After all the noise surrounding the Nazi Romance book this summer, I looked closer at my own reading list. I could tell someone what books were awful in their treatment of Judaism and Jewish people, but could I recommend books that were wonderful? I couldn’t.
A little ashamed, I set off to read books where Judaism and Jewish people were portrayed authentically and respectfully. I used the Tablet Magazine lists (compiled by Marjorie Ingall) and the Sydney Taylor Book Award (from the Association of Jewish Libraries) to find books. Along the way, I discovered the Jewish Book Council has a yearly leading up to Hanukkah.
For this Jewish Book Month (November 6th-December 6th, 2015), here are some of my recommended books for your reading pleasure!
True Pretenses by Rose Lerner
A historical romance with a Jewish hero! Gasp! If you’re looking for an alternative to historical romance devoid of Jewish heroes/heroines unless they convert to Christianity, this book’s a fantastic choice.
A Harvest of Ripe Figs by Shira Glassman
A historical LGBT romance (f/f) with beautiful imagery, and two heroines worth falling in love with. All of Glassman’s work is diverse and Jewish.
The UnAmericans by Molly Antopol
I had bought this last year after all the buzz, but hadn’t actually cracked the spine. Maybe that was your experience too! I highly recommend the read. I found it compelling, the prose exquisite, and the stories varied and interesting. My favorite thing about this? It’s a series of short stories. That’s absolutely perfect for our busy lives. I read a story a day over breakfast.
Young Adult Fiction
Starglass by Phoebe North
A sci-fi story steeped in Jewish tradition and religion. With a heroine who gains strength and determination like a wrecking ball going downhill, this book is the very definition of fun and engaging. And it has a sequel!
Like No Other by Una LaMarche
Alhough the author is not Jewish (the only non-Jewish author on this list), the book is well researched and authentic. This modern day Romeo and Juliet story with a Hasidic heroine is both probing and thought-provoking. It lingers long after you turn the last page.
Picture Books or Books for Young Readers
Matzo Frogs by Sally Rosenthal, illustrated by David Sheldon
This book was utterly adorable and would make a great gift for the younger children in your life this Hanukkah! It’s fun and gorgeously illustrated.
Black Radishes by Susan Lynn Meyer
A book for advanced reading elementary schoolers or middle schoolers, this is a beautifully written book centered around Gustave, a Jewish boy living in WWII France and fleeing Paris for the relative safety of the countryside.
Have any recommendations? Leave them in the comments and let me know if you read any of these! Let’s celebrate Jewish Book Month and even better, strive to keep Jewish books on our reading lists throughout the year.
Katherine Locke is an author (Turning Point, Second Position, and Finding Center) and a reader living in a small town in Pennsylvania.