx?id=14861
Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones
From the publisher's website: In a novel that is at once intense, beautiful, and fablelike, Lloyd Jones weaves a transcendent story that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the power of narrative to transform our lives.
On a copper-rich tropical island shattered by war, where the teachers have fled with most everyone else, only one white man chooses to stay behind: the eccentric Mr. Watts, object of much curiosity and scorn, who sweeps out the ruined schoolhouse and begins to read to the children each day from Charles Dickens's classic Great Expectations.
So begins this rare, original story about the abiding strength that imagination, once ignited, can provide. As artillery echoes in the mountains, thirteen-year-old Matilda and her peers are riveted by the adventures of a young orphan named Pip in a city called London, a city whose contours soon become more real than their own blighted landscape. As Mr. Watts says, “A person entranced by a book simply forgets to breathe.” Soon come the rest of the villagers, initially threatened, finally inspired to share tales of their own that bring alive the rich mythology of their past. But in a ravaged place where even children are forced to live by their wits and daily survival is the only objective, imagination can be a dangerous thing.
The publisher provides information about the author, as well as a teacher's guide, at
For a recording of the author talking about his love of Great Expectations and its role in this novel, go to http://a1018.g.akamai.net/f/1018/19022/1d/randomhouse1.download.akamai.com/19022/audio/bdpodcast/Lloyd Jones Podcast.mp3
The Septembers of Shiraz by Dalia Sofer
From Bookmarks Magazine:
Dalia Sofer, who was forced to flee postrevolutionary Iran at the age of ten after her own father was unjustly imprisoned, captures her family's experiences in this moving, semiautobiographical tale. Citing Sofer's evocative prose, sensitive characterizations, and suspenseful plot, reviewers called Sofer's debut novel persuasive and memorable. Though she ruminates on themes of faith, love, and the heavy toll of political and religious oppression, Sofer's honesty and balanced outlook prevent the story from lapsing into sensational melodrama or lurid allegory. Her descriptions of torture, though vivid, are not gratuitously violent. A few small complaints included some contrived dialogue and Parviz's annoying self-pity, but critics agreed that these do not detract from an otherwise "powerful, timely book" (Rocky Mountain News).
The House at Sugar Beach: In Search of a Lost African Childhood by Helene Cooper
From Bookmarks Magazine: In her warm, conversational tone, Helene Cooper vividly evokes the sights, sounds, and smells of Liberia for readers as she describes the customs, history, and culture of her native land. Indeed, she has a great deal of background information to convey to Western readers unfamiliar with the country, but she folds this material masterfully into the narrative. An accomplished storyteller, Cooper relates the arrogance and excesses of her family during her early years without losing her readers' sympathy, and she likewise depicts the joys of friendship and the horrors of war without becoming melodramatic or maudlin. Like the best nonfiction—and journalism—Cooper's gripping coming-of-age story enlightens and inspires, often reading like a novel. In sum, it is a very personal and honest memoir from a gifted writer. Copyright 2008 Bookmarks Publishing LLC
Delightful...gritty and smart, profane and poetic. -- Milwaukee Magazine
I loved Whistling in the Dark . It was a fabulous book. Living with the O'Malley sisters for the summer is an experience that no one will forget. -- Flamingnet.com Top CHOICE award
Innocently wise and ultimately captivating. -- The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Kagen's debut novel sparkles with charm thanks to 10-year-old narrator Sally O'Malley, who draws readers into the story of her momentous summer in 1959. The author has an uncanny ability to visualize the world as seen by a precocious child in this unforgettable book. -- Romantic Times Top Pick [4 and a half stars]
One of the summer's hot reads. -- The Chicago Tribune
The plot is a humdinger...a certifiable Grade A summer read. -- The Capital Times
The Space Between Us , Thrity Umrigar's poignant novel about a wealthy woman and her downtrodden servant, offers a revealing look at class and gender roles in modern day Bombay. Alternatively told through the eyes of Sera, a Parsi widow whose pregnant daughter and son-in-law share her elegant home, and Bhima, the elderly housekeeper who must support her orphaned granddaughter, Umrigar does an admirable job of creating two sympathetic characters whose bond goes far deeper than that of employer and employee.
