A Run on Jewish Literature

I want to start by saying just how apt that title is- the…double entendre of it all. These posts will probably be a bit of a…run on, but I also hope they create a “run on” in terms of shopping. But that’s all aside…

I’ve talked about Jew Hatred before on this blog (HERE) and this post isn’t necessarily about that, BUT I think it’s important to touch on quickly and it ties into a project I want to work on. If you haven’t seen the latest attack on Jews by Kanye West, well consider yourself lucky. He said some truly horrifying things and the response has been both disheartening and heartening. I’ve seen both ends of the spectrum from condemnation, to trying to write him off. However, he has spurned folks to take very real action in the real world (displays in Los Angeles over the weekend) which once again proves that words are real, no matter the source they come from. Now, Jew Hatred is not a new thing, it’s a thousand-year-old thing that ebbs and flows in intensity and presentation but always remains. However, the Jewish people are working not only to call out all levels of Jew Hatred – both shady and subtle as well as overt- but also to educate folks about Judaism. 

I’ve always personally felt like the best way to learn about the Jewish people and Judaism and our history is by speaking to people, learning or reading their experiences and stories. Judaism is unique as every single Jewish person has a completely different story to tell. A completely different life experience. You could talk to me and to my Jewish relatives and we will have very different experiences, different views, different levels to our Jewish-ness. Sure, there are some things that may be similar, but in terms of life and experience- every single one of us is different. Which means that listening and learning is so important. 

In this attempt to listen and learn, we will often turn to literature…or at least I will. And boy is there quite a bit of it out there, mostly centered on The Holocaust. 

I want to interject really fast and say- there is nothing wrong with reading literature regarding The Holocaust. This was the most horrifying, devastating thing to occur to the Jewish People in modern times and a truly horrifying act for all humanity. It’s also something regularly referenced and used as a tool to try and stop it from happening again. Which I have conflicting thoughts about, but that’s a thought for another day. 

So, so much literature around one of the most devastating things in our Modern Jewish History. And it’s not wrong to read books about it. In fact, I encourage you to read survivor testimony, to listen to the stories and understand why any level of Jew Hatred is terrifying to Jews around the world. It’s a hard subject, but it is so important to read. 

HOWEVER, you have to be careful when consuming Holocaust literature. You have to be careful when consuming any level of Jewish Literature. And that’s what I want to do with a new project. There is a lot of good Jewish literature out there, A LOT, but there is also a lot of harmful Jewish literature that is DANGEROUS and could contain some level of Jew Hatred that you don’t even realize when reading. 

What brought this idea on is the news (that I’m not sure how new this is- I think it’s been talked about before, but we might only just now be getting new publishing news?) that The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is going to be getting a sequel of sorts. Now, a lot of us have read the book or seen the movie. A lot of us would probably think- great it’s shining a light on the Holocaust- and the story of this Nazi family experiencing the torture and loss of their son, killed in the same manner as all the Jews. BUT what you’re actually reading is a Nazi excusing book. A book that’s saying this Nazi family (outside of the commandant) had no idea of what was happening in the camps, that this little Nazi boy befriended and helped this little kid, and it HUMANIZED him. The whole book is about HUMANIZING this Nazi family, when at the same time the dad in the family was continually torturing, starving, and killing Jews in the camp that he was in charge of. 

But we don’t pick up on that when reading. Especially if we are not reading critically and we don’t have the history or the trauma in our lineage or in our people. This is often times one of those books that is recommended to young children as an introduction to The Holocaust, but how can we expect our children to understand the magnanimity of the Holocaust if, from the start, they are looking at the Nazi’s through a sympathetic or humanized lens?

And that’s just Holocaust literature. Do you know that there is more to the Jews than just being murdered? 

During this project I am going to be reading a wide variety of Jewish stories, both Holocaust and not Holocaust related. I am going to be reading fiction and nonfiction, trying to cover a variety of genres. And then I’m going to come here and I’m going to talk about it. I’m going to talk about the representation, I’m going to talk about the level of Jewish-ness in the book, how it fits with our history, how it fits with my own story, and more. I’m going to take each apart and dissect them. It’s going to be more in depth than my monthly wrap ups because I really want to get to the meat and potatoes of Jewish Literature. 

I want to be able to recommend books that I feel are worthy of your time to read, to give you some insight on Jewish life (both the highs and the lows) and Jewish history. This is how I learn, how I take in knowledge, and I know that it is for others, so I hope this helps. This is going to a long-term project, though I have no idea on posting schedules for these. I have already read several books that I will be diving into first, but if you have heard of any, know any that you would like my take on, please let me know what they are, and I’ll add them in (same goes for if you hear of any in the future). 

A Cuppa Cosy Reads – July 2021

Happy August! I’ve just got a quick reading catch up post today as I’ve become quite a bit behind (due to summer holidays) on…well just everything. I don’t truly remember all of my thoughts for these books, but I’ll do my best to give some brief opinions. I ended up reading a total of 9 books and giving an average rating of 3.875, so a quite good month. I did also DNF (Did Not Finish) some books, so I’ll talk about those at the end. 

Red, White, & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston 4 Stars – I really enjoyed this contemporary novel, even if I found it to be a bit of wishful escapism. I’m kind of a sucker for royal family stories though.  

The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo 4 Stars This was a beautiful and captivating story that just had me in a trance from start to finish. 

Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert 4 Stars Yet another cute contemporary story that I really enjoyed. 

Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto 4 Stars I think this might have been one of my favorites for the month, this was just such a great romantic comedy of errors. I will most definitely be reading the next one just to see the family antics once again. 

The Hollow Places by T. Kingfisher 4 Stars This is one of those horror books that I think will just live in my brain for a little bit, kind of like The Troop by Nick Cutter or maybe even The Hunger by Alma Katsu (I recommend the former, but maybe not the latter). I didn’t realize that it had truly gotten under my skin until we were on holiday and I saw something that was described in the book and it spooked me a bit haha. 

When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain by Nghi Vo 4 Stars This is the second in what I think is just a companion grouping of stories following a “recorder of history”. Again, I found myself entranced in the story and swept away by the writing. 

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro 4 Stars This was my second Ishiguru novel and I did, once again, enjoy it. I liked Never Let Me Go a bit more, but it was a VERY different book to this. I found the conversation within our relationship to our work, to our employers, to our own morals and values and the relationship of those with our work and our employers. 

The Maidens by Alex Michaelides 3 Stars Ah, this was a bit of a disappointment and the more I think about it, the more I talk about it, the more upset I get about it. It wasn’t BAD, by any stretch, but I also felt like it…had a lot of far reaching stretches for our main character and the twist made ZERO sense. I also wasn’t a fan of the main character, but that could just be a me thing. 

Upstairs at the White House: My Life with the First Ladies by J.B. West NR A memoir of sorts, this book talks about what it is actually like working in and running the White House, on the family side of things. He doesn’t speak badly about any of the families, instead highlighting the differences and similarities and personal relationships of each family. 

And finally, the books that I…gave up on: Reputation by Lex Croucher and The Binding by Bridget Collins. I have actually fully gotten rid of Reputation. It was a bit TOO spot on for what it was trying to be and the main character was obnoxious. The Binding I might try again another time as I didn’t feel strongly about it either way, which is why I stopped reading it. 

And that’s it for July! I’ve got big plans for the rest of the year for reading and I’m very excited.