Jewish American Heritage Month

Will Harlan | May 19, 2021



Jewish American Heritage Month

Celebrate Jewish American Heritage Month with our digital book display! We’re highlighting media by and about Jewish American authors and creators for readers of all ages. Each item is available through the Minuteman Library Network. All you need is your library card!

Check out our featured recommendations below or, if you want even more, you can explore our entire list of Jewish American Heritage Month recommendations.

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Jewish American Heritage Month: Featured Recommendations


Journey from the Land of No

Roya Hakakian, Ruʼyā Ḥakkākiyān

An Iranian-American poet recounts her life as a daughter of Jewish parents growing up in Tehran, during which she witnessed the impact of the Ayatollah Khomeyni's return to the nation and contemplated political asylum. Reader's Guide included. Reprint. 25,000 first printing.

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Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls

T Kira Madden

“Frank and funny and powerful and surprising. An utterly gorgeous debut.”-Lauren Groff One of the most anticipated books of 2019--Electric Literature, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, The Millions, Hyphen, Lit Hub, Nylon, The AV Club, The Advocate, The Rumpus, The Week, Books are Magic Acclaimed literary essayist T Kira Madden's raw and redemptive debut memoir is about coming of age and reckoning with desire as a queer, biracial teenager amidst the fierce contradictions of Boca Raton, Florida, a place where she found cult-like privilege, shocking racial disparities, rampant white-collar crime, and powerfully destructive standards of beauty hiding in plain sight. As a child, Madden lived a life of extravagance, from her exclusive private school to her equestrian trophies and designer shoe-brand name. But under the surface was a wild instability. The only child of parents continually battling drug and alcohol addictions, Madden confronted her environment alone. Facing a culture of assault and objectification, she found lifelines in the desperately loving friendships of fatherless girls. With unflinching honesty and lyrical prose, spanning from 1960s Hawai'i to the present-day struggle of a young woman mourning the loss of a father while unearthing truths that reframe her reality, Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls is equal parts eulogy and love letter. It's a story about trauma and forgiveness, about families of blood and affinity, both lost and found, unmade and rebuilt, crooked and beautiful.

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How Yiddish Changed America and How America Changed Yiddish

