Snow in August By Pete Hamill This book is not written by a Jewish author, which makes this even more wonderful to read. I am not starting a debate what makes a book Jewish or not? I am posting it because it is about a Catholic boy, and how he connects with a Rabbi. This is the third time reading. Because of our community read, The Golem and the Jinni; we decided to pick this one. Pete Hamill's story is wonderful.
Michael, Irish Catholic 10 year old. Living in Brooklyn in the 1940's. Michael is a average kid, there isn't any TV. Instead,Michael likes to go to the local movie theatre where he's mom works-with his friends. He also enjoys reading comic books- Superman.
Michael, and his Brooklyn friends are threatened by the gang, The Falcons. I should say the entire neighborhood is afraid of this thug. Michael just happens to be in Mr. G's store ( Mr. G is Jewish)at the wrong time. Mr. G sticks up for Michael. The thug( can't remember his name), beats up Mr. G pretty badly. Michael witnesses the crime. He is not a snitch; he is not going to tell. In the meantime, a local Rabbi see's Michael one day going down the street, He asked Michael a favor. Because it is Saturday, Shabbat for the Jews, a holy day. Would Michael be the Shabbos Goy?
What turns out to just be a favor turns into a friendship that will forever change both Michael, and the Rabbi. Rabbi Hirsch wants to learn better English. Rabbi Hirsch asks Michael, if you teach me English, I will teach you Yiddish- Michael agrees.
What happens is Michael and Rabbi Hirsch become close, and learn about each other. Rabbi Hirsch, we learn about his wife during the Holocaust. We also learn about the story of the " Golem of Prague". Michael we learn about his father's death during the war. But. also the hardship of living in the tenements with his single mother.
Michael's troubles without his father;trying too grow up too fast. He is trying to be strong for his mother. Since there is trouble brewing on the streets of Brooklyn( Falcon gang). Michael is worried about the Falcons. They think he snitched. Because the cops keep showing up at unexpected places. He's friends have abandoned him as well. He's only friend is Rabbi Hirsch.
Each of them become stronger and reach out to each other to help each other, as they friendship becomes stronger. Their connection is baseball, and Jackie Robinson. They talk about these two things every time they meet. Michael is excited one day, the Rabbi got tickets for the baseball game. This is all Michael can think about till the actual game. He is so excited.
After the game, Michael admits to Rabbi Hirsch what happened to Mr. G. Rabbi Hirsch's advise to Michael. Sometimes not telling is worse than the crime itself.
The rest of the story is very moving and Mystical. I only learned about the Golem from reading Snow in August. It is a very moving sweet story about a boy growing up in Brooklyn in the 1940's. I will worn you that there is antisemitism, and discrimination in Snow in August. But that is the point of the story. If you are waiting to hear about the Golem. Yes, there is a golem that is created in the story. But, I am not going to relate that to you. That will just ruin it. The book brought tears to my eyes what happens at the end. I would love to tell you why. But, I just can't. If you do read the book. Check out other background info. about the golem. There is also on Netflix, a episode of X-Files called Kaddish. Then check out youtube, you will find the movie, Snow in August; the movie adaption. My take of the story, is a growing up tale. There is nostalgia, 1940's, Brooklyn N.Y. If you bought or have the newest version of Snow in August. You are in for a treat. Because the back of the book explain's why the author wrote Snow in August. I Just loved this book. You are doing yourself a disservice if you don't read it.
Today, I have been invited to participate in the TLC Book Tour of, Line Up. I would like to thank TLC Book Tours asking me to participate. You can visit the other stops at TLC Book Tours site, and a special treat, a interview at CBS News with the author, Llad Shoham. . This is the first time I am reading a novel that takes place in Israel. I have always been told to stay away from books from Israeli author's because of the translation. Too many strange names, and places. Even though I know a little hebrew, I have always been put off.
