Jewish American Heritage Month

May is Jewish American Heritage Month. Each May, we celebrate and learn more about the varied experiences of American Jewish life from the start of the United States to the present. The Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History has put together a website full of resources focused on Jewish American Heritage Month.

All descriptions are provided by the publishers.

Nonfiction

American Baby: a mother, a child, and the shadow history of adoption  by Gabrielle Glaser

____________________

Exploring American Jewish History Through 50 Historic Treasures by Avi Y. Decter

Exploring American Jewish History through 50 Historic Treasures offers students and general readers new perspectives on the rich complexity of Jewish experiences in America. As one of America’s most fascinating and enduring minorities, American Jews have played key roles in every era of American history and every region of the country.

The 50 treasures are depicted in full color and range from a family cookbook to a college campus and include items that are iconic, ordinary, and whimsical. Each of the treasures is described in historical, material, and visual contexts, offering readers new, unexpected insights into the meanings of Jewish life, history, and culture. – Rowman & Littlefield Publishers

____________________

Koshersoul: the faith and food journey of an African American Jew by Michael Twitty

The James Beard award-winning author of the acclaimed The Cooking Gene explores the cultural crossroads of Jewish and African diaspora cuisine and issues of memory, identity, and food.

In Koshersoul, Michael W. Twitty considers the marriage of two of the most distinctive culinary cultures in the world today: the foods and traditions of the African Atlantic and the global Jewish diaspora. To Twitty, the creation of African-Jewish cooking is a conversation of migrations and a dialogue of diasporas offering a rich background for inventive recipes and the people who create them. 

The question that most intrigues him is not just who makes the food, but how the food makes the people. Jews of Color are not outliers, Twitty contends, but significant and meaningful cultural creators in both Black and Jewish civilizations. Koshersoul also explores how food has shaped the journeys of numerous cooks, including Twitty’s own passage to and within Judaism.

As intimate, thought-provoking, and profound as The Cooking Gene, this remarkable book teases the senses as it offers sustenance for the soul. – Amistad

____________________

Maus: A Survivor’s Tale by Art Spiegelman

A brutally moving work of art—widely hailed as the greatest graphic novel ever written—Maus recounts the chilling experiences of the author’s father during the Holocaust, with Jews drawn as wide-eyed mice and Nazis as menacing cats. 

Maus is a haunting tale within a tale, weaving the author’s account of his tortured relationship with his aging father into an astonishing retelling of one of history’s most unspeakable tragedies. It is an unforgettable story of survival and a disarming look at the legacy of trauma. – Pantheon

____________________

Squirrel Hill: The Tree of Life Synagogue Shooting and the Soul of a Neighborhood by Mark Oppenheimer

A piercing portrait of the struggles and triumphs of one of America’s renowned Jewish neighborhoods in the wake of unspeakable tragedy that highlights the hopes, fears, and tensions all Americans must confront on the road to healing.

Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, is one of the oldest Jewish neighborhoods in the country, known for its tight-knit community and the profusion of multigenerational families. On October 27, 2018, a gunman killed eleven Jews who were worshipping at the Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill–the most deadly anti-Semitic attack in American history.
 
Many neighborhoods would be understandably subsumed by despair and recrimination after such an event, but not this one. Mark Oppenheimer poignantly shifts the focus away from the criminal and his crime, and instead presents the historic, spirited community at the center of this heartbreak. He speaks with residents and nonresidents, Jews and gentiles, survivors and witnesses, teenagers and seniors, activists and historians.
 
Together, these stories provide a kaleidoscopic and nuanced account of collective grief, love, support, and revival. But Oppenheimer also details the difficult dialogue and messy confrontations that Squirrel Hill had to face in the process of healing, and that are a necessary part of true growth and understanding in any community. He has reverently captured the vibrancy and caring that still characterize Squirrel Hill, and it is this phenomenal resilience that can provide inspiration to any place burdened with discrimination and hate.  – Knopf

____________________

The Cost of Free Land: Jews, Lakota, and an American inheritance by Rebecca Clarren

An award-winning author investigates the entangled history of her Jewish ancestors’ land in South Dakota and the Lakota, who were forced off that land by the United States government

Growing up, Rebecca Clarren only knew the major plot points of her tenacious immigrant family’s origins. Her great-great-grandparents, the Sinykins, and their six children fled antisemitism in Russia and arrived in the United States at the turn of the 20th century, ultimately settling on a 160-acre homestead in South Dakota. Over the next few decades, despite tough years on a merciless prairie and multiple setbacks, the Sinykins became an American immigrant success story.

