Seven books of Jewish literary fiction to read this year


Fans of Jewish literary fiction have a lot to look forward to in the coming months.

Last year saw the release of highly anticipated novels like Michael Chabon’s. Lunar moon, Jonathan Safran Foer I am here, and that of Amos Oz Judas. This year, the month of January alone has already given us the much anticipated Paul Auster 4 3 2 1 and that of Ruth Gilligan Nine folds form a paper swan. And the rest of 2017 looks just as promising. Many are debuts or will be the first time an author has published a book in English. Some are Americans, others are Israelis. Here are a few that I look forward to:

Schadenfreude: a love story by Rebecca Schuman (available February 7)
With perhaps the longest subtitle I have ever read (“Me, the Germans, and 20 years of attempted transformations, unfortunate communications and humiliating situations for which they have nothing but words”) , Schuman’s first book, a literary dissertation, has just been released this week. Currently a columnist for Slate, Schuman writes about herself as a 90s Jewish teenager who becomes obsessed with anything German (plus Kafka). Schuman’s voice is edgy and funny, and I’m delighted to read a book that covers the bizarre terrain of academic fixation that many of us are all too familiar with.

Awake Lions by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen (February 28)
This is Ayelet Gundar-Goshen’s first novel published in the United States; she is an Israeli screenwriter. Waking Lions revolves around the question “If you had made a fatal mistake, what would you do?” About a neurosurgeon who accidentally hits and kills a pedestrian, the book is set in Israel; Gundar-Goshen has a degree in psychology, and it looks like she applies it to her characters, which should make for a thrilling and thought-provoking story.

All grown up by Jami Attenberg (March 7)
In his latest novel, Jami Attenberg, author of five novels including The Middlestein and, more recently, Sainte-Mazie, writes about a childless, single Jewish woman in New York City on the verge of middle age. Attenberg’s characters are always drawn with immense detail and rendered with love; Andrea, the protagonist and narrator of All Grown Up, is no different. I’ve just started reading an advanced review copy, but this short novel already exudes outspoken feminism and Attenberg’s signature blend of humor and poignantness.

What to do about the Solomons by Bethany Ball (April 4)
Bethany Ball’s debut novel is “a hilarious, multigenerational family saga set in Israel, New York and Los Angeles.” Marc Solomon is a Californian financier; the rest of the family are kibbutzniks. With its original cast of many different members of the kibbutz community, the novel (judging from its description) seems to be reminiscent of Jessamyn Hope’s novel. Keep. I always love a good family novel, and the dust jacket claims an affinity with Nathan Englander, so I hope this novel lives up to its description.

Tell me how it ends well by David Samuel Levinson (April 4)
This new novel from the Brooklyn author Antonia Lively breaks the silence (a fun novel set in a small liberal arts college in the Northeast) is perhaps the one on this list that excites me the most. Tell me how it ends well, which takes place in 2022 when “American Jews face an increasingly dangerous and anti-Semitic landscape,” may strike a little too close to home right now, but that is precisely why it matters. The novel is coming out just in time for Passover, which is fitting considering it’s set in Los Angeles as the Jacobson family reunites for Passover and considers parricide (yes, you read that right). Who among us has not read a dark humor novel whose action takes place around a Jewish holiday or other gathering? It’s a great plot device, and I don’t mean it pejoratively (think: Michael Chabon’s Wonder boys). The family history in the novel seems to remind that of Jonathan Tropper This is where I leave you, Joshua Henkin The world without you, and Netflix Transparent; political conditions are similar to those of Philip Roth The plot against America. If that wasn’t enough to send you screaming at the bookstore, Daniel Torday suggests Levinson’s novel is like a Jewish story by George Saunders. If the novel lives up to these comparisons (admittedly formidable), it will undoubtedly be a success.

The worlds we think we know by Dalia Rosenfeld (May 16)
Dalia Rosenfeld, a graduate of the prestigious Iowa Writers’ Workshop now living in Tel Aviv, has written a collection of short stories set in the United States and Israel. Reading Rosenfeld’s New Book I Remember Molly Antopol’s Book Non-Americans, which earned him honors from the National Book Foundation, PEN America and the Jewish Book Council. Excellent short story collections can signal the start of a promising literary career, and I always look forward to reading new literary fictions written by Jewish women. The best thing about news collections? Even if not all of them speak to you, chances are some will. Although May seems far away as I watch the snow swirl outside my window, I will be sure to look for this book when it comes out.

Dark Forest by Nicole Krauss (Sep 12)
According to Goodreads and Amazon, accompanied by no information, and confirmed by no one, Nicole Krauss has a new novel due out in September. Krauss’s backlist should be reason enough to be excited about this: just to name one, The story of love is quite simply a masterpiece. I can’t tell you anything else about Dark Forest, but it will be an important question for lovers of Jewish literature.

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