Either, they never heard of this author before, Liad Shoham, or we were told wrong. Because Line Up, is terrific. It gets you at the first sentence and grabs you, and it doesn't let you go.
I don't know much what comes out of Israel. But, what I do know it is used to be there was limited books translated to English. But, now it seems that there are more authors able to be translated and read by English speaking language.
I am very happy I read this book. There is many twists and turns, and holds your attention.
It starts in Tel Aviv, Israel,with the noisy retired, older lady, Sara Glazer. She is watching out in the wee hours of the morning making sure that her neighbor picks up after his dog.
Sara Glazer, notices a man and a woman, then a struggle, she realizes it is more sinister, it is a rape. But, she keeps her mouth closed. Can she identify the man?
But, what we do know is Adi Regav has been raped brutally. After the rape she and her family will never be the same. Adi, is a single, independent woman. She is terrified every day, wondering what is lurking outside her window. Her father,Yaron sits and waits outside of her apartment building, waiting there to protect his daughter.
One night, while he is sitting out in his car, while he's daughter is in her apartment. Yaron notices something strange. A man is following a woman. He thinks to himself definitely, this is the same man that raped my daughter. He bring him to justice. But, not everything seems as it should.
He manipulates he's daughter, and pretty much persuades her to give the confession. She is not sure if this is the guy, but believes her father, that she is doing the right thing. But, then she recants her story and is left off. Why is she being so gullible? Why is she being persuaded. Should you always believe your parents? Would you have done the same thing?
The man picked up is, Ziv. He works for a mafia mob boss. But, he is mistakenly picked up. He is not about to tell the real truth about what he was doing outside her window. He keeps his mouth quiet. They are accusing him of something else. Then realizing they don't know the original crime he committed.
He is not going to tell the police what really went down. He is released on a technicality. The mafia is looking for him. But, luckily Ziv is one step ahead of them. This is when it gets exciting.
That is all I am going to reveal. Because if I reveal too much more I will ruin it for you.
This is not my type of book. I usually read literary fiction, or historical fiction. But, when TLC book tours asked me if I was interested, I jumped at the chance.
For years I wanted to read something from my "tribe". But,there wasn't anything that took my fancy. I am so glad, that TLC Book Tours contacted me.
I was in the need of a fun book. I have not found any good books to read lately. But, this one hits the spot if you are in the mood of a fun, beach read.
One thing, I have noticed not putting the author down. The writing is not flowery, or pretty. It is simple writing, like you were reading a newspaper. The author doesn't trick you. He gets to the point. This book doesn't make you think, and question. Just read it for what it is. On the cover of the book it did not tell me if the novel was translated or not. It hit me, the writing was different, perhaps it was not translated. The writing is not a usually writing style of any authors I know. Not even John Grisham writes as plain as that.
Why would the author not write in his native language Israel first. Strange, but it made me think of the writing style. Anyway, The novel is a best seller in Israel. I wonder why?? I thought it was great, no matter if I am not used to the writing style.
The Jewish Book Carnival was posted last week. Sorry I am a bit late for posted the link here. It is a wonderful smorgasbord of books this month. From fiction post to holocaust, to the high holidays almost upon us.
The fiction post is by me, of course you guessed, The Golem and the Jenni. Anyhoo!! Where did the summer go we are right around the corner for September.
Here is the link, to the Jewish Book Carnival. http://www.leoraw.com/blog/2013/08/august-jewish-book-carnival/#comment-33160. If you have time visit this wonderful Jewish Book Carnival hosted this month by Leora. Great job for her first time.
It is a little early, but because classes have already started for me. I don't have much time this week. I have to catch up. Since some of the classes are online, and learning the technology. All of the homework, and tests are to be submitted on a special website. I had to teach my self last week, before starting the actually school work. So, I am a bit rushed. My first work is due tommorrow, and quizes are all due on Sunday night before 12.
