Jews in Oakland! I've been meaning to read The Short History of Jewish People, given to me by my late Grandpa Labon, but it's hard for me to dig up muJews in Oakland! I've been meaning to read The Short History of Jewish People, given to me by my late Grandpa Labon, but it's hard for me to dig up much enthusiasm over ancient history. This is more up my alley - engaging and well written local history. The author managed to write about which street corner every temple called home and how much their mortage was and whose wife was involved in which charity in a manner not completely boring, at least not to local readers. It helps that there are lots of colorful and influential people from this pocket of the country (from the enterprising pioneers to Gertrude Stein to 70s radicals.)
But of more general interest are the intersections of bay area/California history with broader American historical themes and the great Jewish upheavals of the twentieth century - anti-semitism, WWII, the rise of Israel. Good comparative social history and explorations of Jewish identity. Thank you 1975.
Also - religion! This is the first time I've ever read about the development of reform/conservative judaism in the US. First Hebrew, now Temple Sinai, seems to be a case study of shifting generational preference for more/less traditional ritualism.
Gasp, another plucky orphan! Still, this one is just right. Funny and moving, unique history. Great details of Dave's burgeoning artistic eye. I remaiGasp, another plucky orphan! Still, this one is just right. Funny and moving, unique history. Great details of Dave's burgeoning artistic eye. I remain unconvinced by the lack of significant racial tension, but when was the last time you read historical fiction where the main kid was a SEPHARDIC jew, and all the black people were rich! Marvel!...more
The only satisfying read of September's terrible chick lit binge. Solidly mediocre in every way, bordering on offensive, yet the mounting absurdity maThe only satisfying read of September's terrible chick lit binge. Solidly mediocre in every way, bordering on offensive, yet the mounting absurdity made my day. Ah, twist ending, how heartily you made me laugh. Best worst ending EVER....more
Pigeons are so Lyrical and Meaningful, snore. And the climax here is really too ridiculous for words. But the sense of place is deep, and that's whatPigeons are so Lyrical and Meaningful, snore. And the climax here is really too ridiculous for words. But the sense of place is deep, and that's what I read it for, so I can't really complain....more
A nice balance for the very secular trip I took. As the author writes, your tour guides will cover way more history than you ever wanted, and this booA nice balance for the very secular trip I took. As the author writes, your tour guides will cover way more history than you ever wanted, and this book will help you think about the holiness of the land.
I didn't at all use this book as instructed, there was just no way I could have dragged the book out to read from on site even if I'd wanted to, but I'm glad I brought it along. Even with our ridiculous schedule it was easy to find a few minutes for the 1-2 page readings about each place. I was actually very impressed by the selections - recovered ancient texts and modern poetry alongside more traditional blessings. Good advice on how to make your own blessings and why this might be controversial.
Not tooo offensively zionistic. I rolled my eyes at the prayer "for seeing new homes in Israel's wasteland" but was mollified by the inclusion of a prayer of peace "for a place of muslim or christian worship."...more
OK, there's no such thing as an objective book that has all the answers on this topic, so it's easy to criticize. But I will anyway.
I file this underOK, there's no such thing as an objective book that has all the answers on this topic, so it's easy to criticize. But I will anyway.
I file this under "what a liberal American Jew should think about Israel" which makes it a helpful perspective for this peripherally Jewish American who never really gave much thought to Israel. Haven for Jews, plus. Oppresses own minority, minus. Like America, it could do better at living up to its lofty ideals. No arguments here.
But the tone was pretty insufferable. The author is SO well-meaning yet just comes across as hyper preachy and anti-religious. He leans heavily on parallels with American history, some of which hit their mark (the use of torture in the war on terror in both countries), most of which don't (slavery in the US and the treatment of Palestinians in Israel), and are almost always pointless, distracting, and weirdly competitive.
He mentions Birthright by name and concludes that the most helpful thing young American Jews can do is to model for Israelis our fabled American tolerance. Please.
Also, what is the audience for this book? It's marketed as YA, but it seems to alternate between college level history and references to Harry Potter.