Ilan Stavans, Josh Lambert

A momentous and diverse anthology of the influences and inspirations of Yiddish voices in America—radical, dangerous, and seductive, but also sweet, generous, and full of life—edited by award-winning authors and scholars Ilan Stavans and Josh Lambert. Is it possible to conceive of the American diet without bagels? Or Star Trek without Mr. Spock? Are the creatures in Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are based on Holocaust survivors? And how has Yiddish, a language without a country, influenced Hollywood? These and other questions are explored in this stunning and rich anthology of the interplay of Yiddish and American culture, edited by award-winning authors and scholars Ilan Stavans and Josh Lambert. It starts with the arrival of Ashkenazi immigrants to New York City’s Lower East Side and follows Yiddish as it moves into Hollywood, Broadway, literature, politics, and resistance. We take deep dives into cuisine, language, popular culture, and even Yiddish in the other Americas, including Canada, Argentina, Cuba, Mexico, and Colombia. The book presents a bountiful menu of genres: essays, memoir, song, letters, poems, recipes, cartoons, conversations, and much more. Authors include Nobel Prize–winner Isaac Bashevis Singer and luminaries such as Grace Paley, Cynthia Ozick, Chaim Grade, Michael Chabon, Abraham Cahan, Sophie Tucker, Blume Lempel, Irving Howe, Paula Vogel, and Liana Finck. Readers will laugh and cry as they delve into personal stories of assimilation and learn about people from a diverse variety of backgrounds, Jewish and not, who have made the language their own. The Yiddish saying states: Der mentsh trakht un got lakht. Man plans and God laughs. How Yiddish Changed America and How America Changed Yiddish illustrates how those plans are full of zest, dignity, and tremendous humanity. Most of all, the book shows us that Yiddish, far from being an endangered language, is more vibrant than ever. Praise for How Yiddish Changed America and How America Changed Yiddish: “A wide-ranging, eclectic anthology of work by Yiddish writers. Stavans and Yiddish Book Center academic director Lambert have assembled an impressive collection of essays, fiction, drama, memoir, poetry, cartoons, and interviews, all showing how ‘Yiddish is so deeply woven into the fabric of the United States that it can sometimes be difficult to recognize how much it has transformed the world we live in today.’... Among all these are some stunners—e.g., ‘Oedipus in Brooklyn,’ a story by Blume Lempel (1907-1999) that begins with the line, ‘Sylvia was no Jocasta.’ Emma Goldman (1869-1940) writes fiercely about marriage, which she compares to an ‘iron yoke.’ In a poem about Coney Island, Victor Packer (1897-1958) writes, ‘Beauty and crudity / Go hand in hand and / Launch a united front / Right there are on the sand.’ [Cynthia] Ozick (b. 1928) compares Sholem Aleichem to Dickens, Twain, and Will Rogers. ‘He was a popular presence, and stupendously so. His lectures and readings were mobbed; he was a household friend; he was cherished as a family valuable.’ For readers unfamiliar with Yiddish writing, a revelation; for readers and aficionados of the language, a treasure.” —Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review “For many people, this will be a poignant, surprising, and engrossing introduction to the epic survival story of a singular culture, requiring no foreknowledge of Yiddish, by two of the field's luminaries. For those of us whose grandparents spoke and understood, and whose parents only understood—no need to explain that we do neither—this book is the way back to a language that once meant everything.” —Boris Fishman, author of A Replacement Life and Savage Feast “This volume is not a chronological exploration of the Yiddish language in America. Instead, the editors offer portions of some of the major works of Yiddish literature, poetry, comics, and political thought, by writers including Isaac Bashevis Singer, Chaim Grade, Cynthia Ozick, and Sophie Tucker, among others. A delightful chapter concentrates on culinary offerings with some recipes included. Finally, a fascinating chapter focuses on the influence of Yiddish in Canada, Argentina, Cuba, Mexico, and Columbia, offering a glimpse of Yiddishkeit outside Eurocentric views. VERDICT A wonderful compilation sure to please new and old lovers of Yiddish culture, Jewish history, and linguistics.” —Library Journal “Who could resist the lure of a jar of kosher dills on a bright yellow book cover? Not I. In addition to the pickles what the cover promised was a certainty that the work represented on its pages, between essays, fiction, poems, cartoons, etc., would be co-chosen by the indefatigable Ilan Stavans, whose work I have followed for years. Divided into six parts, starting with ‘Politics and Possibilities’ and ending with ‘The Other Americas,’ one cannot help but be amazed by the breadth of Yiddish documents that have been found and preserved from the past, while marveling at the more contemporary writers who have added richness and are keeping Yiddish alive. This book is utterly fascinating and a true cultural artifact.” —Lucy Kogler, Literary Hub “Stavans and Lambert, both accomplished scholars, aspire to something far more substantial than the Yiddishisms and Jewish jokes that have come to be associated with Yiddishkayt in American pop culture…. [T]he reader is offered an astonishingly rich and diverse selection of poems, stories, memoirs, essays, plays, letters, conversations, recipes and reminiscences, as well as drawings, cartoons and posters by Yiddish artists, each one refracting a different point of view and a different point of light.” —Jonathan Kirsch, Jewish Journal

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Ninth House

Leigh Bardugo

The instant SUNDAY TIMES and NEW YORK TIMES bestseller, and Goodreads Choice Award winner, that Stephen King calls 'Impossible to put down' The mesmerising adult debut from Leigh Bardugo. A tale of power, privilege, dark magic and murder set among the Ivy League elite. Alex Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale's freshman class. A dropout and the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved crime - the last thing she wants is to cause trouble. Not when Yale was supposed to be her fresh start. But a free ride to one of the world's most prestigious universities was bound to come with a catch. Alex has been tasked with monitoring the mysterious activities of Yale's secret societies - societies that have yielded some of the most famous and influential people in the world. Now there's a dead girl on campus and Alex seems to be the only person who won't accept the neat answer the police and campus administration have come up with for her murder. Because Alex knows the secret societies are far more sinister and extraordinary than anyone ever imagined. They tamper with forbidden magic. They raise the dead. And, sometimes, they prey on the living . . . 'Ninth House is the best fantasy novel I've read in years, because it's about real people. Bardugo's imaginative reach is brilliant, and this story, full of shocks and twists, is impossible to put down' Stephen King 'Ninth House is one of the best fantasy novels I've read in years. This book is brilliant, funny, raw and utterly magnificent - it's a portal to a world you'll never want to leave' Lev Grossman, bestselling author of The Magicians trilogy 'Ninth House rocked my world. I could not get enough of Alex Stern, a heroine for the ages. With a bruised heart and bleeding knuckles, she risks death and damnation - again and again - for the people she cares about. I was cheering her on the whole way: from the first brilliant sentence of this book to the last' Joe Hill, bestselling author of N0S4A2