I would like to wish you all La Shana Tova, a happy and sweet new year 5774!!
it's here my interview with Helene, the author of The Golem and the
Jenni. If you have not heard of her, you must have had your head in the
sand literally. I can't believe being a debut author this is her first
novel. Where has she been?
After reading her fabulous
novel. I have not read anything that lives up to anything else. Lush in
history and description of character, place, and time. It is a tour of
nostalgic turn of the century New York City, circa 1899. You can read
my review here. Also some background resources for you. Visit youtube to watch a full feature silent movie, The Golem(1920). Here is her website.
Hi, Helene thank you for taking the time to visit me at Susan's Literary Cafe. Welcome!!!
I would like to tell you Helene, you have become my favorite author of
all time. Your novel speaks volumes to me. It has all the elements, of
historical fiction, magical realism, romance, storytelling, suspense,
and so much more. The best part, because I am a transplant from the
north, you bring New York City to life. It is more thing that I miss
living in South Carolina.
Helene is a debut
author for the novel, The Golem and the Jenni. She grew up in
Libertyville, Illinois, a small town north
of Chicago, and received her Bachelor’s in English from Carleton College
in Minnesota. After graduating, she worked a number of marketing and
communications jobs in Minneapolis and Seattle before deciding to return
to her first love, fiction writing. Accordingly, she moved to New York
to pursue a Master’s in fiction at Columbia University. She now lives
near San Francisco with her husband( her husband comes from a Syrian
family) and daughter.
Helene, What was the inspiration for your novel? Why the characters of the Golem and the
Jinni? And why set it in turn-of-the-century New York, instead of modern
When I was in grad school, I started working on a series of linked short
stories about my own Jewish family and my husband's Arab-American
family. A couple of the stories were okay, but the rest were not very
good, and I knew it. I was talking with a friend of mine about it, and
how frustrated I was. She suggested I try a different approach. She knew
that I was a scifi/fantasy geek, and she challenged me to add a
fantastical element, to take the stories out of the realm of straight-up
realism. So instead of a Jewish girl and an Arab-American boy, I
decided to write about a golem and a jinni. I thought I was just taking a
break and writing a fun little story, but then it became clear that I
had a novel on my hands. I set it in turn-of-the-century New York
because that was when the first big waves of Jewish and Syrian
immigrants were arriving in America. I thought the communities would be
new and chaotic enough that a golem and a jinni could hide pretty easily
-- unlike today, when you need a driver's license and a birth
certificate, and and everything's on camera. Also, one of my original
ideas was to tell the story over a hundred years! I got rid of that idea
pretty quickly, though.
As a child, were your parents or grandparents big on Jewish folktales?
strangely enough! At least I don't remember hearing any folktales from
them. My mother's parents were cosmopolitan German Jews, and Old World
folktales weren't really their thing. My dad's parents were Polish Jews,
and spoke Yiddish, but I don't remember them telling me folktales.
Usually they were too busy trying to get me to eat! Instead of folktales
at home, I had science fiction, most of it from my dad: Bradbury and
Asimov and Heinlein and Star Trek. Only lately have I realized how
closely some of the themes in the old golem stories match themes in
classic science fiction -- only instead of golems, it's robots.
What was the inspiration for your novel? Why the characters of the Golem and
the Jinni? And why set it in turn-of-the-century New York, instead of modern New York?
When I was in grad school, I started working on a series of linked short stories about my own Jewish family and my husband's Arab-American family.
A couple of the stories were okay, but the rest were not very good, and I knew it
. I was talking with a friend of mine about it, and
how frustrated I was. She suggested I try a different approach. She knew that I was a scifi/fantasy geek, and she challenged me to add a fantastical element, to take the stories out of the realm of straight-up
So instead of a Jewish girl and an Arab-American boy, I
decided to write about a golem and a jinni. I thought I was just taking a break and writing a fun little story, but then it became clear that I had a novel on my hands. I set it in turn-of-the-century New York
because that was when the first big waves of Jewish and Syrian
immigrants were arriving in America.
