Books about Israel and Israelis, including new books by Amos Oz, Meir Shalev and Aharon Appelfeld, dominate publishers’ fall lists. There are biographies of David Ben Gurion and Ariel Sharon and others who created, dominated, destroyed and developed the city of Jerusalem; and there’s a lyrical memoir of about life between Israel and America. Along with debut books and highly anticipated works by established authors, the season’s new titles also include tales of love, family, and still untold stories of the Holocaust.
Afirst novel, “The Little Bride”(Riverhead, September), by Anna Solomon, is set mostly on the plains of South Dakota, where the title character, Minna, is sent, after a harsh childhood in Odessa, as a mail order bride. Minna has expectations of a handsome husband, a beautiful home, an easier life and wealth, but instead encounters Max, who is very poor and twice her age. He lives in a one-room hut, and there is with much work to be done. The story is inspired in part by the history of Jewish women on the Great Plains. In fact, the author found a namesake who had been a mail order bride.
The winner of Sweden’s distinguished August Prize, “The Emperor of Lies” by Steve Sem-Sandberg (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, September) is to be published in 25 languages this fall. Based on archival material about the Lodz ghetto and its leader, Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski, the novel depicts life in the ghetto from 1940 to 1944 as it addresses questions of morality, pragmatism and survival.
“Sweet Life Sugar” by Wayne Hoffman (Kensington, September) is the tale of an unusual friendship between a young Jewish gay man and an elderly orthodox rabbi grieving for his late wife. Each teaches the other about life, as several relationships unfold.
“The Dovekeepers” by Alice Hoffman (Scribner, October) is the most decidedly Jewish of the author’s 28 works of fiction. Here, Hoffman, after 5 years of research and writing, imagines the Roman’s siege of Masada in 70, when 900 Jews held out for months against the Roman armies. The story is told through the experience of four women with many secrets.
“Until the Dawn’s Light” by Aharon Appelfeld (Schocken), translated by Jeffrey M. Green, is the story of a Jewish woman who marries a gentile laborer in turn-of-the-last-century Austria, with unhappy results.
“Scenes from Village Life” by Amos Oz (Houghton Mifflin, October) is a portrait of a fictional village in contemporary Israel, told in interconnected stories. Oz offers a view of the unseen life of the inhabitants of Tel Ilan, a century-old pioneer village surrounded by fields and orchards, and filled with fashionable boutiques, villas with well-kept gardens, stylish restaurants and foreign workers living in huts. The novel was awarded the Prix Méditerranée Ètranger last year.
With its compact format and bright colors, “The Smartest Woman I Know” by Ilene Beckerman (Algonquin, September) looks deceptively cute, but it’s a deeply felt homage to the author’s 4-foot-10-inch grandmother Ettie. Beckerman, who began her writing career when she was just about 60, is the author of the best-selling “Love, Loss, and What I Wore,” which was adapted into a hit Off-Broadway play.
“Emma Goldman: Revolution as a Way of Life” by Vivan Gornick (Yale, October) is a portrait of the bold activist, anarchist and labor organizer who was born in Russia in 1869 and then came of age in America. As Gornick describes, Goldman was a force of life, speaking out and acting on behalf of human integrity and freedom on the international stage, and protesting the tyranny of institutions. For Gornick, revolution is in Goldman’s soul. This is the newest installment in Yale’s Jewish Lives series.
“Sharon: The Life of a Leader” (Harper, October) is written by the former prime minister’s youngest son Gilad, who says that he has been a close confidant of his father’s since he was a child. The biography, which details Ariel Sharon’s military and political careers, is based on original research and interviews as well as Sharon’s personal papers and diaries. The book opens on the eve of Rosh HaShanah in 1967, when the author is less than a year old, and his brother, who is almost 11, is killed in a gun accident. Every year since then, at 10 a.m. on the eve of Rosh HaShanah, the Sharon family and their closest friends gather at the cemetery outside of Tel Aviv, and each year, it seems that someone else is no longer present.
The latest title in the Nextbook Jewish Encounters series, “Ben Gurion: A Political Life” by Shimon Peres and David Landau (Schocken/Nextbook, October), is informed by the relationship of Israel’s president with the nation’s founding father, a modern day prophet and “a real man who stormed through history on human legs.” The book is based on oral and written collaboration between Peres and Landau, a journalist — and sometimes their differing opinions on history are delineated.