I kind of wish I'd skipped to the end and found the helpful reading list earlier....more
Big print, pretty pictures, Jewish values. The Israel 101 for American Jews that I should have gotten in Hebrew school. Different regions are presenteBig print, pretty pictures, Jewish values. The Israel 101 for American Jews that I should have gotten in Hebrew school. Different regions are presented by a bright eyed diverse cast of kids that seemingly live in melting-pot harmony... obviously to be taken with a heap of salt, but it's a nice inclusive vision....more
This was definitely a 5 star read for me, not because it was imperfect but because it's unlike anything else I've ever read, and it didn't hurt that iThis was definitely a 5 star read for me, not because it was imperfect but because it's unlike anything else I've ever read, and it didn't hurt that it pushed all KINDS of buttons for me... alternate history, american identity politics, original explorations of holocaust material. If you're decidedly uninterested in those topics this probably isn't the book to change your mind.
Make sure to bring your morbid fascination and prepare not to blink as America descends into a fascist nightmare. Which is brilliantly executed as a false memoir. Brimming with realism, full of real historical moments and the smallest touching personal details. For all that you might know Philip Roth as a provocative asshole, it's impossible not to mourn for the 7 year old boy as his peaceful childhood and unshakable faith in family and country is shattered.
But this is not just an experiment in how bad things could get. There is another level of suspense as Roth casually throws in references to the post-war years, and things sound... surprisingly normal! AC is invented. His cousin gets fat and stays married to the same woman. Bobby Kennedy is assassinated on schedule. So there is a whole layer of suspense here... if the world doesn't explode, how does the country get back on track?
I have to say that as the book winds down the storytelling feels more disjointed between the political and the personal and ends ... oddly. I was kind of turning the page looking for the next sentence. I guess because the book read very much like a coming of age story for Philip and for the country I was expecting more closure. I kind of get the feeling he was rushing to finish the book in time for the 2004 election, or maybe it was meant to be very open ended as a lead in to said election.
"...the assurances are provisional, even here in a 200-year-old democracy. We are ambushed, even as free Americans in a powerful republic armed to the teeth, by the unpredictability that is history. May I conclude with a quotation from my book? 'Turned wrong way round, the relentless unforeseen was what we schoolchildren studied as 'History,' harmless history, where everything unexpected in its own time is chronicled on the page as inevitable. The terror of the unforeseen is what the science of history hides, turning a disaster into an epic.' In writing these books I've tried to turn the epic back into the disaster..."
Hell yeah! Show those history writers and wannabe patriots who's boss! Stick it to the man! It's all good until... he sets up Roosevelt as the only possible hero and The Good War as the only possible solution? Back to the status quo of history. Back to peace as simply unviable. I don't know how I feel about that. Is it terrible that I agree a little bit (not on his patently false dismissal of nazi-sympathizing by lindy and friends) with this Libertarian reviewer?
Another thing to file under "mixed feelings" and "not actually reclaiming history"... As much as I enjoyed the use of alternate history, it's hardly necessary to borrow from the Nazis when the US has its own storied traditions of oppression and genocide to choose from. Just looking at the war years, in addition to the real-life anti-semitism Roth draws on, there are all kinds of examples of fascism and racial intolerance. Instead Roth gives no mention of internment camps, Japanese or otherwise, and transforms the real life racial riots against blacks in Detroit and elsewhere into anti-Jewish kristalnacht style riots. He even includes KKK violence, but only mentions Jewish victims. I'm really unconvinced that American-style fascism wouldn't also target racial minorities, or for that matter work at all if it didn't pander to racists. I think The Plot would have been all the more plausible, creepy, and relevant if it had extended beyond persecution of the Jews. (As it did under the Nazi regime, for that matter. I've always heard the statistic as 6 million Jews killed and 5 million others including blacks, homosexuals, communists, etc.) Perhaps it was the downside of using a child's self-centered perspective.
