Updated, January 17, 4:32 pm: This story has been updated to include a list to the complete list of winners of the 2019 awards.
Short tales of whimsy, a new translation of the Bible, unsung American matriarchs and two rousing calls to combat the so-called “oldest hatred:” These are the winners of the 69th Annual Jewish Book Awards.
A trio of recognizable scholars led this year’s awards. In nonfiction, Pamela S. Nadell won the Everett Family Foundation Book of the Year award for her ambitious “America’s Jewish Women: A History from Colonial Times to Today.” Legendary Hebrew professor Robert Alter received a Lifetime Achievement Award for the completion of his decades-long opus, “The Hebrew Bible: A Translation with Commentary.” And Forward contributing columnist Deborah E. Lipstadt was awarded the Jewish Education and Identity Award in Memory of Dorothy Kripke for “Antisemitism: Here and Now.”
Journalists also made a splash. The New York Times columnist Bari Weiss received the award for Contemporary Jewish Life and Practice in Memory of Myra H. Kraft for her book “How to Fight Anti-Semitism.” Daniel Okrent won the Gerrard and Ella Berman Memorial Award for History for “The Guarded Gate: Bigotry, Eugenics and the Law That Kept Two Generations of Jews, Italians, and Other European Immigrants Out of America.” And Dani Shapiro won the Krauss Family Autobiography & Memoir Award for her chronicle of genetic self-discovery, “Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love.”
Rounding out the nonfiction categories, the inaugural Jane and Stuart Weitzman Family Award for Food Writing and Cookbooks was awarded to András Koerne’s tantalizing “Jewish Cuisine in Hungary: A Cultural History with 83 Authentic Recipes.” David E. Lowe was honored with the second annual Biography Award in Memory of Sara Berenson Stone for his book “Touched with Fire: Morris B. Abram and the Battle against Racial and Religious Discrimination.” And Michael Dobbs earned the 2019 Holocaust Award in Memory of Ernest W. Michel for “The Unwanted: America, Auschwitz, and a Village Caught In Between.”
All the top fiction honors went to writers receiving their first National Jewish Book Awards. Israeli author Etgar Keret took home the JJ Greenberg Memorial Award Michael for Fiction for his collection “Fly Already: Stories.” Alice Hoffman won the Miller Family Book Club Award in Memory of Helen Dunn Weinstein and June Keit Miller for her World War II-era novel, “The World That We Knew.” First-time novelist Sarah Blake received the Goldberg Prize for Debut Fiction for “Naamah,” which tells the story of Noah’s Ark through the eyes of Noah’s wife.
Ilya Kaminsky’s “Deaf Republic” which was a finalist for a 2019 National Book Award, won the Berru Award in Memory of Ruth and Bernie Weinflash in the Poetry category.
Author Lesléa Newman and illustrator Amy June Bates won the Children’s Literature category for “Gittel’s Journey: An Ellis Island Story,” while Rachel DeWoskin received Young Adult Award for “Someday We Will Fly.”
Honoring those who helped authors along the way, the Mentorship Award in Honor of Carolyn Starman Hessel goes to Dena W. Neusner, Executive Editor at Behrman House and Apples & Honey Press. And Shimon Adaf is the 2020 winner of the Paper Brigade Award for New Israeli Fiction in Honor of Jane Weitzman.
Winners of the 2019 awards will be honored March 17, 2020 at an awards dinner at the Bohemian National Hall in Manhattan. For a complete list of those honored, see here.
PJ Grisar is the Forward’s culture fellow. He can be reached at email@example.com
Here’s who won in the 2019 National Jewish Book Awards