My thoughts on Tablet’s article “Do Jewish Children’s Books Have a Problem with Gender?”

Emily Sigalow, in Tablet this week, published an article entitled “Do Jewish Children’s Books Have a Problem with Gender?”

While she does make one point I agree with, that awards committee’s tend to favor Jewish picture books with male lead characters and that the females tend to be engaged in traditional roles, she seems to learn from that that Jewish children’s books as a whole have a problem.

I have to disagree with the overall picture Sigalow paints, though.

You can see my comments on the article if you visit Tablet (scroll to the bottom of the page), but I’d like to make a few more thoughts.

Jewish children’s books do have problems. Actually, many secular books have the same problems. Continue reading

How Jewish do you sound? Learning the lingo as you learn the ropes

I promised a full-length review of Becoming Frum: How Newcomers Learn the Language and Culture of Orthodox Judaism by Sarah Bunin Benor (Rutger’s University Press 2012)  a while back, but I (embarrassing to admit!) lost the book before I completed it! (Yes, I feel guilty.)

becoming frum

Becoming Frum, recent winner of the Rohr Prize

Thank G-d, the book re-emerged from the piles on my desk recently, and I finally completed it over the weekend, allowing me to at long-last fulfill my promise to review this book, which recently won the 2013 Sami Rohr Choice Award for Jewish Literature

I first became acquainted with the work of Sarah Bunin Benor when she looked for volunteers to complete an online survey of language use among Jewish Americans several years back. When Becoming Frum came out a year ago, I was even more interested, partly because of my sociolinguistics coursework as part of my graduate-level anthropology program, partly because of my own status as a “BT” (someone who “returned” to Orthodox Jewish observance as an adult).

Becoming Frum draws on Benor’s extensive research among both “black hat” and “modern” Orthodox communities. Continue reading

In the Courtyard of the Novelist: An interview with Ruchama King Feuerman

I’ve got a treat here today: an interview (conducted via email) with award-winning author, Ruchama King Feuerman. Her latest book, In the Courtyard of the Kabbalist, just came out in September as an ebook. Recently, she signed a contract to expand the release to paperback. I became acquainted with Ruchama through Tablet Magazine online, where both of us have published essays. She was gracious enough to send me a copy of her new book and even more gracious to answer a few questions the novel left me with.

R.K. – In your first book, Seven Blessings, the central figure is a very strong female character. In this new book, you primarily follow two male, unmarried characters. What was that like for you as a married woman?

new book from Ruchama King Feuerman

In the Courtyard of the Kabbalist, now out from NYRB LIT

R.K.F.I prefer writing from the male point of view. This way I don’t worry about slippage, about parts of  my personality leaking into my characters, it’s just cleaner — what’s me is me, and what’s them is them.  I feel much freer to invent and have fun when I write as a man.  I do tend to prefer singles maybe because they are inherently dramatic. Continue reading

How to optimize your Goodreads “To-Read” list

A few weeks back, I posted about how we select the books we want to read now, next and never.

On a related theme, I just spent an hour culling unwanted books from my Goodreads “To-Read” list. 

Because what good is a “To-Read” list if you don’t really want to read the books on it?

After my very well-intentioned husband took the aforementioned list to the library and returned with many of the books it contained, I discovered few were readable in the land of Mrs. Rebecca Klempner. Three offended my (admittedly rather sensitive) sensibilities so much that I immediately took them out to our van and left them there to be returned to the library. Ugh.

How do such books get on my “To-Read” list in the first place? Continue reading