When we first meet Bhima, she is sharing a thin mattress with Maya, the granddaughter upon whom high hopes and dreams were placed, only to be shattered by an unexpected pregnancy and its disastrous consequences. As time goes on, we learn that Sera and her family have used their power and money time and time again to influence the lives of Bhima and Maya, from caring for Bhima's estranged husband after a workplace accident, to providing the funds for Maya's college education. We also learn that Sera's seemingly privileged life is not as it appears; after enduring years of cruelty under her mother-in-law's roof, she faced physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her husband, pain that only Bhima could see and alleviate. Yet through the triumphs and tragedies, Sera and Bhima always shared a bond that transcended class and race; a bond shared by two women whose fate always seemed to rest in the hands of others, just outside their control.
Told in a series of flashbacks and present day encounters, The Space Between Us gains strength from both plot and prose. A beautiful tale of tragedy and hope, Umrigar's second novel is sure to linger in readers' minds. --Gisele Toueg --
"The Latehomecomer: a Hmong Family Memoir" by Kao Kalia Yang
From Booklist Most Americans are relatively ignorant of Hmong history and culture. In fact, many have a negative perception of this immigrant group. For example, few are aware of the fact that the Hmong fought on the American side during the Vietnam War. In this beautiful memoir, Yang recounts the harrowing journey of her family from Laos to a refugee camp in Thailand to the U.S. Eventually settling in St. Paul, Minnesota, their struggle was not over. Adapting to a new community that often did not understand nor want them was difficult. This difficulty was compounded by the fact that the Hmong, despite possessing a rich folkloric tradition, have no written language of their own. Determined to tell the story of both her family and her people, Yang intimately chronicles the immigrant experience from the Hmong perspective, providing a long-overdue contribution to the history and literature of ethnic America. --Margaret Flanagan
“A tender and satisfying novel set in a time and a place lost forever, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet gives us a glimpse of the damage that is caused by war--not the sweeping damage of the battlefield, but the cold, cruel damage to the hearts and humanity of individual people. Especially relevant in today's world, this is a beautifully written book that will make you think. And, more importantly, it will make you feel ." -- Garth Stein , New York Times bestselling author of The Art of Racing in the Rain
“Jamie Ford's first novel explores the age-old conflicts between father and son, the beauty and sadness of what happened to Japanese Americans in the Seattle area during World War II, and the depths and longing of deep-heart love. An impressive, bitter, and sweet debut.” -- Lisa See , bestselling author of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
What if our beliefs were not what divided us, but what pulled us together?
In Have a Little Faith , Mitch Albom offers a beautifully written story of a remarkable eight-year journey between two worlds, two men, two faiths, two communities, that will inspire readers everywhere. Albom's first nonfiction book since Tuesdays with Morrie, "Have a Little Faith" begins with an unusual request: an eighty-two-year-old rabbi from Albom's old hometown asks him to deliver his eulogy.
Feeling unworthy, Albom insists on understanding the man better, which throws him back into a world of faith he'd left years ago. Meanwhile, closer to his current home, Albom becomes involved with a Detroit pastor -- a reformed drug dealer and convict -- who preaches to the poor and homeless in a decaying church with a hole in its roof.
Moving between their worlds, Christian and Jewish, African-American and white, impoverished and well-to-do, Albom observes how these very different men employ faith similarly in fighting for survival: the older, suburban rabbi embracing it as death approaches; the younger, inner-city pastor relying on it to keep himself and his church afloat.
As America struggles with hard times and people turn more to their beliefs, Albom and the two men of God explore issues that perplex modern man: how to endure when difficult things happen; what heaven is; intermarriage; forgiveness; doubting God; and the importance of faith in trying times. Although the texts, prayers, and histories are different, Albom begins to recognize a striking unity between the two worlds–indeed, between beliefs everywhere.