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A Jewish Refugee in New York

Kadya Molodovsky

Rivke Zilberg, a 20-year-old Jewish woman, arrives in New York shortly after the Nazi invasion of Poland, her home country. Struggling to learn a new language and cope with a different way of life in the United States, Rivke finds herself keeping a journal about the challenges and opportunities of this new land. In her attempt to find a new life as a Jewish immigrant in the US, Rivke shares the stories of losing her mother to a bombing in Lublin, jilting a fiancé who has made his way to Palestine, and a flirtatious relationship with an American "allrightnik." In this fictionalized journal originally published in Yiddish, author Kadya Molodovsy provides keen insight into the day-to-day activities of the large immigrant Jewish community of New York. By depicting one woman's struggles as a Jewish refugee in the US during WWII, Molodovsky points readers to the social, political, and cultural tensions of that time and place.

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The Liar’s Guide to the Night Sky

Brianna R. Shrum

Perfect for fans of the New York Times bestselling novel, Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch It's no one’s fault that Hallie Jacob is alone. That her grandpa got sick half a world away and so her parents yanked her to Colorado the last semester of her senior year. That career-wise, she’s specialized in fighting fire, and now she’s surrounded by ice, snow, and a thousand cousins she’s half-banned from hanging around with. But that’s what's happened. That's what her December looks like. On one big family weekend in the freaking tundra, Hallie sneaks off with those cousins to an abandoned ski slope. But they get caught in a random mudslide, and what started as a Secret Bonfire Party goes in a Potential Donner Party direction real fast. With some cousins in desperate need of medical attention, Hallie leaves their camp for help—and is surprised when Jonah Ramirez (her cousin's extremely off-limits—absurdly hot—best friend) joins her. Facing paralyzing temperatures, sharp-toothed animals strong enough to survive a climate with hardly any water or air, and weather phenomena so wicked they’ll wreck a mountain before you can blink, Jonah and Hallie have no choice but to trust each other as they search for the way to town to send help back to their stranded friends and family. And THAT may be more impossible, even, than making it out alive.

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Zoe Rosenthal Is Not Lawful Good

Nancy Werlin

A buttoned-up overachiever works overtime to keep her inner nerd at bay--failing spectacularly--in Nancy Werlin's hilarious and heartfelt return to contemporary realistic fiction. Planning is Zoe Rosenthal's superpower. She has faith in a properly organized to-do list and avoids unnecessary risks. Her mental checklist goes something like this: 1) Meet soulmate: DONE! 2) Make commitment: DONE! 3) Marriage: TO COME! (after college). She isn't sure which college yet, but it will have a strong political science department, since her perfect boyfriend, Simon, plans to "save the country," as his sister puts it, "and the planet and everything." Zoe will follow along, the perfect serious, supportive girlfriend. It's good to have her love life resolved, checked off, done. But speaking of unnecessary risks, Zoe's on a plane to Atlanta, sneaking off to Dragon Con for the second season premiere of Bleeders. The show is subject to her boyfriend's lofty scorn, but Zoe is nothing like these colorful hordes "wearing their inside on their outside." Once her flirtation with fandom is over, she will get back to the important business of planning a future with Simon. The trouble is, right now, Bleeders--and her fellow "Bloodygits"--may just mean the world to her. Will a single night of nerdery be enough? Best-selling and award-winning author Nancy Werlin is best known for science fiction, fantasy, and suspense, but here she turns her pen to realistic fiction with broad appeal. Confirmed nerds will revel in a diverse cast, zany fandoms, and cosplaying crowds, but this is for any reader seeking a smart, breezy coming-of-age story about finding your friends--and your inconvenient self.

