Margot: a Novel
In this chillingly beautiful novel, Cantor imagines Anne Frank’s older sister as alive and well—not having died as believed in Bergen-Belsen along with Anne herself, but having escaped to the United States where she reinvented herself as Margie Franklin, a secretary at a Jewish law firm in Philadelphia. But Margie—once Margot—has to contend with her dead younger sister becoming a global icon as The Diary of Anne Frank is released in movie form in 1959. Margie’s life already isn’t simple as she fantasizes about her youthful romance, hides the numbers tattooed on her arm, and tries to deal with her survivor’s guilt.
A strangely wonderful novel of the shenanigans of academia and the ridiculous nature that lies in such realms, Michael Chabon’s novel involves a professor and his pregnant mistress, a murder of a dog, a more than 2500-page-long manuscript (still unfinished, and called, appropriately, “The Wonder Boys”), and a stolen jacket once worn by Marilyn Monroe. In his incredible prose, so beautifully constructed on the sentence level, Chabon’s (not his fictional professor’s) “Wonder Boys” will make you laugh and cry and raise your eyebrows (and possibly look at professors differently, but do remember it’s just fiction).
To the End of the Land
David Grossman is one of Israel’s most well-known and beloved contemporary writers (the fact that he’s been translated into English proves that). In this epic novel, Grossman details a mother’s trek through a wilderness trail in Israel. Her son is in the military, and she’s terrified, constantly, that he’s going to die. In order to deal with this, she escapes her marriage, her life, and becomes an unreachable hiker. If she can’t be there to open the door to the person who will tell her that her son is dead, he won’t die. This heartbreaking and stirring novel is made all the more difficult when you know that during its writing, Grossman’s own son died in the military.
May is Jewish-American Heritage Month, or, to make it sound really yummy, JAHM (and let’s be honest, there’s a lot of delicious Jewish food out there, though jam isn’t generally considered a Jewish specialty). We just got past Passover, and the next holidays (Lag Ba’Omer and then the cheesecakey Shavu’ot) aren’t upon us yet, so we can take this time to focus on the cultural heritage of Jewish writers. Since the written word is so important in the Jewish religion, it makes sense that there are lots and lots and lots of amazing books written by Jewish authors out there, and since we have an excuse to celebrate them, let’s. Also, let’s be clear: this is just a smattering, a little taste, of the incredible literature out there by Jewish writers.
Have any recommendations for books you don’t see here? Which would you add to the list?
Bookshelf curated by Ilana Masad.
Original illustration by Kristin Logsdon.