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chavalah

chavalah

Joined May 2016

Fiction writer, library worker, book obsessed blog.rachelmauro.net
review
chavalah
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I read 3 nonfiction nominees for the 2010 Sami Rohr Prize for emerging Jewish authors...this one was my fave! I felt an affinity for Rabbi Ruttenberg and how she unequivocally finds meaning in progressive Judaism. She also challenges herself to live a spiritual life w/in the confines of the community that gives her so much meaning--hint to self! She's direct but not dogmatic, & an inspiration. Reviewed here: https://youtu.be/PMKvNofjL2Y #jewlit

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chavalah
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Happy #nationalpoetrymonth! Emily Bronte wrote just one novel, but she was known for her poetry, too. So much passion infused!

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chavalah
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Passover find from work a few weeks ago! Yet another contemporary haggadah I'd like to peruse...the writers were interviewed on the Unorthodox podcast recently. #JewLit

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chavalah
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I've started reading for nonfiction in the Sami Rohr Prize for emerging Jewish authors! #JewLit. Though this memoir is so rich and textured that it feels like fiction. Great characters and setting underwrite the lost community of Egyptian Jews. I review this, another memoir and some social history on #booktube. https://youtu.be/h-W-CwH6HJk

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chavalah
Beneath the Haunting Sea | Joanna Ruth Meyer
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I would've loved to get this book signed if I lived in Arizona! The author and I were part of a NaNoWriMo viddler community nce upon a time, and I kept tabs on her work through her blog. This, her debut novel, mixes music, mythology and romance into epic YA fantasy. The first two worked better for me, but the overall journey was really worth it. Great world building, lyricism and focus on the arts!

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chavalah
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At last, the backstory to my favorite Tamora Pierce book is heeeere! Started out a bit slow but got more interesting as it built up steam. Not quite so sure how it would be received by non-fans, but for those of us who want a different perspective on Ozorne, Varice and Numair aka Arram Draper, then we're in for a treat. The world of Carthak feels much bigger now, and perhaps much more tragic. Prequel for the bad guys! (Plus Numair. :p)

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chavalah
The Wanderers | Meg Howrey
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One of my anticipated reads of 2017, this one lived up to me! Through deft prose and great characterization, Howrey probes what draws these three astronauts to a Mars mission, and how they handle their test run. I kinda think we could've done without POVs of other characters, and stuck more concretely to the nebulous truth of the so-called trial. Biggest question is, what's real and what's not? The civilians get in the way of that, imho.

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chavalah
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Inspired by the short story advent calendar, I spent Chanukah reading from this collection by Fannie Hurst and BERTRAND COURT by Michelle Brahman. Although I enjoyed both, I'd feel remiss if I didn't highlight Hurst's talent with language and character. She was very popular in her day, and should be known again! You can watch my #booktube review of some of her and Brafman's stories here: https://youtu.be/uPUzngaKw_A #JewLit

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chavalah
Pachinko | Min Jin Lee
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Holiday gift for my mom! I'd been eying this book since it first came out, but Mom decided that she was interested when it made a best of year list. I still need to read Lee's first book, which she says is connected to this one!

7 likes1 stack add
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chavalah
Salvage the Bones | Jesmyn Ward
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Holiday gift for my sister! I thought about going with Ward's latest novel, but ultimately decided on a paperback. And this one won a National Book Award, too!

Cinfhen Im looking forward to reading this one too!! 2y
3 likes1 stack add1 comment
review
chavalah
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Holocaust fiction that worked for me. The magical realism leant itself to the tragedy and absurdity of genocide and persecution. In the early 1940s, a Jewish Romanian village hears it's first war planes, a survivor (the stranger) washes upon their shores, and they decide to start time over again. Some of their new society mirrors what happens when reality ultimately catches up, and the narrator/storyteller becomes the stranger. #JewLit

5 likes1 stack add
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chavalah
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Maybe I should allow this to inch to a so so rating--I couldn't tell much difference between the book's two narrators and the tone was often moralizing. But Fay does incorporate a lot of fascinating details about vaudeville in the 1910s, as the Turner family works the circuit. And she even gives her great-grandparents cameos! Not too plotty until the end, but sanctimony aside, I enjoyed the wandering. Fun story, at the end of the day.