In the end, as the rabbi nears death and a harsh winter threatens the pastor's wobbly church, Albom sadly fulfills the rabbi's last request and writes the eulogy. And he finally understands what both men had been teaching all along: the profound comfort of believing in something bigger than yourself.
"The Invisible Wall: A Love Story That Broke Barriers", by Harry Bernstein
From School Library Journal
When Bernstein was a boy, his older sister, Lily, was in love with Arthur. This would not have been a problem except that Arthur was Christian and Lily was Jewish, and in their pre-Great War mill town in northern England, an invisible wall ran down their street, separating them. Neighbors rarely crossed those few cobblestoned feet. In winter, the Jews built a snow slide on their side and the Christians built one on theirs. There was not much other frivolity in those hard times. Home was not a happy place for Harry, his mother, and his five brothers and sisters when his mean, alcoholic father was there. When 12-year-old Lily won a scholarship to grammar school, her father dragged her by the hair to work with him. Harry's mother started a shop in her front room to make ends meet, selling slightly damaged fruit and providing a place for socializing and gossip. She always hoped for better, having Harry write letters to their relatives in America, beseeching them on a regular basis to send passage for her family, and then, finally, only for Lily when the lovers were discovered. Barriers were finally broken as Lily refused to give up either Arthur or her mother. Readers will be taken with this memoir, reminiscent of Frank McCourt's Angela's Ashes (Scribner, 1996). It will grab them from the start, drawing them into an intimate relationship with Harry, Lily, their mother, and the various neighbors who lived on their street.
From Publishers Weekly What perfect timing for this optimistic, uplifting debut novel (and maiden publication of Amy Einhorn's new imprint) set during the nascent civil rights movement in Jackson, Miss., where black women were trusted to raise white children but not to polish the household silver. Eugenia Skeeter Phelan is just home from college in 1962, and, anxious to become a writer, is advised to hone her chops by writing about what disturbs you. The budding social activist begins to collect the stories of the black women on whom the country club sets relies and mistrusts enlisting the help of Aibileen, a maid who's raised 17 children, and Aibileen's best friend Minny, who's found herself unemployed more than a few times after mouthing off to her white employers. The book Skeeter puts together based on their stories is scathing and shocking, bringing pride and hope to the black community, while giving Skeeter the courage to break down her personal boundaries and pursue her dreams. Assured and layered, full of heart and history, this one has bestseller written all over it. (Feb.)
"[Into the Beautiful North] is deliciously composed...[Urrea writes] in a sweet but serious style...You find it in the dialogue...You find it in the description of the countryside...the plot gathers as much strength as the prose..." (Chicago Tribune Alan Cheuse)
"Awash in a subtle kind of satire...A funny and poignant impossible journey...Into the Beautiful North is a refreshing antidote to all the negativity currently surrounding Mexico." (Dallas Morning News)
Collins (1824-1889) was a pioneer of the modern mystery/detective novel, and he also wrote on the plight of women and on the social and domestic issues of his time.
The story is considered an early example of detective fiction with the hero, Walter Hartright, employing many of the sleuthing techniques of later private detectives. The use of multiple narratives draws on Collins's legal training and as he points out in his Preamble: 'the story here presented will be told by more than one pen, as the story of an offence against the laws is told in Court by more than one witness'.