Still, 5 stars all the way. What other book has gone there? Raised these issues? Made me write such. a long. review. ---
Hooooly shit, this is the book I always wanted someone to write but didn't even know it. It's exactly like someone stepped into my brain and stole my morbid young fantasies about "What if Nazi Germany happened to me, right here in America?" and transformed them into something literate and relevant. Roth's "memoir" is subtle and plausible, qualities which only make it infinitely creepier than my version. Also, is it wrong to feel lucky to live in a time when the fascist bigots are all for the current war instead of leading the anti-war movement? It makes the moral dilemmas so much easier, if not the political ones......more
Just the utter craft that went into the book! Hegi takes on so much. It's sort of quietly stunning how completely she draws Trudi and her quirky villaJust the utter craft that went into the book! Hegi takes on so much. It's sort of quietly stunning how completely she draws Trudi and her quirky village and life in Germany and the strength of women and the moral character of humanity during wartime.
My personal pet peeve was the magical realism. I never buy into it and that meant I was totally let down by the very last few pages. More importantly, I felt like it distracted from Trudi's struggle to find her own worth. WHY does her dwarfism have to go hand in hand with some other worldly ability? The fairy tale association is why she disliked the term zwerg/dwarf so much in the first place. Blah.
But the unknown benefactor! So excellent. Where can we get one of those around here?...more
For once, I actually wanted to hear less about the food. Basically Sheraton chased bialys around the world only to dismiss every modern iteration as iFor once, I actually wanted to hear less about the food. Basically Sheraton chased bialys around the world only to dismiss every modern iteration as inauthentic. My mouth is not exactly watering. If Sheraton had just gotten out of her own way and used the bread as a starting point to explore the amazing stories of the Bialystok diaspora, she would have had something. The oral history she captures here is lovely... but instead of being showcased, it's just a sidenote to the quest for Ye Olde Bialy. The book centers on repetitive field notes and rants about inferior modern ovens, missing poppy seeds, and the ever declining tastes of kids these days.
Instead of an uplifting story of food as the hope that springs eternal for a long suffering people, we get a dirge. The book closes with this poignant letter from a Holocaust survivor, "In June 1941 the Nazis came to us and since then there are no more bialystoker kuchen and no more kuchen bakeries and no more of our Bialystoker Jews."...more
OK, it's possible that I picked this up at my new favorite used bookstore largely because of the recent fixation with our citron tree. (Turns out JewsOK, it's possible that I picked this up at my new favorite used bookstore largely because of the recent fixation with our citron tree. (Turns out Jews go crazy trying to buy the most perfect "etrog" specimen for Sukkot.) And while I can't call myself much of a Jew, I share the author's identification with the importance of food and agriculture in Jewish celebrations. The gardening tips and recipes aren't anything special, but this works really nicely as an easy basic reference complete with historical background, prayers, and family friendly activities. I've only skimmed over each section, but I've already learned that you can plant your own horseradish from a plain old root cutting and that it's traditional to send food to friends at Purim. (Mr. Brown recommends zucchini. Snicker.)...more
OK, this didn't knock my socks off in the same way as Kavalier & Clay, but it's still pretty fantastic. I'm one of the many readers completely misOK, this didn't knock my socks off in the same way as Kavalier & Clay, but it's still pretty fantastic. I'm one of the many readers completely missing the scifi vibe that somehow won this the Hugo award, but Chabon is nothing if not genre bending and ambitious in his writing. An alternate Jewish state meets hardboiled detective noir meets Chabon's daddy/holocaust issues meets the 1950s yiddish language guide that apparently inspired the story to begin with. Be warned, I wouldn't recommend it to those who are completely unversed and uninterested in all thing Jew. But do give it a try even if you're not a fan of whodunnits, or, ahem, even have a bit of trouble following them. There's so much more going on here in Sitka. I do agree with reviewers like this one who were disappointed by the ending as crushing dose of reality.
A few years ago my grandfather (in his ongoing quest to Jewish me up before he dies) got me a membership to the National Yiddish Book Center. Before iA few years ago my grandfather (in his ongoing quest to Jewish me up before he dies) got me a membership to the National Yiddish Book Center. Before it expired I got a free copy of this book in the mail, written by the Center's founder. Then I moved to Ecuador. This fall I finally got around to reading it, and what a treat! It's really bursting at the seams with Lansky's passion and expertise. The colorful anecdotes, the endless shlepping, the language lessons, the heartwarming revival of a dying culture, what's not to love? I even renewed my membership. ...more