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chavalah
Modern Girls | Jennifer S Brown
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Enjoyed this more than I thought I would! Historical novel from 1935's Lower East Side where a mother and daughter both accidentally get pregnant. High drama as we alternate between the two of them as narrators, day by day, as they try and get things sorted. Ending is less pat than I first assumed! I liked the daughter's journey particularly. Interesting commentary on assimilation, too. #JewLit

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chavalah
Judenstaat: A Novel | Simone Zelitch
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A few weeks ago I reviewed on #booktube three recently read novels on the theme of alternative Jewish history. https://youtu.be/ke7ONbFNfqo. JUDENSTAAT was ultimately my favorite. It imagines the USSR carving out a state for Jewish refugees of the Holocaust in what was East Germany. 40 years later, a video archivist named Judit must grapple with national secrets involving questions of communal trauma, identity, politics and more. #JewLit

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chavalah
An Unrestored Woman | Shobha Rao
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I read both of these books for the Anna and Eric book club and I made a #booktube video about them in late September. https://youtu.be/5WPz1JmOHNk. Although I enjoyed both, AN UNRESTORED WOMAN was definitely my favorite. Through linked short stories, Rao explores violence against women and the response to trauma, often against the backdrop of the India/Pakistan Partition. Multiple viewpoints. Trigger warnings galore, but powerful stuff.

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chavalah
A Basket of Apples: Stories | Shirley Faessler
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I'm probably biased by the fact that I lost my cat around the time that I started this book. Short stories were great for telling a complete tale but not being exhaustive about it. This collection in particular sparkled with quirky characters and complex relationships. There's something universal about Jewish immigrants in 20th century Toronto (or maybe it's just similar to US urban experiences. :p) Glad to pluck this book from obscurity! #JewLit

3 likes1 stack add
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chavalah
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I read and reviewed all three of these novels for my #WolitzerBacklist project! https://youtu.be/jJhsYgK9j14. I liked them all very much, but SUREENDER, DOROTHY (far right) was undoubtedly my favorite. Chronicling a summer spent between people after a friend/daughter suddenly dies, this book probes the ego-centric nature of relationships. How do you see other people? You are always the center of your own story. Both sad and funny about life.

Cinfhen Sounds good, Im willing to give Meg Wolitzer another chance even though I HATED 2y
chavalah @Cinfhen I loved THE INTERESTINGS, but I hope this book rec works for you! 2y
Cinfhen Thanks! Most people I know loved it too 2y
Reggie I read the The Wife and The Interestings and loved them both. I‘ve just started Surrender Dorothy as I anxiously await her next one next month. 2y
8 likes4 comments
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chavalah
The Chalk Artist | Allegra Goodman
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Mehso-so

That feeling you get when a favorite author produces subpar work. :( #sosad Goodman is usually great at criticizing systems we subscribe to--see INTUITION, KAATERSKILL FALLS. This is a shallow books vs video games screed. I wish she'd focused more on her teacher and a three dimensional high school experience. The video corp storyline was contrived and convenient. Startlingly one dimensional villain there, did nothing enlightening for the story

Tanzy13 🐱 2y
6 likes1 comment
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chavalah
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Read this book just after Shetterly spoke at the National Book Festival and just before the movie premiered on HBO! Thoroughly researched account of how US national aspirations in WW2 and space race intersect with civil rights issues for African Americans. Characters came off a little dry, but I think that's nonfiction. The movie was more dramatic and factually incorrect sometimes; written concurrently with the book! Not too physics heavy, yay

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chavalah
A Horse Walks Into a Bar | David Grossman, Jessica Cohen
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Mehso-so

Still counting Grossman's TO THE END OF THE LAND as my fave read this year, but this didn't do it for me. Grossman uses the stand up routine to explore his character's backstory and the absurdity of death. But it was meandering, the narrator (not the main character) was barely formed, and I kept wondering why the audience didn't walk out sooner. Main character wasn't a good comic! Interesting theme, but a slog to get through. #JewLit

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chavalah
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I was pleasantly surprised to find this surrealist-tint set of stories accessible. A couple used annoying narrative tricks like clinical language in "Sticker Shock" and identifying people by the first letters of their first names in "The Late Novels of Gene Hackman." But then there's "The Region of Unlikeness," sorta about time travel but it also captures the strangeness of trying to form human relationships. Characters still have a voice overall.

