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October 2021: my newest story, a fig fiesta & other food writing

Dear friends,

Happy almost October! I’m sending this a day early since the next Literary Modiin event is coming up in four days - on October 3 - so this is your reminder to register. To those who have been celebrating this past month, I hope you’ve had a joyous holiday season. Mine was filled with cooking, hosting, shul-going and (of course) reading; for obvious reasons, hosting was especially sweet this year. Scroll down for book recs, events, a recipe and more!

New story alert! I'm thrilled that The Maine Review has published my flash fiction story, "Growth Hacking," a fun send-up of some places I've worked, pre-pandemic. The original prompt had to do with something unusual in a familiar setting. I hope you enjoy it!

Brief writing update: I’ve finally finished a full draft of a new short story, which I began back in April 2020. Hooray! It’s the longest I’ve ever written, around 8,400 words (down from over 10K), and I’m sure I’ll have to cut much more, but for now I’m putting it away for a month. For those who have read The Book of Jeremiah, the new story features Molly and Jeremiah, along with some familiar themes and unexpected twists. I’m now turning my attention to revising a few flash fiction and nonfiction pieces I began earlier this year while “marinating” some ideas for a new, longer story.

Recommended Reading

It was a good month for reading, and I’m up to 63 books for the year, eight ahead of my self-imposed Goodreads challenge. Here’s a list of all the books I’ve read thus far in 2021. This month’s recommendations:

Deacon King Kong by James McBride: This book has captured a ton of accolades and awards, all well-deserved. McBride is a masterful storyteller, weaving humor and pain into the lives of Sportcoat, a fumbling old church deacon, and his neighbors in the Brooklyn projects, circa 1969. I especially liked this quote from Junot Diaz’s review in the NYT: “Deacon King Kong” is many things: a mystery novel, a crime novel, an urban farce, a portrait of a project community. There’s even some western in here. The novel is, in other words, a lot. Fortunately, it is also deeply felt, beautifully written and profoundly humane; McBride’s ability to inhabit his characters’ foibled, all-too-human interiority helps transform a fine book into a great one.” My local book club had a lot to discuss with this one, and we all agreed it is terrific!

I Am I Am I Am by Maggie O’Farrell: I picked up Maggie O’Farrell’s memoir - subtitled “Seventeen Brushes with Death” - after absolutely LOVING her novel Hamnet. In this book, she weaves together some near- (and not-so-near-) death experiences — told in a non-linear fashion — to tell the story of her life, including her ongoing struggle to protect her daughter from a vulnerable condition. She writes beautifully; I’ll definitely read more books by O’Farrell. I can only hope that my own book told in a similar non-linear fashion paints the story of a (fictional) life as well as O’Farrell does.

Asylum by Judy Bolton-Fasman: This is a fantastic memoir by Judy Bolton-Fasman that follows her quest to understand her parents and their marriage. The daughter of a Yale-educated Naval officer and a Cuban woman 17 years his junior, Judy’s detective skills serve her well as she seeks to uncover their secrets. This reader was rooting for Judy and her siblings, caught between their father’s Ashkenazic, patriotic American family and their mother’s colorful Cuban Jewish side. I really enjoyed this well-written and moving account of her journey. Watch a recording of Judy speaking about her book from the August Literary Modiin event.

Blind Man’s Bluff by James Tate Hill: Anyone who’s active on Literary Twitter or FB will know of JT for his hilarious one-liners and posts. In Bling Man’s Bluff, we get a front row seat to the very intimate tale of JT losing his eyesight as a teenager and the lengths to which he went to hide his blindness from friends, lovers and colleagues for 15 years. Given that I greatly enjoy JT’s audiobooks column for LitHub and how enthusiastic he was about his narrator, I listened to the audio version, which I would recommend. Though at times it was painful to hear the extent to which JT tried to hide his disability, I appreciated this book’s honesty, warmth and humor, not to mention the fun references to ‘80s and ‘90s pop culture.

See all the books I’ve recommended in this newsletter.

Story of the Month: Paused

Paused (Funny Pearls) by Karen Jones. If you’re a woman of a certain age, and even if you’re not, you’re going to love Celia, the protagonist of this very short story by the uber-talented Karen Jones.

Events & Classes

Lots of events coming up this month, plus a class for those interested:

  • The next Literary Modiin author event is coming up this Sunday, October 3, at 20:00 Israel time / 1 pm Eastern! Register now to hear from Miriam Cohen (Adults and Other Children - see above), Sarah Blake (The Guest Book) and Leah Scheier (The Last Words We Said).

  • I’m also excited for two additional events this month at which I’ll be discussing The Book of Jeremiah: 1) a joint book club of Darchei Noam Minneapolis and the Berman group in Rehovot, Israel and; 2) the Cactus Chapter of ORT America in Phoenix, Arizona.

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!

Prompt: A taste of…

Close your eyes and imagine the taste you’d like to feel on your tongue right now. What is it, and why? Write a story or a nonfiction piece about your relationship to that food. (Then when it’s polished, send it off to Ruby)!

Recipe of the Month: Figs (& Friends) Salad

Welcome to the end of the newsletter, where you’re rewarded with a yummy recipe. Ever since discovering a wild fig tree on one of my bike rides last year, I’ve been obsessed with foraging them when the season is right. My biking partner and I now make regular stops at “our” fig trees, gobbling as many as we can while we’re there, and bringing loads more home in containers. Has there ever been a more sensuous fruit than the fig? I could go on and on about the symbolism of fig trees in the bible, or bring you quotes from Yehuda Amichai’s poetry, but for now I’ll just share this simple recipe (given to me by my biking partner), which I’ve adapted a bit and called “Fig (& friends)” because it has grapes and pears as well.

~2 cups of Romaine or other crunchy lettuce, torn into small pieces

~12 red or green figs, halved

~1 cup of red or green grapes, halved

2 pears, cut into small cubes

Slivered almonds

Feta or goat cheese

Dressing: 2 TSBP balsamic vinegar, 1/4 c olive oil + 1 tsp minced shallot

Mix and serve!

See you next month with book recs, writing notes, recipes & more!


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