About the book and author; background; author interview; and reading guide (Random House)
"Clara and Mr. Tiffany ", by Susan Vreeland
From Booklist The first thing to be said about a Vreeland novel is that the reader learns a lot from it, but the joy and delight of a Vreeland novel is that the knowledge gleaned from her beautifully articulate pages is not forced on you, not delivered as if from a podium. Welcome here to the world of Clara Driscoll, whom Vreeland has brought to light from the archives of Tiffany Glass Company to establish what is most probably her rightful place in the history of American decorative arts. This deep-reaching novel is based on the likelihood that Clara conceived the famous Tiffany leaded-glass lamp shade, which has come down from the early years of the twentieth century as the epitome of the creativity in glass for which the Tiffany outfit was known. Clara worked in the women's studio for founder Louis Tiffany himself and struggled against the anti-female bias of the company—like that of any other company of the time, for that matter—to position herself as a first-rate artisan in her boss' eyes. Plus, Vreeland takes Clara out of the workplace to give her a personal life quite suitable for not only the time but also her strong personality. There's no excuse for any reader of high-quality literary fiction to let this novel pass by.
Copies are available at the Appleton Public Library
"Day After Night", by Anita Diamant
From Publishers Weekly
Diamant's bestseller, The Red Tent , explored the lives of biblical women ignored by the male-centric narrative. In her compulsively readable latest, she sketches the intertwined fates of several young women refugees at Atlit, a British-run internment camp set up in Palestine after WWII. There's Tedi, a Dutch girl who hid in a barn for years before being turned in and narrowly escaping Bergen-Belsen; Leonie, a beautiful French girl whose wartime years in Paris are cloaked with shame; Shayndel, a heroine of the Polish partisan movement whose cheerful facade hides a tortured soul; and Zorah, a concentration camp survivor who is filled with an understandable nihilism. The dynamic of suffering and renewed hope through friendship is the book's primary draw, but an eventual escape attempt adds a dash of suspense to the astutely imagined story of life at the camp: the wary relationship between the Palestinian Jews and the survivors, the intense flirtation between the young people that marks a return to life. Diamant opens a window into a time of sadness, confusion and optimism that has resonance for so much that's both triumphant and troubling in modern Jewish history. (Sept.)
From Amazon.com: “A powerful memoir about hope, courage, and faith. . . . The lessons of this book are urgently needed today.”—Dr. Alan Mittleman, Chair Department of Jewish Thought, the Jewish Theological Seminary
From Booklist: In fall 1984, Lisa Paul, a young American college student, lived in Moscow and worked as a nanny. Interested in taking Russian-language lessons, she connected with Inna Kitrosskaya Meiman, a Soviet Jewish dissident. The friendship between the two deepened during the weekly tutoring sessions, and as Lisa learned more about Inna and her husband and met Inna?s friends, her eyes were opened to the harsh realities of the Moscow regime. Those were made more evident when Inna revealed that for years she had been denied an exit visa to receive medical treatment for her reoccurring malignant cancer. Determined to help her friend, Lisa returned to the U.S. and began contacting various media outlets and political leaders on Inna?s behalf, until her life-saving campaign culminated with a three-week hunger strike and press conference. Through these efforts and Inna?s various struggles, Lisa also experienced an evolving personal faith and sense of hope. Her inspiring memoir captures a tumultuous period of history as well as the resilience of the human spirit, even against seemingly overwhelming odds. --Leah Strauss
About the Author: Lisa C. Paul lived and worked in Moscow from 1983 to 1985. She worked for a landmark conference on U.S.-Soviet relations in Washington, D.C., and later took a job at the American Committee on U.S.-Soviet Relations until 1990. She is currently an attorney and lives with her husband and two daughters in Shorewood, Wisconsin.
In 1967, Bashir Al-Khayri, a Palestinian twenty-five-year-old, journeyed to Israel, with the goal of seeing the beloved old stone house, with the lemon tree behind it, that he and his family had fled nineteen years earlier. To his surprise, when he found the house he was greeted by Dalia Ashkenazi Landau, a nineteen-year-old Israeli college student, whose family fled Europe for Israel following the Holocaust. On the stoop of their shared home, Dalia and Bashir began a rare friendship, forged in the aftermath of war and tested over the next thirty-five years in ways that neither could imagine on that summer day in 1967. Based on extensive research, and springing from his enormously resonant documentary that aired on NPR's Fresh Air in 1998, Sandy Tolan brings the Israeli-Palestinian conflict down to its most human level, suggesting that even amid the bleakest political realities there exist stories of hope and reconciliation.