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chavalah
All the Rivers | Dorit Rabinyan
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I reviewed this on my BookTube channel for #WITmonth! https://youtu.be/1U0DfRsON8k. It fits the translation theme in a meta way as an Israeli/Palestinian couple struggle to find middle ground in New York. This book was a source of some controversy in Israel, which led to worldwide support and great sales. I love how Rabinyan explores her protagonist's journey through visual imagery. Wistfully nostalgic and thoughtful, beyond the hype. #JewLit

10 likes1 stack add
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chavalah
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I'm reading THE RETURN OF THE NATIVE for a buddy read on BookTube! I'm also about halfway through FRIENDS FOR LIFE for my Meg Wolitzer backlist reading project. Looking forward to her new book out next year! #stackedup

7 likes1 stack add
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chavalah
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I reviewed this on BookTube for the Anna & Eric book club! https://youtu.be/32E-IOqFHVY. Three narrators across a number of decades illuminate the Irish Jewish community. Their lives ultimately intersect and with airy prose, Gilligan probes the complexities of cultural identity. Ruth was the strongest character, but 10 years was too long a jump between her chapters. Would have rather had a standalone novel for her. #JewLit

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chavalah
The Dinner Party: A Novel | Brenda Janowitz
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A fun, light-hearted romp about family drama across the Seder table. The matriarch wants to impress her daughter's new (douchey) beau and his family--some Rothschilds! She's less thrilled with her other daughter's choice of a lower class dude and his loud mother. Then her golden son causes waves. The action is pretty soapy and funny; a real pallette cleanser of a book. And of course things wrap up nicely with lessons learned at the end. #JewLit

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chavalah
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Not sure how I got out of the habit of reviewing things on litsy! :/ I read this weeks ago and now it's a favorite of the year. The cover copy made it sound soapy, but I found the characters to be complex and tragic. Involves Jewish Americans and refugees on the brink of US involvement in WW2. Gives perspective of where community was at the time. Ending was a little trite, but didn't take away from broader story. #JewLit

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chavalah
Rise and Shine: A Novel | Anna Quindlen
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Well written book told from a sister's perspective as our main character effectively falls from grace. Narrator Bridget is a social worker in the Bronx and her sister, Meghan, is a famous morning news show host, so we see two very different New York Citys. Ending was a little plot heavy, and too neatly wrapped up with an epilogue of sorts for my tastes. Interesting takes on journalism and the price of fame; personal feels for Bridget's aunt role

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chavalah
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Three Israeli girls from a small town are conscripted into the IDF, and Boianjiu follows them around with these interconnected short stories. Trigger warnings for all sorts of violence, though not graphically portrayed. Gives a disquieting look at the region, and this intense buildungsroman issue for most Israeli teens. Maybe a little too melodramatic at the end, but the direct narrative and unsentimental writing always stays real. #JewLit

7 likes1 stack add
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chavalah
The Innocents | Francesca Segal
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I actually think this book worked better on its own than as a straight up retelling. My least favorite aspect was the illicit love story. But I appreciate the way that Segal commented on the London Jewish community, with criticism and love. She's much like Wharton with the social commentary. I also liked her original backstory for the leads. Covers a lot of Jewish culture. But doesn't exactly match to 1870s New York. Much more open. #JewLit

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chavalah
Ways to Disappear | Idra Novey
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The 2017 Sami Rohr winner was my favorite of the contenders I read. About a famous Brazilian writer who disappears, leading her children and US translator to attempt to find her. Well written, poetic style, with some interesting quirks like chapters comprised of emails. My fave were the dictionary entries that tied into the story. Literary drama about never fully knowing a person. But also had a suspense/thriller plot. Lots to like! #JewLit

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chavalah
The Yid: A Novel | Paul Goldberg
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Mehso-so

