Books Bloom for Jewish American Heritage Month

April flowers bring May flowers like the beautiful irises at Presby Garden and flowering trees that grace Montclair streets and front yards. Short Story Month, Mental Health Awareness Month, and Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month as well as a plethora of other daily, weekly and monthly celebrations of special interests from the ridiculous to the sublime all occur in May.

You might not know it, but it’s also Jewish American Heritage Month. Every year since 2006, May has been recognized in Congress, by the president and by public institutions as a time to celebrate and educate about Jewish American history and achievement.

However, if you look at the programming of many local libraries and cultural institutions, at school enrichment, and professional library publications, the special celebration seems almost nonexistent.

The Association of Jewish Libraries has been working diligently to have Jewish books and the Jewish experience counted in the basket of cultural diversity along with other recognized minorities. In fact, Susan Kusel, an active member of the AJL  and (author of the awarding winning book The Passover Guest, a traditional Elijah tale reimagined for young readers with an American setting) has been awarded the American Library Association’s Equality Award.

The library constantly celebrates the Jewish experience in the books that are added to the collection.

Here’s an eclectic selection of new books from the past 12 months- that reflect various issues,  populations and experiences in the American Jewish community. The are either in the library or will be shortly. They should be available through your local public library.

NOTE: all the annotations are adapted from the BCCLS website.

Berliner, Shmutz – Like the other women in her ultra-Orthodox Brooklyn community, Raizl expects to find a husband through an arranged marriage. Unlike the other women, Raizl has a secret. (Fiction)

Krasner, Ethel’s Song – As Ethel Rosenberg faces the electric chair in 1953, she tells her story through an imagined series of poems. (Biography)

Behar, Tia Fortuna’s New Home – A lyrical book about tradition, culture, and togetherness, Tia Fortuna’s New Home explores Tia and Estrella’s Sephardic Jewish and Cuban heritage. Through Tia’s journey, Estrella will learn that as long as you have your family, home is truly where the heart is. Lively, colorful illustrations. (Picture book)

Marshall, The Polio Pioneer – A brief biography of Jonas Salk, the doctor who saved thousands of lives with the vaccine he developed. (Biography)

Cocca-Leffler, Fighting for Yes! – An illustrated biography of Judith Heumann, the mother of disability rights. (Biography)

Tamkin, Bad Jews – What does it mean to be a “Bad Jew”? (Nonfiction)

Alterman, We are not one – Fights about the state of Israel, and the Zionist movement, have long been a staple of both Jewish and American political culture. But despite these arguments’ significance to American politics, Jewish life, and to Israel itself, no one has ever systematically examined their history and explained why they matter. (Nonfiction)

Blum, The Life and Times of Hoodie Rosen – Orthodox teen Hoodie Rosen has to adjust to a new, secular community in this irreverent and timely story of worlds colliding in friendship, betrayal, and hatred.(YAFIC)

Edwards, The Thread Collectors – In 1863, a young Black woman who embroiders intricate maps on repurposed cloth to help enslaved men flee and join the Union Army crosses paths with a Jewish seamstress who helps her discover that even the most delicate threads have the capacity to save. (Fiction)

Pogrebin, Shanda – An intimate memoir from a founder of Ms. magazine who grew up in an immigrant family mired in secrets, haunted by their dread of shame and stigma, determined to hide every imperfection–and in denial or despair when they couldn’t. (Biography)

Gross, A Justice for All the People – A biography of the lawyer, judge, popularizer of Zionist causes, and first Jew to serve on the Supreme Court (JBiography)

Lehrer, Golem Girl – The vividly told, gloriously illustrated memoir of an artist born with disabilities who searches for freedom and connection in a society afraid of strange bodies.

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