Earlier this week, Anne Cherian wrote about visiting the synagogue of the Cochin Jews in India and about her own experiences with Judaism. Her blog posts are featured on The Arty Semite courtesy of the Jewish Book Council and My Jewish Learning’s Author Blog Series. For more information on the series, please visit:
The first title of a book that I remember with clarity is “QB VII.” It seemed so odd, with letters instead of words. My mother is an avid reader, and because there were no public libraries in our town, she saved every book. I grew up with bookcases lining the hallways, the shelves weighted down with novels. From the time I was very young, Mom would, on occasion, give me books she thought I needed to read.
I was about 12 when she handed me “QB VII,” and then all the other novels by Leon Uris. Mom said that family members she had never met in Germany had died during the Holocaust, and because I did not know their names, every victim I read about in the novels became my family.
I never imagined, when I was reading Uris, that one day I would actually write — and publish — novels.
I like to joke that my first novel,“A Good Indian Wife,” is pure fiction… it is also purely Indian. The second novel, “The Invitation,” is more personal because my character Jonathan is Jewish, like my mother; is a doctor like my grandfather; and lives in Marin, which is across the bay from Berkeley, where my mother grew up. Jonathan also gave me an entrée into the Jewish Book Council. I almost did not send in my application for the JBC Network, because I feared that though I am Jewish, I had not been brought up celebrating Jewish holidays, which mirrors Jonathan’s experience, but left me feeling I wasn’t Jewish enough. I calmed down when I realized that many of my friends in the U.S. had been raised the same way. They, too, had not been to a synagogue until their 20s.
Mom was very excited when I told her I was going to New York to make a 2-minute presentation. She didn’t ask me what I was going to say. She only said: “Be proud. I want you to stand there and be proud.”
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