What's the Name of That Book??? discussion

Flora's Suitcase
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SOLVED: Adult Fiction > SOLVED. 1990s novel about 1920s Jewish refugees in South America? [s]

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message 1: by Mia (last edited Jun 09, 2016 10:47PM) (new) - added it

Mia (miandering) | 20 comments OK, so I'm going to try crowdsourcing this one, though it seems nearly impossible.

I recently read Half Empty by David Rakoff, where he describes having worked for Simon & Schuster, who published books by Olivia Goldsmith, whose book First Wives Club was made into a movie (he doesn't name her in the book but names the actors in the movie so this much I was able to figure out). When Rakoff was at Simon & Schuster, they held a contest for a first novel. He describes the book that won as "an assured and beautiful book about a family of Jewish refugees in the 1920s who move to South America. It was page after page of lovely writing, full of heat and Yiddish-inflected magic realism, an achievement of craft and virtuosity."

This book sounds great and I SO want to read it. But I cannot even come close to figuring out what it is. Apparently the book ended up being published with no advertising or promotion (because the famous author Goldsmith's book around which the contest was centered turned out to be a failure), and the author and her book basically disappeared. So obviously the writer didn't go on to become successful with subsequent books (sadly), otherwise Rakoff would have of course mentioned this (and Half Empty is quite recent).

All I know is that the book contest took place sometime between 1992 and '96, between when First Wives Club was published and the movie was being made, so presumably the contest and therefore publishing of this mystery book must have been closer to 1996.

This is all the information I've managed to piece together from Rakoff's book and some internet research, but II haven't even come close to finding this book. Would love any assistance anyone can offer!

And in case it helps, for anyone unfamiliar with the history of Jewish migration, the refugees in the book were most likely from Russia/former Soviet Union, Poland or elsewhere in Eastern Europe, as it was during this time (late 1800s to 1920s) that a huge wave of pogroms in Russia and worsening oppression and persecution in Eastern Europe resulted in the largest wave of Jewish immigration to the Americas in history.

Any help would be much appreciated! Thanks!


message 2: by Lobstergirl, au gratin (new)

Lobstergirl | 37540 comments Mod
I found some additional info:

"Goldsmith, who helps sponsor a program in Vermont (where she lives part time) for first-time novelists, insisted that HarperCollins launch a contest to discover and publish a new literary talent. The rules are included in "The Bestseller.""

So The Bestseller was published in 1996, meaning that the novel that won the contest wouldn't have been published any earlier than 1997, given how long books take to edit and publish. Also it seems HarperCollins published it, not Simon and Schuster ? I don't know the relation between those two companies. Perhaps HarperCollins was a division of Simon and Schuster.


message 3: by Lobstergirl, au gratin (new)

Lobstergirl | 37540 comments Mod
Flora's Suitcase

I found it on Worldcat, using search terms that wouldn't exclude too much. Keyword Jewish, fiction, non-juvenile, years something like 1995 to 1999, then I sorted from later to earlier figuring it would be closer to 1998/1997. Since I knew the author was female and the publisher was either Harper or S&S, it went quickly.


message 4: by Mia (last edited Jun 10, 2016 12:08PM) (new) - added it

Mia (miandering) | 20 comments Omg, lobstergirl, you are awesome! I don't have access to worldcat so never could have gotten this far without you...plus I clearly didn't do all the research I could and should have. (I had come up with Harper and S&S as Goldsmith's publishers and knew she'd had a falling out with one and switched to the other, but mistakenly deduced which was which from what I (mis)understood to be the time line in Rakoff's book. Now knowing that the book in question (hers) was The Bestseller and seeing what it was about it makes it obvious it was S&S she'd fallen out with and Harper she moved to, not the reverse!)

Thank you so much!

God, I love the Internet.


message 5: by Kris (last edited Jun 10, 2016 07:12AM) (new)

Kris | 32086 comments Mod
By the way, here's the link to Worldcat's advanced search - http://www.worldcat.org/advancedsearch

The filters are great for narrowing down a search - Year, Audience, Content, Format, Language. (On sites like Amazon.com, Year often doesn't refer to the original publication year.)


message 6: by Mia (last edited Jun 10, 2016 12:09PM) (new) - added it

Mia (miandering) | 20 comments Thanks. I thought I had to have a university account to use that catalog. I realize now I was mixing it up with NYU's "bobcat". Heh.


message 7: by Melissa (new)

Melissa McCauley | 25 comments Sounds very interesting and I've got it on my list now, too... and I cleaned up the garbled apostrophes in the description. So glad I made the cut for librarian because those kind of things drive me crazy!


message 8: by Mia (new) - added it

Mia (miandering) | 20 comments Ha ha, me too. If you read it, please come back and post on how you liked it so we know. Thanks!


message 9: by Lobstergirl, au gratin (new)

Lobstergirl | 37540 comments Mod
You're welcome.


message 10: by Lobstergirl, au gratin (new)

Lobstergirl | 37540 comments Mod
Worldcat can be annoying, though. The initial search I did was keywords Jewish refugees, which brought up something like 50 books but not this book. I narrowed it to Jewish, which brought up 800-something. Since Worldcat either usually has a one sentence description or no description at all, using keywords sometimes means you won't find the book. I also find that if you use a very narrow range of years, it comes up with zero books. I sometimes think you need magic fingers to use it.


message 11: by Kris (new)

Kris | 32086 comments Mod
Lobstergirl wrote: "Worldcat can be annoying, though. The initial search I did was keywords Jewish refugees, which brought up something like 50 books but not this book. I narrowed it to Jewish, which brought up 800-so..."

Yes, Worldcat has its strengths and weaknesses. I find it's great for old children's books, for example.


message 12: by Mia (new) - added it

Mia (miandering) | 20 comments Well, I'm thankful to now have it as a resource. We'll have to see how magic my fingers may be . . .


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