Happy August! I hope you are keeping cool, wherever you are. I’m writing from the serene setting of my parents’ screened-in porch in Connecticut, one of my favorite places in the world. Great for reading, writing, bird watching and working remotely. Scroll down for book recs, two new Literary Modiin events, a recipe and more!
Brief writing update: I finished the first draft of a story set at a wedding (fun!) and started a new story that takes place during a week of shiva (less fun). My goal is to write several more stories to form a complete work; I’ve got about 53,000 words or ~6 1/2 stories at the moment. Major editing lies ahead, but for now I am just trying to forge these first drafts, bird by bird, as Anne Lamott would say. Given my travel schedule this month, I probably won’t get as much writing done as I’d like.
Happy news: Speaking of travel, my essay, “Abbaye de Valloires," is coming out this month in Hinterland Magazine. It’s about the abbey in France where my cousin was hidden and saved during the Holocaust, and the trip my son and I took in 2018 to see it. I’m not sure if the essay will be available online, but the magazine is available now for pre-order. You can also check out the “quick-fire” interview with me in Hinterland’s newsletter.
I finished five books in July, a slower-than-usual month, because (after 27 years of living in Israel) I finally read an entire novel in Hebrew. It was quite an effort, but I’m glad I persevered. I’m up to 49 books for the year, on schedule for my self-imposed Goodreads challenge.
Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy: I wolfed :-) this book down in one day, practically one sitting. The story revolves around Inti Flynn, a wolf biologist, who arrives in the Scottish Highlands with her traumatized twin sister, a team of biologists, and 14 gray wolves who are to be rewilded in an attempt to heal the dying landscape. As to be expected, the locals aren’t thrilled with the project though Inti does find some allies. Much like the author’s first novel, Migrations, McConaghy does a superb job of capturing the beauty and danger of the natural world while moving the plot along at a propulsive clip. Definitely one of my favorite reads of 2022 thus far. From Booklist: “McConaghy's novel is a powerful meditation on humanity, nature and the often frightening animalistic impulses lurking within us all . . . Another triumph for a rising fiction star, offering an intensely realized world for readers to get lost in."
Léa by Ariela Freedman: I thoroughly enjoyed this historical novel, which centers on the life — or the first 40 years — of famed labor activist and suffragette Léa Roback. (I say famed but only in certain circles, as I’d never heard of her before). Born to a large Jewish family in Montreal, Léa was raised outside of Quebec City, and easily moves between languages (fluent in Yiddish, French and English) and cultures. She lived, for periods, in Montreal, New York, Paris and Berlin. Much of the novel centers on Léa’s fight for the rights of women workers in the late 1930s, though as the author told us at last month’s Literary Modiin event, Léa lived a long life (dying in 2000 at the age of 97), and there was much she had to leave out to shape it as a novel. (Léa continued her activism against the Vietnam War, against apartheid, and other causes well into her 70s and 80s). Léa is someone you’ll want to know, vigorous and hopeful; Ariela Freedman does an excellent job at capturing her on the page. If you’re looking for someone to inspire you, you’d be well advised to spend time reading these pages. Listen to Ariela speak about her book at the July Literary Modiin event.
Dear Life by Alice Munro: What a pleasure to read a collection of stories from an absolute master. Dear Life came out back in 2013, the same year Alice Munro won the Nobel Prize for Literature, and I picked it up at random from a pile of books my friend was getting rid of. I’m so glad I did! We meet a soldier returning from war and avoiding his fiancée, a wealthy woman deciding whether to confront a blackmailer, a young teacher jilted by her employer, and several others living humble existences. Munro brilliantly brings the rich interior lives of her characters to the page, reminding us never to underestimate our fellow human beings. I liked this blurb from The Chicago Tribune, “Exquisite. . . . No other author can tell quite so much with quite so little. The modest surfaces of Munro’s lapidary sentences conceal rich veins of ore.” If it’s been a while since you’ve read an Alice Munro collection, do yourself a favor and pick one up soon.
Essay of the Month: Deaf Rage
Deaf Rage (CRAFT) by Ross Showalter. In this powerful essay, the author allows us to peek inside the moments when his anger has spilled over to rage, starting with his former university’s complete failure to provide a safe space, as promised. The essay moves back and forth between the author’s childhood and adulthood, discussing the complexities of his deafness and charting the beginning of his identity as a Deaf person. I’m not doing it justice here, so please go read it yourselves! And thank you, Ross Showalter, for writing this.
I’m excited to do my first in-person event in several months! I’m meeting with the Hadassah book club of Boulder, CO, on Sunday, August 14th. If you’re in that neck of the woods, even if you’re not in Hadassah, let me know. Can’t wait! As always, if you’re in a book club or know someone who is, I’d be happy to discuss The Book of Jeremiah with your group!
Literary Modiin is taking a break in August, but the September and October virtual Literary Modiin events are already planned. For those who are local or in reasonable driving distance of Modiin, I hope to have another in-person event soon, so stay tuned. In the meantime, register now for:
Sunday, September 18, at 20:00 Israel time / 1 pm Eastern, join us to hear from Marcus Pactor (Begat Who Begat Who Begat); Zibby Owens (Bookends); and Hila Ratzabi (There Are Still Woods). Register here.
Sunday, October 23, at 20:00 Israel time / 1 pm Eastern, join us to hear from Sara Lippmann (Lech), Martha Toll (Three Muses) and Diana Bletter (A Remarkable Kindness). Register here.
Recipe of the Month: Stone Fruit Caprese
Congratulations for making to the end of the newsletter, where you’re rewarded with a yummy recipe. I’m a big fan of the recipes in NYT Cooking, and ever since the July 16 newsletter landed in my inbox, I’ve been making this stone fruit caprese (today being the fifth time in the last two weeks, so you see how much I love it). It works whether you’re cooking for one or for many, though there’s no actual cooking in this recipe. Perfect for summer!
4-8 ripe but firm stone fruit (a mix of nectarines, peaches, plums and cherries; mango also works here).
1 tablespoon lemon juice, plus more as needed
sprinkle (1 tsp) of sugar
dash of kosher salt
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, at room temperature
About 20 basil or mint leaves, or a combination, torn if large
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
Freshly ground black pepper
Cut fruit into bite-sized pieces. Sprinkle with sugar, kosher salt, and lemon juice, and let sit for five minutes. Break up the fresh mozzarella and nestle between the fruit, adding the basil or mint leaves. Drizzle olive oil over the top, and add a bit more of salt and pepper. Voila, the perfect summer salad! Here’s the first one I made. Didn’t notice until now that the plate matches. Enjoy!
I’ll leave you with my “Tale of Two Countries” collage.
Can you tell which is which? The three images on the left represent my current setting (Connecticut in August, the screened-in porch, the robin); the three images on the right represent last month (Israel in July, some meager foraging).
See you next month with book recs, writing notes, recipes & more!