In the Garden of Beasts:
Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin,
by Erik Larson
Erik Larson has been widely acclaimed as a master of narrative non-fiction, and in his new book, the bestselling author of Devil in the White City turns his hand to a remarkable story set during Hitler's rise to power.
The time is 1933, the place, Berlin, when William E. Dodd becomes America's first ambassador to Hitler's Germany in a year that proved to be a turning point in history.
A mild-mannered professor from Chicago, Dodd brings along his wife, son, and flamboyant daughter, Martha. At first Martha is entranced by the parties and pomp, and the handsome young men of the Third Reich with their infectious enthusiasm for restoring Germany to a position of world prominence. Enamored of the “New Germany,” she has one affair after another, including with the suprisingly honorable first chief of the Gestapo, Rudolf Diels. But as evidence of Jewish persecution mounts, confirmed by chilling first-person testimony, her father telegraphs his concerns to a largely indifferent State Department back home. Dodd watches with alarm as Jews are attacked, the press is censored, and drafts of frightening new laws begin to circulate.
As that first year unfolds and the shadows deepen, the Dodds experience days full of excitement, intrigue, romance--and ultimately, horror, when a climactic spasm of violence and murder reveals Hitler's true character and ruthless ambition.
Suffused with the tense atmosphere of the period, and with unforgettable portraits of the bizarre Göring and the expectedly charming--yet wholly sinister--Goebbels, In the Garden of Beasts lends a stunning, eyewitness perspective on events as they unfold in real time, revealing an era of surprising nuance and complexity. The result is a dazzling, addictively readable work that speaks volumes about why the world did not recognize the grave threat posed by Hitler until Berlin, and Europe, were awash in blood and terror. Library copies
Wingshooters, by Nina Revoyr
From Booklist Revoyr continues her unique and affecting exploration of American racism in a concentrated novel that draws breathtaking contrasts between all that is beautiful in life and the malignancy of hate. Charlie, an alpha blue-collar male and a bigot like his buddies, is horrified when his son marries a Japanese exchange student. Yet when nine-year-old Michelle, his only grandchild, is abandoned by her estranged and feckless parents and left with her grandparents in their small, xenophobic Wisconsin town, Charlie loves her without restraint. As Deerhorn's first and only person of color, Michelle is subjected to constant insults and assaults, so Charlie teaches her to fight and shoot a gun, as well as to appreciate nature and play baseball. He calls her Mike, and she is beyond tomboyish, roaming the countryside with her only friend, her dog. Then the Garretts, an African American couple (she's a nurse; he's a teacher) arrive and ignite the town's worst fears and fury. Revoyr writes rhapsodically of a young girl's enthrallment to the natural world and charts, with rising intensity, her resilient narrator's painful awakening to human failings and senseless violence. In this shattering northern variation on To Kill a Mockingbird, Revoyr drives to the very heart of tragic ignorance, unreason, and savagery. --Donna Seaman
* A Booklist Book of the Year 2011!
* Finalist for SCIBA 's 2011 Fiction Award
* Winner of the 2011 Midwest Booksellers Choice Award
* Winner of the first annual Indie Booksellers Choice Award * Selected for IndieBound 's March 2011 Indie Next List, "Great Reads from Booksellers You Trust"
* Featured in O: Oprah Magazine 's Reading Room section as one of 10 Titles to Pick Up Now
Nina Revoyr was born in Tokyo and raised in Japan, Wisconsin, and Los Angeles, where she currently lives. She is an avid hiker, Green Bay Packers fan, Lakers fan, and lover of baseball (especially the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Really, that's their name.) She also loves dogs. A lot. When not writing or working, she is usually busy chasing around her English Springer Spaniel, Russell, or her Border Collie, Ariat.
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