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Cool for the Summer

Dahlia Adler

"Witty, wise, and disarmingly tender. I am hopelessly devoted to this summer dream of a book." —Becky Albertalli, New York Times bestselling author of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda Dahlia Adler's Cool for the Summer is a story of self-discovery and new love. It’s about the things we want and the things we need. And it’s about the people who will let us be who we are. Lara's had eyes for exactly one person throughout her three years of high school: Chase Harding. He's tall, strong, sweet, a football star, and frankly, stupid hot. Oh, and he's talking to her now. On purpose and everything. Maybe...flirting, even? No, wait, he's definitely flirting, which is pretty much the sum of everything Lara's wanted out of life. Except she’s haunted by a memory. A memory of a confusing, romantic, strangely perfect summer spent with a girl named Jasmine. A memory that becomes a confusing, disorienting present when Jasmine herself walks through the front doors of the school to see Lara and Chase chatting it up in front of the lockers. Lara has everything she ever wanted: a tight-knit group of friends, a job that borders on cool, and Chase, the boy of her literal dreams. But if she's finally got the guy, why can't she stop thinking about the girl?

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Color Me in

Natasha Díaz

A powerful coming-of-age novel pulled from personal experience about the meaning of friendship, the joyful beginnings of romance, and the racism and religious intolerance that can both strain a family to the breaking point and strengthen its bonds. Growing up in an affluent suburb of New York City, sixteen-year-old Nevaeh Levitz never thought much about her biracial roots. When her Black mom and Jewish dad split up, she relocates to her mom's family home in Harlem and is forced to confront her identity for the first time. Nevaeh wants to get to know her extended family, but because she inadvertently passes as white, her cousin thinks she's too privileged, pampered, and selfish to relate to the injustices African Americans face on a daily basis. In the meantime, Nevaeh's dad decides that she should have a belated bat mitzvah instead of a sweet sixteen, which guarantees social humiliation at her posh private school. But rather than take a stand, Nevaeh does what she's always done when life gets complicated: she stays silent. Only when Nevaeh stumbles upon a secret from her mom's past, finds herself falling in love, and sees firsthand the prejudice her family faces that she begins to realize she has her own voice. And choices. Will she continue to let circumstances dictate her path? Or will she decide once for all who and where she is meant to be? "Absolutely outstanding " --Nic Stone, New York Times bestselling author of Dear Martin

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You Asked for Perfect

Laura Silverman

"Wise romantic and painfully relatable."—BECKY ALBERTALLI, award-winning author of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda For fans of Adam Silvera and Nina LaCour comes a timely novel about a teen?s struggle when academic success and happiness pull him in opposite directions. Senior Ariel Stone has spent his life cultivating the perfect college résumé: first chair violinist, dedicated volunteer, active synagogue congregant, and expected valedictorian. He barely has time to think about a social life, let alone a relationship...until a failed calculus quiz puts his future on the line, forcing Ariel to enlist his classmate, Amir, as a tutor. As the two spend more time together, Ariel discovers he may not like calculus, but he does like Amir. When he's with Amir, the crushing academic pressure fades away, and a fuller and brighter world comes into focus. But college deadlines are still looming. And adding a new relationship to his long list of commitments may just push Ariel past his limit. Full of empathy, honesty, and heart, You Asked for Perfect is a story for anyone who has ever questioned the price of perfection. Praise for You Asked for Perfect: "Silverman's novel hit me straight in the heart... It was powerful enough to make me want to be a better—yet still imperfect—person." —Bill Konigsberg, author of The Music of What Happens "A coming-of-age novel that will charm readers with its relatable and diverse characters, quirky storyline, and interweaving of faith, queerness, and the everyday lives of seniors navigating the pressures of college applications, grades, and relationships. Heartwarming and engaging."—Kirkus

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Abby, Tried and True

Donna Gephart

Fans of The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise and Shouting at the Rain will love this heartwarming story of the bond between siblings from the award-winning author of Lily and Dunkin and The Paris Project. When Abby Braverman’s best friend, Cat, moves to Israel, she’s sure it’s the worst thing that could happen. But then her older brother, Paul, is diagnosed with cancer, and life upends again. Now it’s up to Abby to find a way to navigate seventh grade without her best friend, help keep her brother’s spirits up during difficult treatments, and figure out her surprising new feelings for the boy next door.