What none of Clarren’s ancestors ever mentioned was that their land, the foundation for much of their wealth, had been cruelly taken from the Lakota by the United States government. By the time the Sinykins moved to South Dakota, America had broken hundreds of treaties with hundreds of Indigenous nations across the continent, and the land that had once been reserved for the seven bands of the Lakota had been diminished, splintered, and handed for free, or practically free, to white settlers. In The Cost of Free Land, Clarren melds investigative reporting with personal family history to reveal the intertwined stories of her family and the Lakota, and the devastating cycle of loss of Indigenous land, culture, and resources that continues today.

With deep empathy and clarity of purpose, Clarren grapples with the personal and national consequences of this legacy of violence and dispossession. What does it mean to survive oppression only to perpetuate and benefit from the oppression of others? By shining a light on the people and families tangled up in this country’s difficult history, The Cost of Free Land invites readers to consider their own culpability and what, now, can be done. – Viking

____________________

The Lost Family: How DNA Testing is Upending Who We Are by Libby Copeland

A deeply reported look at home genetic testing and the seismic shock it has had on our culture and on individual lives

You swab your cheek or spit in a vial, then send it away to a lab somewhere. Weeks later you get a report that might tell you where your ancestors came from or if you carry certain genetic risks. Or, the report could reveal a long-buried family secret that upends your entire sense of identity. Soon a lark becomes an obsession, a relentless drive to find answers to questions at the core of your being, like “Who am I?” and “Where did I come from?” Welcome to the age of home genetic testing.

In The Lost Family, journalist Libby Copeland investigates what happens when we embark on a vast social experiment with little understanding of the ramifications. She explores the culture of genealogy buffs, the science of DNA, and the business of companies like Ancestry and 23andMe, all while tracing the story of one woman, her unusual results, and a relentless methodical drive for answers that becomes a thoroughly modern genetic detective story. Gripping and masterfully told, The Lost Family is a spectacular book on a big, timely subject. – Abrams Press

____________________

Uncomfortable Conversations with a Jew by Emmanuel Acho

From two New York Times bestselling authors, a timely, disarmingly honest, and thought-provoking investigation into antisemitism that connects the dots between the tropes and hatred of the past to our current complicated moment.

For Emmanuel Acho and Noa Tishby no question about Jews is off-limits. They go there. They cover Jews and money. Jews and power. Jews and privilege. Jews and white privilege. The Black and Jewish struggle. Emmanuel asks, Did Jews kill Jesus? To which Noa responds, “Why are Jewish people history’s favorite scapegoat?” They unpack Judaism itself: Is it a religion, culture, a peoplehood, or a race? And: Are you antisemitic if you’re anti-Zionist?

The questions—and answers—might make you squirm, but together, they explain the tropes, stereotypes, and catalysts of antisemitism in America today.

The topics are complicated and Acho and Tishby bring vastly different perspectives. Tishby is an outspoken Israeli American. Acho is a mild-mannered son of a Nigerian American pastor. But they share a superpower: an uncanny ability to make complicated ideas easy to understand so anyone can follow the straight line from the past to our immediate moment—and then see around corners. Acho and Tishby are united by the core belief that hatred toward one group is never isolated: if you see the smoke of bigotry in one place, expect that we will all be in the fire.

Informative and accessible, Uncomfortable Conversations with a Jew has a unique structure: Acho asks questions and Tishby answers them with deeply personal, historical, and political responses. This book will enable anyone to explain—and identify—what Jewish hatred looks like. It is a much-needed lexicon for this fraught moment in Jewish history. As Acho says, “Proximity breeds care and distance breeds fear.” – Simon & Schuster / Simon Element

____________________

For more information, I recommend you check out the Read, Watch, Listen part of the Jewish American Heritage Month website as well as the Jewish Book Council website.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Bad Behavior has blocked 2706 access attempts in the last 7 days.