The Writing Life
Dec 17

Jewish Book Month

Mizrahi Heritage Month is over, and it feels a bit sad. A month long party of celebrating (and the solemn part) commemorating my Iraqi Jewish roots with the rest of the world is over. However celebrating Jewish books is not over. It’s Jewish Book Month, and is there anything more festive than books?

So thinking about my favorite Jewish books I have to say I love Erika Dreifus’s Jewish Book Month Reading Challenge bingo card. Shoham’s Bangle ticks at least five boxes. Here are some of my current favorite Jewish books of mine.

Yemenite, Israeli, Canadian writer Ayelet Tsabari’s The Art of Leaving is a memoir I’ve been recommending to everyone. It’s my example of not being scared to own your voice proudly and fearlessly as a Mizrahi woman. It’s also beautifully written with so much heart.

I’m also reading Ruth Behar’s Jewish Cuban books for young readers, from her beautiful picture book Tia Fortuna New Home to her books Letters From Cuba and Lucky Broken Girl. Is it any wonder that all these books deal with the idea of home, immigration and belonging.

I love this quote from Ruth Behar’s website,

So many people are looking for a place to call home. I want to imagine that the world has a very large heart and can give all of us who have lost our homes a chance to start over.

– Ruth Behar, Letters from Cuba

I think reading books that tick Erika’s Reading Challenge helps to enlarge our perspectives and our hearts. I want to believe in the world as a loving place, and maybe when we make a home on our bookshelves for other voices, we are also making a home on our streets, in our communities, a warm welcome for the stranger, who is not strange anymore, but has a voice that is just as human as our own. 

I would love this to be the message of Shoham’s Bangle, as I share in the book launch with The Academy of Jewish Thought & Learning where I present what Jewish life was like in Baghdad, and we discuss what the legacy of being an Iraqi Jew is, in this link here. 

It’s the message of Iraqi Israeli poet and artist Ronny Someck, who I had the pleasure of presenting at an IAWE poetry reading event along with the wonderful professor, poet and translator Karen Alkalay-Gut. Ronny said at the end, that as an Iraqi Israeli poet he sees himself as a bridge between East and West. (Link to event recording here.)

Wishing you all a wonderful month of reading Jewish books that expand your mind and heart, creating bridges from your bookshelf to the streets where you live and beyond.