I thought the communities would be new and chaotic enough that a golem and a jinni could hide pretty easily -- unlike today, when you need a driver's license and a birth certificate, and and everything's on camera.
Also, one of my original ideas was to tell the story over a hundred years! I got rid of that idea pretty quickly, though.
As a child, were your parents or grandparents big on Jewish folktales?
strangely enough! At least I don't remember hearing any folktales from them. My mother's parents were cosmopolitan German Jews, and Old World folktales weren't really their thing. My dad's parents were Polish Jews, and spoke Yiddish, but I don't remember them telling me folktales.
Usually they were too busy trying to get me to eat! Instead of folktales at home, I had science fiction, most of it from my dad: Bradbury and Asimov and Heinlein and Star Trek. Only lately have I realized how closely some of the themes in the old golem stories match themes in
classic science fiction -- only instead of golems, it's robots.
Did you mean to write a book so massive, in depth and character?
I didn't start out with that goal, certainly. Then the characters and story lines started to proliferate, and I realized that the book was going to be a lot longer than I'd originally thought. It was
intimidating, but also exciting, because that's the sort of book I really love: long and involved, with a community of interesting characters. (I'm thinking of genre novels like Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, or realist fiction like the recent Skippy Dies.) At one point the book was a lot longer than it is now, at least 20 percent longer. I cut out a lot at the sentence level, but scenes and subplots too --
extraneous material that wasn't doing much besides slowing the pace.
Did you realize you had the Jewish theme of free will, or was it a
accident? I understand you were not brought up in a religious household,
but free will is in your novel. The rabbis teach us young about free
will, so if that is the case, where did that come from?
The theme of free will came directly from my characters themselves, from the Golem's servant nature and the Jinni's imprisonment in human form. Once I'd given them these constraints, it seemed pretty clear that this would be what they had in common, and what they would talk about. As for
when I first encountered ideas about free will, I honestly think it goes back to all the books I've read: stories of robots acquiring sentience, and defying their creators, and so on. Also I remember
reading Paradise Lost in college, and being taken with Milton's idea that God knew ahead of time every decision we would ever make, yet we still had the free will to make those decisions. It seemed like a really interesting paradox.
What do you want your readers to come away with after reading The Golem and the Jinni?
Ideally I'd like them to come away thinking about the issues that prompted me to write the book, like the tug-of-war between duty and free will, and between tradition and modernity. Honestly, I get leery at the idea of books with messages; I think the best way to kill a book flat is to give it an obvious message. I'd rather ask questions instead.
Do you call yourself a fantasy writer or magical realism?
Either! Both! I've been calling this book a "literary historical fantasy," and I know it's being shelved all over in bookstores -- in literary fiction, or historical fiction, or fantasy/scifi. Since this is the only major
project I've ever written, I'm not sure yet if I'll only be writing genre-tinged fiction. Maybe someday I'll write a book that's completely realist, which honestly for me would be a real feat. So until then I'll
just call myself a writer, and leave it at that.
What books would you like to share that you enjoyed ?
book recommendations: do you read Neil Gaiman? His AMERICAN GODS is really, really good. Also you might like JONATHAN STRANGE AND MR. NORRELL by Susanna Clarke
Have you published anything before writing The Golem and the Jenni ?
The Golem and the Jinni
By Helene Wecker
Complimentary copy by Harper Collins
Wow!!! I am blown away by this amazing novel. I can't believe this her debut!!!!
The Golem and the Jinni, is one post I want to do justice. This is the best book I have read in years. I said that last year about Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton. Truly after you read the post I hope you run out and buy it. Any book that is unique and different in its storytelling, has won me over from the start.
This unique story is so hard to put in word. I had to think in days how to put my thoughts together. Ms. Wecker has such a imagination. I wondered how come we have not heard from her before. Surely, this book is not a debut. It turns out it is.
