Three Stunning and Eloquent Memoirs by Jewish American Writers

This week’s Three to Read sheds light on the experiences of Jewish Americans through three poignant memoirs. Read on for our recommendations!

Memoirs & Biographies Recommendations Three To Read
Book jackets for The Best Minds: A Story of Friendship, Madness, and the Tragedy of Good Intentions by Jonathan Rosen, Kissing Girls on Shabbat: A Memoir by Sara Glass, and My Life in Recipes: Food, Family, and Memories by Joan Nathan are side-by-side on a graphic of a wooden table, outside in a flower field. The books and overall image is framed with spring flowers. Bookstr's Three to Read logo, a stack of three books, is on top in an orange banner.

Trigger Warning: The books in this article contain mentions of death and sexual assault that may be triggering to some readers. Please exercise personal care while reading.

Memoirs are profound pieces of literature whose first-hand accounts of life are vital in helping readers understand diverse experiences. The raw, honest, confrontational, and healing narratives illuminate the unique lives of the authors, breathing vivacity into history, nurturing empathy, broadening perspectives, and showing readers that they are not alone if they’ve been through a similar circumstance. Here are three poignant, powerful, and heartfelt memoirs from revered Jewish-American writers to pick up and learn from today!

HOT PICK

The Best Minds: A Story of Friendship, Madness, and the Tragedy of Good Intentions by Jonathan Rosen

Book jacket for The Best Minds: A Story of Friendship, Madness, and the Tragedy of Good Intentions by Jonathan Rosen. On a black background, electric blue circles and brown stripes frame the cover. The title and author name are written in white.
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SYNOPSIS:

The Best Minds analyzes society’s understanding and misunderstanding of mental health through the relationship of Jonathan Rosen and Michael Laudor. Inseparable childhood best friends and twin Yale graduates, the two men seemed to be set up for a life of success, earning their way into a spot in the American meritocratic elite. But one day, Jonathan got a call that Michael, working at a top-flight consulting job, suffered a psychotic break and was subsequently held in the ward of a psychiatric hospital.

Michael, diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, went from a halfway house to Yale Law School, was named a role model and genius by the New York Times, wrote a memoir, and sold the film rights to Ron Howard. Again, all of it was turned upside down when, unable to control his paranoia and delusions, Michael killed the woman he loved.

WHY:

Jonathan Rosen’s eye-opening, thought-provoking memoir explores humanity in an empathetic yet sincere way. Critically acclaimed by the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, Slate, People, and Barack Obama, this deeply resonating literature educates on mental health, showing how the consequences of good intentions in personal narratives reflect society’s greater condition.

COFFEE SHOP READ

Kissing Girls on Shabbat: A Memoir by Sara Glass

Book jacket by Kissing Girls on Shabbat: A Memoir by Sara Glass. A blue color block graphic of a woman with long black hair and bright red lipstick is behind the title written in white. She wears a high neck lighter blue tank top.
IMAGE VIA BOOKSHOP

SYNOPSIS:

In her stunning memoir, Sara Glass chronicles her life in Brooklyn’s Borough Park Hasidic community, grappling with conforming to its ideology and her queer identity. Making the ultimate decision to step away from the community she’s known her entire life, Sara divorces her husband from an arranged marriage, entering a difficult and long custody battle over her kids. The fear of losing her children and being estranged from her family compels her to marry again and realign with the heteronormative values of Hasidic Judaism. Yet, after all the loss and grief, as well as surviving sexual assault, Sara Glass breaks away to be true to herself and her family.

WHY:

An open love letter to herself, her family, and readers across the globe, Kissing Girls on Shabbat is a gripping, remarkable testimonial for those balancing traditional religious customs with paying respects to their truest, authentic selves. This intersectional perspective is one relatable to many and offers an understanding of the intricacies of religion. A coming-of-age memoir, Kissing Girls on Shabbat will teach readers how to celebrate oneself and foster self-love through Glass’s nuanced and heartfelt experiences.

DARK HORSE

My Life in Recipes: Food, Family, and Memories by Joan Nathan

Book jacket of My Life in Recipes: Food, Family, and Memories by Joan Nathan. Two hands rip apart a loaf of bread on a  wooden cutting board on top of a blue wooden table. The title and author name is written in white.
IMAGE VIA BOOKSHOP

SYNOPSIS:

In My Life in Recipes, Joan Nathan illustrates her life and family history through global Jewish cuisine. Before hummus and shakshuka became staples in everyone’s everyday life, Joan Nathan inspired home cooks to create these dishes themselves. Mapping her family’s arrival to the United States from Germany, her upbringing in New York and Rhode Island in postwar America, world travel in adulthood, marriage, motherhood, and becoming a food writer perfectly and powerfully supplements her delicious recipes of matzoh ball soup, rugelach, brisket, and much more.

WHY:

When delving into My Life in Recipes: Food, Family, and Memories by Joan Nathan, readers not only gain insight from the forefront of Nathan’s table but are immersed in Jewish culture from around the globe. In one of her most intimate, emotional books, Nathan pairs scrumptious recipes with stunning tales of family, growth, religion, and heritage. This treasure trove of information beautifully depicts how food acts as a catalyst in culture, links people together, and spreads love and joy all around.

Thanks for joining us for this week’s Three to Read! Make sure to add these three poignant, eye-opening memoirs to your TBR today!


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