The Newsletter of Fig Tree Books LLC
March, 2020: Issue #4
Fredric D. Price, Founder & Publisher
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Click on the BLOG image to reply to what we've written or compose something on your own about the state of literature (Jewish or otherwise), book publishing in general, or a specific book that you want to let others know about.
OLDIES BUT GOODIES: The Book of Stone by Jonathan Papernick - T he Book of Stone examines the evolution of the terrorist mentality and the complexities of religious extremism, as well as how easily a vulnerable mind can be exploited for dark purposes.
"Papernick’s provocative debut novel (after two story collections) explores the motives of religious extremism and how it can attract those in search of identity. ... This intelligent and timely thriller is told through a Jewish prism, but ­Papernick’s persuasive insights into the nature of fanaticism and its destructive consequences could be applied to any ideology. Highly recommended."
"Members of the Cambodian royal family gathered last month at the Raffles Hotel Le Royal in Phnom Penh for a celebration. There was music, traditional Cambodian dance performances and plenty of food.

The occasion? The coming-of-age party of the granddaughter of one of the princesses. Well, a bat mitzvah to be exact ."
"She is the the great-granddaughter of the late King Sisowath Monivong, who reigned from 1927 to 1941. She is also an Orthodox Jew."
APPLES & HONEY: A Small Taste Of Lit -- Emma Lazarus
“Most famous for  The New Colossus,  her sonnet welcoming the hordes of immigrants to America, Emma Lazarus was a American-born Jew of colonial Sephardic and German Jewish stock. … (She) evolved into a Jewish American poet who combined the contradictory forces of Jewish peoplehood and Puritan America, of Hebraism and Hellensism, to create a highly cultured expression of Jewish American identity for the new masses.”
DON'T BE SHY: SEND US A QUESTION & ANSWER IT YOURSELF: And win the chance to get a free set of our books!

Each issue, we'll publish one question and answer from readers. Now here's the cool part: if we select your Q&A, we'll send you free copies of all our books that were published prior to January 1, 2020.
The winning Q&A (from Rebecca Mitrani):

Q:  Why do so many authors who are Jewish prefer not to be labeled as ‘Jewish Authors’?

A:  It’s said of many famous American authors who are Jewish that they don’t define themselves as ‘Jewish writers.’ It’s hard to square that from the likes of Philip Roth, author of Operation Shylock, The Plot Against America, Goodbye, Columbus, Portnoy’s Complaint, The Human Stain, and the ‘Zuckerman’ novels. Or from Michael Chabon, author of The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, and Gentlemen of the Road. 

Now, of course this doesn’t mean that they only wrote novels where Jews were the main characters. But a disproportionate amount of their oeuvre does include stories about Jews. Let me state that by mentioning these two great writers, I’m not suggesting that they're the only ones who don’t describe themselves as Jewish writers. And, let me also be clear that there are writers such as Dara Horn who do proudly identify as Jewish authors.

What’s the reluctance? Is it that they feel they'll be pigeonholed into a smaller market? So they do this for business reasons? Some people have said that Jews purchase about 50% of literary fiction, so I wouldn’t think that this stands up to scrutiny. Perhaps that they don’t want to be labeled as such because of a fear that they'll be read and studied only at Jewish Studies departments of Universities or by Jewish bookclubs? (I wouldn't think that that would make a difference.) Or are they simply uncomfortable in their Jewish skins? (Maybe not.) Or maybe there’s no great analytical reason; it just is this way and they haven’t given it much thought.

It's said that Camille Pissarro, the great Impressionist painter, would walk into a room and exclaim, “I am a Jew,” a remarkable statement given the anti-Semitism in France during the age of Dreyfus. Whether or not it is literally true, he didn't hide his Jewishness. This, coming from a man whose wife wasn’t Jewish and likely never attended a synagogue after he moved to Europe from his native St. Thomas.

Especially in this time of rising anti-Semitism, I’d like to hear of more authors whose characters or stories revolve around the Jewish experience who don’t shy away from being called a Jewish author.

This, from a Jewish blogger.
Purim, by Abigail Pogrebin

"Purim’s modern observance, at least in Reform synagogues I’ve
visited, doesn’t focus on that brutal coda, highlighting instead the
reenactment of cruel Haman and courageous Esther. The ritual is to
read aloud the story from a scroll of parchment known as the megillah,
which has the biblical book of Esther inscribed on it."