I am still thinking about this amazing book. How to post, and write about it after a week. I am still contemplating. I have been afraid to post on my book blogs. That is how good it is. I even posted on Amazon, which I don't usually do. But, I want the world to know about this book.
The Golem and the Jenni is wonderful, unique, magical, enchanting, and Jewish story telling at it's best. There are books that give you character study, and books that transport you. But, The Golem and the Jenni gives you a wonderful ride, and spell bounding at every turn. You wanted to know what happens next. You can't keep turning the pages fast enough. It keeps you up all hours of the night, and keeps the night oil burning.
I am Jewish, but never read the stories of the old country, Yiddishkeit. This is what it reminded me of, the old story telling. Like the stories we used to be read, and hear as as story book bed time stories. Storytelling not narrative written down, but oral story telling at a campfire.
The book is part Jewish folklore, Romance, Part historical fiction, magical realism, mysticm- Jewish, and Arab, and of course fantasy. The author takes us on a tour of turn of the century New York City, of the Jewish, Lower East Side, and Old Syria. Almost like a carpet ride. Because the Jinni is able to fly so he takes us above the tenement homes, but on the roof to see below. Which a unique experience.
This is the kind of book, that is so lush in description, and multi layered characters. This is the kind of book that I think would be hard to pull apart and critique because the storytelling is so awesome. The author sometimes gets carried away with description that makes the story drag a bit. But, you doesn't distract from the story because of the rich, and lush story telling.
There is so much to talk about in this novel, to name a few Jewish, and Syrian immigration, Tenement housing, living conditions, immigration policies, Lower East Side living, family, storytelling, and free will.
My recommendation before you read the book, is to do research and find out what a golem is. Then do research on the Genie.
The story takes place in Danzig, Poland. Otto Rotfeld is not a handsome man, and he is a outsider and doesn't trust others. He decides he wants a wife, but not a ordinary wife. He wants a wife of his own making, and then he seeks out the Kabbalist, Schaalman. He asks him to make of wife of his own desires. While on the way to America on the ship Mr. Rotfeld brings her to life. But, he ultimately dies with a burst appendix. What is she to do without a master. She doesn't have free will, she is born to follow orders of her master. She is like a new born child with new experiences. She doesn't know what to do or act. When she gets off the ship she starts wandering. She encounters a Rabbi that takes her in. He realizes she is not a ordinary woman, but a Golem, her name we find out is Chava, which means life.
Then not faraway in Little Syria, a Arab immigrant community called Little Syria lives a tinsmith named Abeely. He is brought a copper flask needing repair. While attempting to fix it, something happens, a Genie pops out. He is naked, he is trapped as a shape of a human being. He is bound by irons on his wrists.
In the mist of this is Schaalman, he tries to find his creation. Has he come to destroy her? Or to make him his master? You will just have to read the book to find out. I am telling you it is worth the read.
Here is a few quotes I loved that gives the uniqueness of the book. "Schaalman could control the Jenni how ever he wished, and the golem was his own creature to destroy. He held their lives in his hands. He might use them each against the other, or seal the Jenni in the flask and turn the Golem into dust, servitude, and else death.". If you would like more reviews of what other people think, I am sure if you do a google search you will find positive reviews as well.
Our Jewish community in Myrtle Beach is selecting our first community read book. The Golem and the Jenni happens to be one of them. I don't think anything else will compare. With the others on the nominating committee, I have heard everyone's take. Everyone agrees, The Golem and the Jenni.
I would like to thank Heather for the complimentary copy.
I would like to thank Erika Dreifus for sharing this video. It sounds like to me that there is a fine line. Still no one has the answer. Like always there could be 5 Jews and everyone has a different opinion. It will never be answered. Which is fine by me. To me I think it is your own experience, and your own interpetation.
