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Books on Bias and Jewish Identity for Young Readers
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Books on Bias and Jewish Identity for Young Readers

Sandee is the arts and culture editor at the Jewish Week.

A detail from the cover of “Too Far From Home” by Naomi Shmuel, illustrated by Avi Katz (Kar-Ben).
A detail from the cover of “Too Far From Home” by Naomi Shmuel, illustrated by Avi Katz (Kar-Ben).

Middle Readers

“Too Far From Home” by Naomi Shmuel, illustrated by Avi Katz (Kar-Ben) is the story of an Israeli teen named Meskerem — whose father is American, her mother from Ethiopia — who encounters prejudice and misunderstanding for the first time when her family moves to a new town near Tel Aviv. In the school’s fifth grade, she is the only person of color. Meskerem, sometimes called Macy by her father, is named for the first month in Amharic, and shows inner strength in this sensitively told story of identity and finding a voice. The author’s husband made aliyah from Ethiopia, and she began writing for her own children when they experienced bias.

In “Walk Till You Disappear” by Jacqueline Dembar Greene (Kar-Ben), set in the late 1800s, a 12-year-old boy named Miguel, raised a Catholic in Arizona, learns that his ancestors were Jewish. Confused by this news, he rushes into the desert, gets lost and then captured by a band of Apaches. When he manages to escape, he meets a young Native American man running away from his mission school; the two have much in common. While learning desert survival, Miguel begins to appreciate cultural richness and his newly discovered heritage.

Young Adult

A work of historical fiction newly available in paperback, “In the Neighborhood of True” by Susan Kaplan Carlton is inspired by the bombing of Atlanta’s oldest synagogue, The Temple, in 1958. Carlton captures the mood of the city in those days in her story of a 17-year-old Jewish teen who moves to Atlanta with her family, after the death of her father. She encounters debutantes and sweet tea along with racism, anti-Semitism and the Klan. At first she hides her Jewish identity, seeming to fit in, but comes to see that “in the neighborhood of true” isn’t truth enough.

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