Revenge satire, like the more clever, literary version of INGLORIOUS BASTERDS. A rag rag team, mostly comprised of Soviet Jews and some others, attempt to assassinate Stalin before he can pull off a Russian Holocaust. Real history featured antisemitism-driven executions around this time. Funny and even informative, but revenge satires aren't really my thing. Kept getting distracted from the story by caricatures and writing tricks. #JewLit

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chavalah
The Bed Moved: Stories | Rebecca Schiff
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Mehso-so

Ultimately I think the writing style wasn't for me--very short and vague, though I suppose that fits with the young woman protagonists. The sex stories aren't exploitative but also not too interesting, with the exception of "World Trade Date" with the 9/11 hook. Schiff makes you think about the modern world, like how the Internet changes charity interactions in "The Lucky Lady." Also the academic demands of growing up in my fave, "Sports Night."

Tanzy13 🐱 3y
8 likes1 comment
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chavalah
Judas | Amos Oz
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I'm not sure that the story quite lived up, but this gave me a lot to think about. Oz juxtaposes Judas's "betrayal" to that of a fictional Zionist during the '40s who ultimately stood against the idea of a total Jewish state. What if both of these narratives are more complicated? How would history be different now if they weren't seen as traitors? Will this win the International Man Booker? :p Protagonist Shmuel was least interesting. #JewLit

6 likes1 stack add
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chavalah
Ties | Domenico Starnone
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I came to this book in a weird way--translator Jhumpa Lahiri is one of my fave authors. But like she promised in her intro, she was essentially invisible here. Starnone writes a sparse, interior novel about fissures in an Italian marriage, and characters struggling with being "tied down." The present day drama deals with a robbery that we can see from different angles. Reminds me of Elena Ferrante's THE DAYS OF ABANDONMENT, but not so developed.

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chavalah
To the End of the Land | David Grossman
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Basically stream of consciousness book abut two characters walking around, hashing out life and occasionally interacting with the waking world--this has "me" written all over it. Ora drags her PTSD-ridden former lover onto the Israel Trail to recount the life of her son, Ofer, while he's on a dangerous mission. Lots of complex character development and interactions with the Arab/Israeli conflict. Totally engrossed, like I was with them. #JewLit

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chavalah
The Extra | A.B. Yehoshua
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Mehso-so

I like the promise of this cover more than the book itself. Yehoshua teased me with descriptions of classical music! This novel (mostly) follows Noga as she moves back home while her mother tries out assisted living. She works as a temp tv/movie extra, which is fun to read about, not profound. I like the subtle religious tension in her apartment, not so much the melodrama with her ex. The language, maybe translation, was too purple. #JewLit

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chavalah
Selected Poems | John Hollander, Emma Lazarus
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Not a fan that Litsy lists the editor first, not the author! Wasn't a fan of his defensive intro, either. Americans might recognize the final lines of this poem--by Emma Lazarus--as enshrined on the Statue of Liberty. I decided to dip my toe into #nationalpoetrymonth with her. I connected most to her Jewish works, about surviving antisemitism. She also translated medieval Hebrew poetry! Much of the rest of her collection was very pastoral.

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chavalah
The Jump Artist | Austin Ratner
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Fictional te-twkling of famous photographer, Phillipe Halsman's, brush with antisemitism in the decades before the Holocaust. Trekking the Austrian alps on 1928, he is framed for his father's murder on circumstantial evidence. Ratner explores provincial prejudices and Halsman's physical and emotional toil. Did a lot of research and translation, too! Largely covers his time in prison and then, freed, in Paris. Trial was famous in its day. #JewLit

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chavalah
The Photographer's Wife | Suzanne Joinson
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Mehso-so

Beautifully written story about tensions with Arabs during the British Mandate for Palestine. Wish it focused a little more directly on the issues, and the characters referenced in the title. Instead we get the story slant, through Prudence Ashburn in 1920 and 1937. She's a child when the plot's climax happens, and is forced to grapple with it as an adult. She has her own interesting character arc, but it's removed from the direct politics.

