It’s Jewish American Heritage Month! To celebrate, this week’s Three to Read spotlights a trio of must-read contemporary novels featuring Jewish protagonists and families. Each of these uniquely showcases the beauty and breadth of Jewish American fiction. From a fast-paced murder mystery told through the eye of a female PI in New Jersey to an ambitious Sephardic multigenerational tale following one family’s displacement, these reads are a source of female empowerment and education on Jewish history and heritage.
by Kimberly G. Giarratano
Billie Levine has revamped her grandfather’s private investigation firm out of her favorite North Jersey deli. Surely the flexible hours, good pay, and good food will help her to take care of her mom, who was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. However, Billie’s endeavors become complicated (and dangerous) after young Tommy Russo offers her a hefty sum to find his girlfriend. This simple missing person’s case soon leaves Billie entangled in a deadly gang war tied to decades-old feuds and disappearances.
True crime and mystery lovers rejoice! This debut novel is full of heart and suspense – tied together by one witty, tenacious Jewish woman whose PI career comes with a bit more than she bargained for. If you need a fast-paced, satisfying read to kick off the summer, Giarratano’s first installment of what will be an ongoing crime novel series is sure to have you hooked.
Coffee Shop Read
by Rebecca Kaiser Gibson
The Promise of a Normal Life is a transportive story that emerges through journal-esque reflections by an unnamed protagonist trying to reconcile inherited identity, family legend, expectations of adulthood, and more. Throughout her wandering travels, she meets a diverse cast of characters: a handsome rabbi, a self-absorbed MIT professor, a bewildered tourist agent, and a bunch of tarot-card-reading cruise ship passengers.
This poet’s debut novel is perfect for those wanting to revel in beautiful, lyrical storytelling. Told in a series of first-person vignettes, Kaiser crafts a coming-of-age story of a Jewish-American woman finding her agency and following her intuition in the world. Equal parts dreamlike and cinematic, this charming episodic journey eloquently explores themes of longing and identity.
by Elizabeth Graver
The sweeping tale at the heart of Kantika begins when the Cohen family loses their wealth and is forced to move abroad and start anew. Leaving their homeland of Istanbul, the Cohens end up in Barcelona, Havana, and eventually New York. During these relocations, the family’s headstrong daughter, Rebecca, experiences various joys, losses, and passions, chronicling the uniting power and strain of family between generations.
This family epic meditates on migration, exile, motherhood, war, marginalization, and more through insightful and lyrical storytelling. The novel is based on the author’s Sephardic grandmother and is lush with historical detail – including family photographs. For fans of emotional, multigenerational tales like Pachinko, this new release, held together by a dynamic female lead, overflows with wisdom and compassion.
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