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The 2014 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature Finalists
Am I a Jewish Writer?

Half the Kingdom: A Novel
Lore Segal
Melville House, 2013. 176 pp. $23.95

At Cedars of Lebanon Hospital, doctors have noticed a marked uptick in Alzheimer's patients. People who seemed perfectly lucid just a day earlier suddenly show signs of advanced dementia. Is it just normal aging, or an epidemic? Is it a coincidence, or a secret terrorist plot?

In the looking-glass world of Half the Kingdom--where terrorist paranoia and end-of-the-world hysteria mask deeper fears of mortality; where parents' and their grown children's feelings vacillate between frustration and tenderness; and where the broken medical system leads one character to quip, "Kafka wrote slice-of-life fiction"--all is familiar and yet slightly askew.

An American Bride in Kabul: A Memoir

Phyllis Chesler

Palgrave Macmillan, 2013. 256 pp. $27.00

Few westerners will ever be able to understand Muslim or Afghan society unless they are part of a Muslim family. Twenty years old and in love, Phyllis Chesler, a Jewish-American girl from Brooklyn, embarked on an adventure that has lasted for more than a half-century. In 1961, when she arrived in Kabul with her Afghan bridegroom, authorities took away her American passport. Chesler was now the property of her husband's family and had no rights of citizenship. Back in Afghanistan, her husband, a wealthy, westernized foreign college student with dreams of reforming his country, reverted to traditional and tribal customs. Chesler found herself unexpectedly trapped in a posh polygamous family, with no chance of escape. She fought against her seclusion and lack of freedom, her Afghan family's attempts to convert her from Judaism to Islam, and her husband's wish to permanently tie her to the country through childbirth. 


Drawing upon her personal diaries, Chesler recounts her ordeal, the nature of gender apartheid--and her longing to explore this beautiful, ancient, and exotic country and culture. Chesler nearly died there but she managed to get out, returned to her studies in America, and became an author and an ardent activist for women's rights throughout the world. An American Bride in Kabul is the story of how a na�ve American girl learned to see the world through eastern as well as western eyes and came to appreciate Enlightenment values. This dramatic tale re-creates a time gone by, a place that is no more, and shares the way in which Chesler turned adversity into a passion for world-wide social, educational, and political reform.


Interview: Natasha Solomons
Natasha Solomons's latest book, The Gallery of Vanished Husbands, is a portrait of Juliet Montague's life from 1958 to 2006.


Books have always fascinated me, even from the very earliest days of my childhood. As the child of Jewish intellectuals I imbibed with my mother's milk the concept that literature is nourishment for the soul; no other activity merits greater respect or in fact deserves more affectionate devotion from us.

One of the curiosities about writing is that the author often doesn't know what they've got until a work's finished. You start out writing one thing, with a general idea in mind, perhaps character sketches, or for the OCD among us, outlines.

A Jewish Family Tree: The Genesis of The Elixir of Immortality
I left Stockholm in the fall of 1998 and moved to Oslo, for I had discovered the neighboring land's greatest natural resource. No, not oil. Better than that: a woman from Norway.
Book Cover of the Week: The Kraus Project
In The Kraus Project: Essays by Karl Kraus, Jonathan Franzen gives new voice to the great nineteenth-century European critic Karl Kraus.
New Jewish Book Council Reviews
This week's new Jewish Book Council reviews.
On Writing a Fictionalized Account of Baruch Spinoza's Family
I've often been asked both by journalists and by my readers why my novel The Elixir of Immortality tells the story of the family of Baruch Spinoza.
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