“Jerusalem: The Biography” by Simon Sebag Montefiore (Knopf, October) is a detailed portrait of the heavenly and earthly city, told through those who were instrumental in its history, including the award-winning author’s ancestor, Sir Moses Montefiore.
“Death in the City of Light: The Serial Killer of Nazi-Occupied Paris” by David King (Crown, September) is the true account of the hunt for a Parisian man who was a respected physician by day and a murderer by night. His victims, Jews who were trying to escape, may have numbered more than one hundred.
In “What They Saved: Pieces of a Jewish Past” (University of Nebraska, September), Nancy K. Miller searches through her family history to solve a particular mystery of lost connections. Miller is professor of English and comparative literature at CUNY’s Graduate Center.
“Mornings at the Stanton Street Shul: A Summer on the Lower East Side” by Jonathan Boyarin (Fordham, October) is a portrait of one of the last remaining synagogues on the Lower East Side. An insider trained as an ethnographer, Boyarin focused on a time when important decisions about the congregation’s future were being made.
“Alibis: Essays on Elsewhere” by André Aciman (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, October) is a new collection of linked pieces in which the author continues to explore themes that he has taken up in his memoirs, fiction and other literary works: memory, loss, exile, assimilation, sense of place and Jewish identity. The author is is Distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature at The Graduate Center of CUNY and founder and director of The Writer’s Institute at the Graduate Center.
“MetaMaus: A Look Inside a Modern Classic, Maus” by Art Spiegelman (Pantheon, October) is published on the 25th anniversary of the publication of the Pulitzer Prize- winning graphic biography of the author’s father, a Polish Jew who survived the Holocaust.
“The Unmasking of Israel” by Gershon Gorenberg (Harper, November) looks at Israeli policies that may undercut democracy and threaten the continued existence of Israel as a Jewish state.
In “The Men’s Section: Orthodox Jewish Men in an Egalitarian World” (University Press of New England, November), Elana Maryles Sztokman probes the lives of Orthodox men who choose to attend “partnership” synagogues that offer religious services that are traditional and egalitarian in nature, within the Orthodox world. The author studied the ideologies and behavior of more than 50 men in the United States, Israel and Australia.
“The Mirador: Dreamed Memories of Irene Nemirovsky by Her Daughter” by Elisabeth Gille (New York Review Books, September) is a first-person imagined autobiography, written by a daughter who was five when her mother (the French novelist who wrote the best-selling “Suite Française,” widely published posthumously) was arrested and sent to Auschwitz.
“Shadows in Winter: A Memoir of Love and Loss” by Eitan Fishbane (Syracuse, September) was written after the death of the author’s wife at a young age. A professor of Jewish thought at the Jewish Theological Seminary, Fishbane candidly reports on his own journey of mourning and survival, and his role as father of a motherless young girl.
“Half the House: My Life In and Out of Jerusalem” by Rachel Berghash (Sunstone Press, November) follows the author’s journey from her childhood in an Orthodox family in Israel, service in the Israeli army, marriage to an American artist, and move to New York City, when she left the land she was taught never to leave, and then her travel between the two places. This unusual memoir poetically explores themes of exile, loss, home and longing.
Set in a pioneer village in Israel where the author was born, “My Russian Grandmother and her American Vacuum Cleaner: A Family Memoir” by Meir Shalev (Schocken, October), translated by Evan Fallenberg, is a lighthearted true story of family connections – and a grandmother’s passion for cleaning
LECTURES AND READINGS
Alice Hoffman, author of “The Dovekeepers,” Tuesday, Oct. 4, 7 p.m., Barnes & Noble, 150 E. 86th St. Free.
Amos Oz, author of “Scenes from Village Life,” Wednesday, Oct. 26, 8 p.m., 92nd Street Y, Lexington Ave. at 92nd Street. Tickets $27 ($10 for those 35 and under), 92y.org.
Gilad Sharon, author of “Sharon: The Life of a Leader,” Wednesday, Oct. 26, 7:30 p.m., JCC in Manhattan, 334 Amsterdam Ave. at 76th Street. Tickets $10 members, $15 non-members.