It’s been quite a month (+ a week). For many of you, too, I’m sure. Parts of my month were amazing and parts were crummy (an understatement), often at the same time. Many thanks to everyone who reached out to express concern for the safety of my family and friends here in Israel. For those interested, I’ve shared a few articles that resonated with me at the bottom of this newsletter.
Brief writing update: I didn’t do much writing this month. Between two weeks in the States for work and a family visit and jet lag (which took forever to get over), I haven’t been as disciplined as I’d have liked. Happy to report that I’m now back at work on my current short story-in-progress, so, yay!
Some great writing news: My first two pieces of 2021 were published a few weeks ago! I’d love for you to take a look at one or both of these:
Lessons from Our Backyard Bat Mitzvah (Jewish Women’s Archive) - an essay
Book Review: The Face Tells the Secret (Reading Jewish Fiction) - my first-ever book review. Thanks to Janice Weizman for inviting me to write it.
In other good news: 1) I had a wonderful time meeting with the well-read women of the Barnard Book Club of Jerusalem at the end of May! 2) I had a great family visit to the States, seeing my parents, sisters, in-laws, SILs, BILs, nieces, nephews, cousins and friends. Such a balm, after the past year! 3) The reason this newsletter is coming to you a week late: we celebrated “take 2” of my daughter’s bat mitzvah this past Shabbat, and it was amazing!!
It might not have been a good month for writing, but it was a great month for reading. I’m up to 35 books for the year, four ahead of schedule. Here are this month’s recommendations:
Plunder by Menachem Kaiser - In this brilliant debut memoir, Menachem Kaiser details his quest to reclaim his family’s apartment building in Poland. It’s an attempt to feel close to his grandfather, a Holocaust survivor who passed away before the author was born and for whom he is named. Along the way, he’s introduced to an entire subculture of treasure hunters looking for Nazi plunder. Kaiser strikes the perfect balance between story and candid self-reflection. As one reviewer put it, the book probes “with unusual insight and humor into questions of memory, loss, and what we owe to the past…” As someone who has also been to Poland - and sometimes writes about subjects as a way to feel close to/honor my family - I was nodding in agreement with many of his revelations. Highly recommended! (And if you missed the May Literary Modiin event with Menachem Kaiser, Meryl Ain and Karen Marron, you can watch it here).
New Girl in Little Cove by Damhnait Monaghan - This charming debut novel follows Rachel O’Brien, who moves to Newfoundland from Toronto for a one-year teaching gig at a high school. She’s running from the double grief of losing her father and her long-time boyfriend, and the reception she receives in her new tiny town is not what she’s expecting. The characters came to feel like friends, the dialect was fantastic, and I loved learning about Newfoundland. The Globe and Mail called this a “warm hug of a book” and I can’t think of a more apt description.
Women Talking by Miriam Toews - Based on real events, the fictionalized story is told through the “minutes” of a meeting of Mennonite women who have been repeatedly drugged and raped by eight members of their community. They are trying to decide whether to stay and fight or to flee, though they cannot read and have never left their colony. I liked this blurb from the NYT: “A wry, freewheeling novel of ideas that touches on the nature of evil, questions of free will, collective responsibility, cultural determinism, and, above all, forgiveness.” While the story is harrowing, it is told with touches of humor and love, and one can’t help but feel amazed by the strength of each of the characters and hopeful for their future.
Story of the Month: Variations on the Same
Variations on the Same (Oprah Daily) by Erin Somers: I can’t remember how I came across this story, but it provided the levity I needed that day. The mother of four at the center of the story couldn’t be more different from me, but I love her and her big messy family. Off to buy the author’s book.
Happy to report that I have an in-person event here in Modiin this month, plus two Zoom book talks with synagogues in Westchester (Temple Israel Center in White Plains and Bet Torah in Mt. Kisco). Plus a new Literary Modiin event! I don’t have anything scheduled after June, so if you’re in a book club or know someone who is, I’d love to discuss The Book of Jeremiah with your group.
Tuesday, June 22 at 20:00: An Evening of Literature and Art with ESRA (English Speaking Residents Association). Sklar-Levy Gallery, 16 Ha'Satat Street, Modiin. Locals are welcome! Register here
Sunday, June 27 at 20:00 Israel time / 1 pm Eastern: Literary Modiin’s June Author Event, with Joshua Henkin (Morningside Heights), Sally Koslow (The Other Side of Paradise), and Sherri Mandell (Reaching for Comfort). Can’t wait! Register here.
Missed any of our Literary Modiin events? Watch all of them here!
Prompt of the Month: Off the hook
This prompt came to me via another excellent class I took with Ilana Blumberg in early May. Think about the tasks, responsibilities or relationships in your life that you find most burdensome. Whether you detest doing the laundry or you’re exhausted by politics, give your character permission to be free and “off the hook” from dealing with this burden.
Recipe of the Month: Simple & satisfying egg sandwich
This simple, satisfying egg sandwich can be made in about three minutes flat. I know, because I make it every morning for my daughter, usually as I’m rushing to get her out the door. It’s the perfect aruchat 10 (mid-morning snack), particularly for a newly-minted vegetarian who doesn’t get much other protein. I don’t know if this is an Israeli thing or not, but you can find this egg sandwich, called karich havita in Hebrew, in every coffee shop, train station, with multiple varieties of bread and other fillings.
Here’s how we like it:
1-2 eggs, scrambled
thin schmear of mayo on one side of the bread (or a white, spreadable cheese)
any bread will do, though our personal favorite is the challah roll
slice or two of tomato
At least one of the following:
lettuce (my daughter’s choice)
pickles (my choice)
Assemble and enjoy!
Some final notes: You may have seen the news about Arabesque, the boutique hotel and artists’ residency in Acco that was completely destroyed by a mob during the recent war. A model of coexistence, Arabesque is run by my writing teacher and friend Evan Fallenberg and his son Micha. After an outpouring of support, they have decided to rebuild. If you can make a contribution to help them continue their important work, please do.
And a few more articles that resonated with me:
- A call to action by Mike Prasher on building a shared society
- A small but important way to contribute by Joanna Chen (She volunteers for Road to Recovery, which I also do occasionally)
Thanks again for your support, and see you next month with book recommendations, writing notes, recipes & more!