June 2022: "Czarna, Reimagined," three excellent new books, and mulberries galore

Dear friends,


I hope you are hanging in there after this difficult month. May was quite a busy month for me. I’m still trying to regain my equilibrium after starting a new, intensive day job which has me in back-to-back meetings almost every day. I did get away for a wonderful long weekend in London with my husband and daughter, one highlight of which was seeing Hamilton. Loved every minute!


Scroll down for book recs, a new Literary Modiin event, recipes and more!


Brief writing update: I’m making slow and steady progress on a new story. The cool thing is that I know exactly how I want it to end, so now I’m just working on the middle. Alas, some days I get in no writing at all, and other days I’m happy if I’ve written or revised a new paragraph or two.


Happy news: I’m thrilled to have a new essay out: Czarna, Reimagined (Jewish Women’s Archive). If you’ve been following my crazy family news in the last few newsletters, you’ll have some idea of what this is about. Either way, I hope you’ll read this piece, which means a lot to me and to my family.


Want to host a book event? I’m headed to the States twice this summer (next week for a very short trip) and then again at the end of July. If you’d like to get your friends or your book club together for an in-person event about The Book of Jeremiah, I’d be happy to come…anywhere in reasonable driving distance of Trumbull, CT, between July 29-Aug 4, or Aug 18-22.


Recommended Reads

I’m up to 35 books for the year, on track for my Goodreads challenge.


People Love Dead Jews by Dara Horn - This is a brilliant collection of essays by Dara Horn that everyone should read. With a keen eye and pen, Horn explores a variety of topics, from recent deadly anti-Semitic attacks to smaller, subtler slights that are often so much a part of the modern Jewish experience in America we don’t think twice. She unpacks and examines each issue in a methodic but accessible manner, getting her readers (at least this one) to think, ask questions, and open their minds. Truly, one of the most enlightening books I’ve read in a long time. As one reviewer in The Jewish Chronicle put it: "The questions and ideas raised by Horn in People Love Dead Jews are ― like the Yiddish stories she writes about ― endless and defiant of neat solutions. But there is comfort to be found, in the most Jewish ways, in her humour and clear-eyed critical thinking." Highly recommend!


The Candy House by Jennifer Egan - On the other end of the spectrum (i.e. fun read) is Jennifer Egan’s The Candy House. Billed as a “sibling novel” to A Visit to the Goon Squad, the book features a series of interlinking stories. The characters (some of whom will be familiar) live in a not-so-distant world that features a technology allowing them access to every memory they’ve ever had (a corollary feature being that they can gain access to the memories of others in exchange for sharing their own). Whether or not you’ve read (or can remember) Goon Squad, this is a delightful read. I especially like this review: “Inventive, effervescent… Egan plaits multiple narratives and techniques to underscore the manifold ways our own desires betray us in a brave new coded world.” Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel - Emily St. John Mandel is a master of creativity, and her newest novel does not disappoint. The book begins with a young Brit in 1912 who has crossed the Atlantic to Canada, continues with a famous novelist (who has written about a pandemic) two centuries later, and then goes even farther into the future. The whole thing feels like a playful puzzle that the reader will want to solve. As the New York Times put it: “Mandel offers one of her finest novels and one of her most satisfying forays into the arena of speculative fiction yet, but it is her ability to convincingly inhabit the ordinary, and…project a sustaining acknowledgment of beauty, that sets the novel apart.”


Essay of the Month: This is Where it Breaks

This is Where it Breaks (Oldster Magazine) by Liza Monroy. I loved this essay, in which the author discusses finding her passion (surfing) in middle age. I’m not a surfer, but having found creative writing at the age of 38 and then mountain biking a few years later, I related to much of what she says here.


Events

I don’t have any events of my own this month, but I’m very excited for our June Literary Modiin event! Join me on Sunday, June 12 at 20:00 Israel time / 1:00 pm Eastern / 10:00 am Pacific to hear from Michal Lemberger (After Abel and Other Stories - one of my recommended books in my April newsletter), Jai Chakrabarti (A Play for the End of the World - winner of the National Jewish Book Award for Debut Fiction, among other awards) and Rena Rossner (The Light of the Midnight Stars). Register here.



Missed any of our Literary Modiin events? Watch all of 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: Raw Cauliflower Salad

This delicious take on cauliflower comes via a Facebook group I’m in called Passover Recipe Exchange. Don’t remember how I joined, but it is very useful come Passover time. Anyhow, most of the posts are your standard kugel-brisket-k’neidelach stuff, but this one from Debra Klein caught my eye. It’s pareve/vegan and above all, delish…I’m now going to check out more of her recipes!


Ingredients:

  • 1 medium head of cauliflower

  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • 2 cups chopped purple cabbage

  • 1 bunch scallions, white and green parts sliced thin

  • 2 large stalks celery, diced

  • 1/3 cup chopped pistachios

  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

  • 1 1/2 cups frozen green peas

  • 3 medjool dates, pits removed and diced

Dressing

  • 1/4 cup olive oil

  • 1 lime, zested and juiced* (no limes available at the moment, I used a lemon instead)

  • 1 clove garlic

  • 1 small shallot, thinly sliced (I didn’t have one so I just skipped this part)

  1. Trim the cauliflower with a sharp knife, so that it practically feels like you’re shaving or shredding the caulifower…Sprinkle with salt and pepper and set aside.

  2. Add roughly chopped cabbage, sliced scallions, diced celery, chopped pistachios, chopped fresh parsley, peas and diced dates.

  3. Toss salad together, add dressing and mix well. Serve at room temperature or refrigerate and serve cold.

Enjoy! I don’t have a picture of the salad, but it’s mulberry season here, so I’ll leave you with a picture of one of my favorite trees — it’s not a cliché to say that it is literally dripping with fruit at the moment. I can pick a hundred at a time and there are still thousands left on the tree for other foragers.



Happy Shavuot to all who are celebrating, and see you next month!


P.S. Looking for a good Father’s Day gift for the man in your life who is sometimes grumpy but has a big heart? May I recommend…The Book of Jeremiah. :-)