5 likes1 stack add
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chavalah
The Cosmopolitans | Nadia Kalman
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Vignettes about a Russian Jewish immigrant family living in Connecticut as the young adult daughters get settled with mates. I thought it had a FIDDLER ON THE ROOF vibe, cos all of the mates were rebellious choices. We see a bit into Russian Jewish sensibilities, & there's some funny social satire, a la Jane Austen. Also surreal plot points in talking handkerchiefs and mild posession by a former Soviet premier. Not too deep, not for all. #JewLit

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chavalah
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Sometimes straining into the melodramatic, particularly in dialogue, this book is nevertheless an exploration into some complicated, often unlikeable women. We follow the Emrosa family, Sephardi (Spanish ancestry) Jews living in Jerusalem between the Great War and the 1970s. There's a lot of torrid history, obviously, plus a torrid domestic drama revolving around a family curse where husbands don't love their wives. Engrossing narrative. #JewLit

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chavalah
Stations West | Allison Amend
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Spanning from the 1850s to 1930s, this novel explores the lives of interconnected Jewish Oklahoma natives and Swedish immigrants. Very well researched; we witness the area grow from before it was a territory until after it was a state. Sometimes the plot moved too quickly for the character development (lots of explaining rather than witnessing) but Amend's themes of finding a home are palpable. Good research into Jewish customs and railroad life.

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chavalah
Kol haneshamah -- Daily: ?? ????? ?? ????? ???? | Jewish Reconstructionist Federation, David A. Teutsch
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Closest title I can find on Litsy to the siddur/prayer book that I used for my bar mitzvah. Once upon a time I had a personalized embosser that I used on some books; no idea where it is now. This is my most personalized book in my condo. Probably the most meaningful for "my journey," too. I wish I took more notes inside (my sister did). And apparently only she knew how to transcribe "mitzvah" in the traditional way. Oy gevalt. #FunFridayPhoto

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chavalah
Faithful: A Novel | Alice Hoffman
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Mehso-so

I gave this four stars on GoodReads; shows hw weird I am with ratings. :p. I enjoyed Shelby's prickly character and the tragic set up. I just think there was a much better story buried in here. Shelby's journey past her tragic accident was reported rather than shown, and laden with various conveniences and coincidences. Hoffman's THE DOVEKEEPERS was my favorite read of 2015; perhaps she's better suited to historical fiction.

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chavalah
The Beast Is an Animal | Peternelle van Arsdale
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Do people not enter LitHub giveaways anymore, cos this is the third title I've won this year! May need to step back a bit...or stop taking my cues from @liberty. :p. This book is actually out of my norm, but it kinda fits with a new story idea niggling in my head. Or so I hope!

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chavalah
Human Acts | Han Kang
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Haunting and brutal lens into the Gwangju uprising in South Korea and it's decades of after effects. Kang follows people connected to the young boy, Dong Ho, who was killed by the soldiers in a surprising way, and people go through their own grief. We explore issues ranging from censorship and politics to the physical and mental cost of violence. Kang's writing as translated through Deborah Smith can be both beautiful and to the point as needed

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chavalah
Only Yesterday | Shmuel Yosef Agnon
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Not my picture, but it shows off the girth! Took me three months to complete this last year. I still remember the weight of carrying it around in my work bag. Felt like a real achievement to power through that final chapter, and maybe this taught me how to read more than one book at a time. :p. #FunFridayPhoto #JewLit @liberty

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chavalah
Everything Belongs to Us: A Novel | Yoojin Grace Wuertz
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Second LitHub giveaway this year (third overall!) I seem to be acquiring more books about Koreans and Korean Americans; exciting new subject for me!

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chavalah
The Bronte Myth | Lucasta Miller
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Chronicling the Brontes, esp. Charlotte and Emily, from Charlotte's rise to fame and Elizabeth Gaskell's questionable biography onward. Miller does incredible research into books, films & etc about the Brontes these past several decades. Much of it showcases societal biases rather than truth about their work. Although they can never fully be known, Miller encourages us to see them as well learned, intentional artists. Must read for Bronte fans!

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chavalah
Stations West | Allison Amend
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I think this loosely counts for #FunFridayPhoto time, because I got it in the mail today! It's a multigenerational story about a Jewish family in the American (mid)west, and it intrigues me cos MY Jewish family is from the American (mid)west. Plus it's part of a reading project where I'm endeavoring to pick winners and nominees from the Sami Rohr Prize in emerging Jewish literature. I plan to get to it later this month! #JewLit

13 likes2 stack adds