American Jewish literature is booming, and has been, incredibly, for fifty years. Novels and short stories by and about American Jews have achieved every imaginable measure of success: they have delighted millions of readers in the United States and abroad; they have brought home prestigious awards, from the Pulitzer to the Nobel; they have been enshrined on course syllabi and in public schools, adapted into films and translated into countless languages. Fiction on Jewish themes has helped to define American literature and Jewish thought.
Each year, readers are courted by a new literary season packed with novels on Jewish subjects, and the exigencies of publishing mean that many older books are shunted aside. For this reason, some of American Jewish literature’s greatest treasures hide in plain sight—out of print, perhaps, but easy to find in libraries—and enjoyed only by bibliophiles and a few academics. Other works, more well known, are easily misunderstood without a sense of the context in which they were written and of their authors’ careers.
This is why a concise, compelling handbook for the average reader—American Jewish Fiction: A JPS Guide—is such an invaluable resource, introducing literary treasures to a wide and enthusiastic audience, from individuals curious about Jewish history and life to reading groups organized by synagogues, libraries, or friends. The guide covers a comprehensive range of American Jewish fiction—from works by well-known authors like Philip Roth and Cynthia Ozick to undeservedly forgotten novels and collections by writers such as Jo Sinclair and Ezra Brudno—as well as the most deserving of recent releases. The 125 works covered have been chosen with an eye toward historical, geographical, and philosophical diversity as well as historical and literary significance. Suggestions for further reading and informative appendices lead readers onward to the best of the secondary literature, should they want to delve deeper. Crucially, the guide decodes the most obscure and complicates the simplest of the books it handles, making the American Jewish reading experience as rich and rewarding as it can be for every one of its readers. Handling topics both sacred and profane, from Biblical echoes and spiritual yearnings on the one hand to bawdy comedy and blasphemy on the other, this JPS Guide is the perfect introduction and handbook to American Jewish literature.