I hope you’ve had a good June. Mine crept by very slowly, for some reason, despite some nice celebrations (my parents honored by their local Federation, my son graduating high school). July finds me alone at home (half the family at camp, older kids off doing their own things), but luckily I’ve got my four-legged pal Joey for company. Hopefully I’ll use the time wisely!
Scroll down for book recs, a new Literary Modiin event, recipes and more!
Brief writing update: I’ve made good progress on my story-in-progress, which takes place at a wedding, so that’s fun. I’m working towards a new novel-in-stories, and I’ll have more new stories to write, but I already know that the current story will be the one I end the new book with, so it is kind of cool to have figured that out.
Happy news: My new flash fiction piece “Or Best Offer” was published in the inaugural edition of Ruby, a bi-annual literary magazine that publishes short-form food narratives. The journal was founded by my friend April Bradley, and I encourage you to check out the entire issue, as there are lots of excellent stories in it. In case you missed it last month: check out my new essay, “Czarna, Reimagined,” which means a lot to me.
Ever wanted to host a literary salon? That’s a fancy way of saying getting your book club or a group of friends together to talk about books. I’d love to do some in-person events during my upcoming trip to the States, so please be in touch if you’d like to host me (anywhere in reasonable driving distance of Trumbull, CT, between July 29 - Aug 4 and again Aug 18, 21 - 23).
I finished a whopping nine books last month, so I’m up to 44 books for the year, two ahead of schedule for my Goodreads challenge. It was tough to pick my top recommendations for the month, but here they are:
Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr: Another hefty book that takes place over three different time periods and continents. I seem to have read so many like this lately! We go from a story about two young teenagers during the siege of Constantinople to a small-town library in Idaho to another young girl on a spaceship. Their lives intertwine over the fate of a single story. In addition to his beautiful prose and descriptions, Doerr is a master at getting the reader to feel empathy for his (many) characters. My book club discussed this last night and everyone enjoyed it. Here’s a blurb I loved from The Boston Globe: “Doerr’s characters are astoundingly resilient, suggesting that we may yet save ourselves, with literature an essential tool.”
The Tender Bar by J.R. Moehringer: I listened to the audio version of this memoir and enjoyed it very much. (I didn’t realize it came out back in 2005 and was made into a movie until long after I’d finished the book). Growing up in Manhasset, NY, JR turns to the men who frequent Publicans, the local watering hole, to stand in for his absent father. It’s a classic American story of self-invention and escape, of the fierce love between a single mother and an only son, and one boy's struggle to become a man. As one reviewer on Amazon put it, “it’s an alcohol-saturated coming-of-age story with a cast of characters that are as colorful as they are pitiful.”
A Play for the End of the World by Jai Chakrabarti: This terrific debut novel has won many awards, and it’s easy to see why. The story takes place between the Warsaw Ghetto, New York, and rural India, and was inspired by a real event (a play put on by the orphanage run by Janusz Korczak in the last days of the Warsaw Ghetto). Jaryk, the protagonist, is one of the two survivors from the orphanage, but — as the NYT puts it, he “can’t forget the makeshift family that was transported to Treblinka without him. . . . As the novel moves between [America and India] with interludes that return to the Warsaw ghetto, we come to understand Jaryk’s guilt-stricken ‘need to burrow into oblivion’—and to hope that another need will somehow uproot it.” Jai was one of the guests at Literary Modiin’s June event and it was fascinating to listen to him and hear about his moment of inspiration. Watch the recording here.
Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid: When I read and fell in love with The Final Revival of Opal and Nev last year, people said, “Oh, you must read Daisy Jones and The Six!” Both novels take the form of oral histories that follow the meteoric rise of rock stars. The novel centers around the charismatic, electrifying Daisy Jones and Billy Dunne, lead singer and songwriter of The Six. The tension between them makes for great rock and roll but is devastating on their personal lives. Part of the story is also told through the eyes of their fellow bandmates, managers, and others. “Wildly delicious” is the blurb from the NYT, and I fully agree. For audiobook fans, I highly recommend this full-cast production.
Essay of the Month
Learning My Father’s Story By Heart (Oprah Daily). Excellent, beautiful essay by my friend and fellow Modiin writer, Tanya Mozias Slavin, in which she discusses the complexities in and lessons from her relationship with her father, along with the power of reading. Give it a read!
I don’t have any events of my own this month, but I’m very excited for our July Literary Modiin event! Join me on Sunday, July 10 at 20:00 Israel time / 1:00 pm Eastern / 10:00 am Pacific to hear from Ariela Freedman (Léa), Maria Espinosa (Suburban Souls) and Moshe Mikanovsky (The Resurrector). Register here.
Missed any of our Literary Modiin events? Watch them here.
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!
Recipe of the Month: Simple, Warm Chicken Salad
The Aroma in my local mall has a teudat kashrut (Kosher certification) for both milk and meat which is kind of weird if you think about it. They’ve discontinued their chicken salad, unfortunately, but it serves at the inspiration for this one. Being on my own for most of the summer, I’ve been looking for simple, healthy recipes for one. The other night I made a big pot of chicken soup (my all-time favorite food), not because I plan on having too much soup in this heat, but because this way I’ll have plenty of chicken for my salad.
Romaine lettuce, torn into small pieces
Cherry tomatoes (red/yellow/orange)
Roasted sweet potato
Cabbage (red or green)
Red onion in slices
Handful of nuts for the crunch factor (almonds, pecans, walnuts in any combo)
Dressing: olive oil, lemon juice, tsp grainy mustard, TBSP mayo, salt & pepper
All of the salad ingredients (except the lettuce and chicken) are up to your discretion, depending on what you like in your salad, and feel free to add any veggies I haven’t listed here. The Aroma salad used to include some warm potato slices but I never do. The key to the whole thing: warm up the chicken right before tossing it in the salad! That’s it. Yum!
I’ll leave you with a few unrelated pictures. The only thing in bloom right now is the kipudan matzui (Echinops in English), which gives a nice purplish hue and can be seen dotting the southern hills of Modiin. (Here’s an essay I wrote, published in Atlas & Alice, about the southern hills in a different season). Lastly, Joey is so bored with no kids at home that he hopped into the bathtub the other day. I guess that’s a sign…
See you next month with book recs, writing notes, recipes & more!