For me Jewish fiction has to be:
1) The author must be JEWISH.
there are some authors that say their book is Jewish when they never experience being Jewish. Going one time to a passover seder doesn't cut it.
2) The Jewish experience and ideas
Just because a person writes in a few Jewish names doesn't make a book Jewish.
Jewish Grand Strand Reads event was held yesterday. With 30 people in attendance. We picked Mr. Fish to have the event. It is owned, by Ted and Lisa Hammerman. Lisa, is one of our long standing book club members of 38th Ave. Diva Readers. It is centrally located and across the street from our temple, Temple Emanu-El. The presentation of the food was so pretty you don't want to eat it. I would rather look at it. That would be a great way to lose weight. You know the joke SEAFOOD!!! The food and service was excellent. I ordered the Talapia blackened sandwich, with a cuke, and tomato salad. You can't forget the hush puppies either.
We discussed the novel, Rav Hisda's Daughter by Maggie Anton. Our guest speaker was Rabbi Debbie Slavitt. She is a wonderful speaker, and she draws everyone. Her discussion, and questions made for interesting topics further to explore and ask more questions.
Rabbi Debbie Talked about the temple before the destruction of the second temple, and the exiles that left before the second temple and after. What was it like without a temple? How did Judiasm survive without the Temple? without sacrifices? What was the culture like in Jerusalem vs. Babylonia? What happened to the Sanhedrin, now that there was not a need for them?
Why Rabbi's? The concept of synagogue and Rabbi is not what we think of today in daily life. Rabbi's did not have a pulpit, or lead prayer. The word for "Rabbi", is teacher. Rabbi's formed the conversations from different generations of sages for oral Jewish law called the Talmud. When we modern Jews think of Talmud we think of many, many books. But, in actually printing press did not come about till 1500 years later. So, it was passed on to their students by word of mouth, and discussion of other Rabbi's and debates, etc.
In Rav Hisda's Daughter here are the talking points:
(For reason's I won't get the name right. I will call her Rav Hisda's Daughter)
Why did her father ask her to name the one she wanted to marry. What was the reason she said Rami, and Abba. Was it so she wouldn't embarrass the boys?
Why did Rav Hisda allow sorcery, and magic in his home if he is a learned Rabbi? That is the point back then the Rabbi was only a teacher. He did not dominate Jewish life, and judge and tell you, what is right or wrong. He wanted to be accepted in the secular world as well. Just like today assimilation is possible. The Babylonia culture was all around us. So, you had to take it in.
The incantation bowls that were put upside down to catch the demons, the evil eye on a baby sleeve, etc, etc.
Then we talked about the mosaics in the bath houses and the significance of them.
The Culture between Jerusalem vs. Babylonia was different. Why do you think that is? You would think it would be the same. But, in Babylonia you were surrounded by all kinds of people. In Jerusalem it was just one kind. The point is that there were differences all around you. There was not sameness.
Our second annual Jewish Grand Strand Reads was a large success this time than last time. Our attendance doubled.
A few of the authors sent me autograph copies of their newest novels. I was showcasing southern beach reads by Mary Kay Andrews, Dorthea Benton Frank, Beth Hoffman, and Susan M. Moyer.
I will be blogging about Jewish books, mainly fiction. I will have book reviews, book news, and Jewish news that promotes the Jewish authors. And of course any happenings in Temple Emanu-El of Myrtle Beach. If you are looking for a temple in Myrtle Beach. Visit Temple Emanu-El, a conservative temple at http://www.mbsynagogue.org/ We are a warm and friendly shul. Our spiritual leader, Rabbi Avi our and his wife Mira are friendly and kind, friendly and very sympathetic to each of our members. We are a small shul but that only adds to our uniqueness and our shuls warmth. If you are ever in the Myrtle Beach area come, and stop for a visit.
If you are looking for info. on the secular side of books you can visit my other blog, http://susansliterarycafe.blogspot.com. You are welcome to leave a comment. And thanks for stopping by.