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The Blackbird Girls

Anne Blankman

NATIONAL JEWISH BOOK AWARD WINNER A SYDNEY TAYLOR MIDDLE GRADE HONOR BOOK Like Ruta Sepetys for middle grade, Anne Blankman pens a poignant and timeless story of friendship that twines together moments in underexplored history. On a spring morning, neighbors Valentina Kaplan and Oksana Savchenko wake up to an angry red sky. A reactor at the nuclear power plant where their fathers work--Chernobyl--has exploded. Before they know it, the two girls, who've always been enemies, find themselves on a train bound for Leningrad to stay with Valentina's estranged grandmother, Rita Grigorievna. In their new lives in Leningrad, they begin to learn what it means to trust another person. Oksana must face the lies her parents told her all her life. Valentina must keep her grandmother's secret, one that could put all their lives in danger. And both of them discover something they've wished for: a best friend. But how far would you go to save your best friend's life? Would you risk your own? Told in alternating perspectives among three girls--Valentina and Oksana in 1986 and Rifka in 1941--this story shows that hatred, intolerance, and oppression are no match for the power of true friendship.

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Letters from Cuba

Ruth Behar

Pura Belpré Award Winner Ruth Behar's inspiring story of a young Jewish girl who escapes Poland to make a new life in Cuba, while she works to rescue the rest of her family The situation is getting dire for Jews in Poland on the eve of World War II. Esther's father has fled to Cuba, and she is the first one to join him. It's heartbreaking to be separated from her beloved sister, so Esther promises to write down everything that happens until they're reunited. And she does, recording both the good--the kindness of the Cuban people and her discovery of a valuable hidden talent--and the bad: the fact that Nazism has found a foothold even in Cuba. Esther's evocative letters are full of her appreciation for life and reveal a resourceful, determined girl with a rare ability to bring people together, all the while striving to get the rest of their family out of Poland before it's too late. Based on Ruth Behar's family history, this compelling story celebrates the resilience of the human spirit in the most challenging times.

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Hereville

Barry Deutsch

Spunky, strong-willed eleven-year-old Mirka Herschberg isn’t interested in knitting lessons from her stepmother, or how-to-find-a-husband advice from her sister, or you-better-not warnings from her brother. There’s only one thing she does want: to fight dragons! Granted, no dragons have been breathing fire around Hereville, the Orthodox Jewish community where Mirka lives, but that doesn’t stop the plucky girl from honing her skills. She fearlessly stands up to local bullies. She battles a very large, very menacing pig. And she boldly accepts a challenge from a mysterious witch, a challenge that could bring Mirka her heart’s desire: a dragon-slaying sword! All she has to do is find—and outwit—the giant troll who’s got it! A delightful mix of fantasy, adventure, cultural traditions, and preteen commotion, Hereville will captivate middle-school readers with its exciting visuals and entertaining new heroine. Accolades and Praise for Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword Sydney Taylor Award Eisner nomination Harvey nomination Ignatz nomination Nebula nomination "Utterly ingenious." --Kirkus, starred review "Withouth a doubt, the best graphic novel of 2010 for kids. Bar None."--School Library Journal, starred review "A terrific story, told with skill and lots of heart."--Publishers Weekly, starred review "Mirka is a spunky, emotionally realistic, and fun heroine."--Booklist, starred review "Sequel, please!"--Horn Book Magazine

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Anya and the Dragon

Sofiya Pasternack

In an alternate ninth century, twelve-year-old Anya and a new friend face a Viking and a Tsar to protect the water dragon that saved her life, putting her family's home at risk.

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Portraits of Jewish-American Heroes

Malka Drucker

From its beginnings, America, founded on religious freedom, has been a land of opportunity for Jews socially as well as spiritually. Here are profiles of twenty-one individuals who have enriched America and the lives of Americans through their achievements in such areas as science, sports, film making, and civil rights. An inspiring journey through more than two centuries of American Jewish history.

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Gershon’s Monster

Baʻal Shem Tọv

When his sins threaten the lives of his beloved twin children, a Jewish man finally repents of his wicked ways.

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Beautiful Yetta

Daniel Pinkwater

Although Yetta the chicken manages to escape the butcher's knife, she finds herself lost on the streets of Brooklyn until she befriends the wild parrots there, in a multilingual story told in English, Yiddish and Spanish. Simultaneous.

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Mrs. Katz and Tush

Patricia Polacco

In this special Passover story, Larnel Moore, a young African-American boy, and Mrs. Katz, an elderly Jewish woman, develop an unusual friendship through their mutual concern for an abandoned cat named Tush. Together they explore the common themes of suffering and triumph in each of their cultures.

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Looking for more resources? We have you covered. Check out our entire list of Jewish American Heritage Month recommendations. For more personalized recommendations, fill out our recommendation form.