The Jewesses with Attitude Summer Reading List

So, I’m not spending my summer in the Hamptons, on Cape Cod, the Jersey Shore, or any other iconic beach. But like my fellow Jewesses with Attitude bloggers, I am a self-proclaimed “word nerd” and so, in spite of sitting on public buses rather than public beaches, I will be using the long hours of summer to bulk up on my reading (which, not surprisingly, is heavy on the Jewish Women writers). On the list:

The Book of Dahlia by Elisa Albert.

A 29-year old slacker, Dahlia Finger, is diagnosed with a brain tumor. Aside from facing death, she has to contend with her crazy Israeli mother, Margalit, her lame brother, Rabbi Dan, and her pushover father, Bruce, who can’t bring himself to believe that his only daughter is doomed. Elisa Albert is also the author of Why is This Night Different, fiction editor of Nextbook, and editor-at-large at Jewcy. Most importantly, I think, though to be fair I’m only about 50 pages in, she’s a damn fearless writer.

Away by Amy Bloom

Lillian Leyb, a new Russian immigrant to the United States, hears word that her lost daughter Sophie might be alive and in America, so she sets off across the Jazz Age United States to find her. How can you go wrong? I may also try and pick up Bloom’s non-fiction book, Normal: Transsexual CEOs, Crossdressing Cops, and Hermaphrodites with Attitude which deals with the intricacies of gender variation through individual portraits.

The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman

I read Ackerman’s A History of the Senses a few years ago and was floored by how well she uses words to describe and explain those indescribable ideas of smell, touch and sound. This new non-fiction book, which is about a Holocaust hideout, promises to be strange and beautiful, too.

Begin Again: Collected Poems by Grace Paley

Okay, I have to confess, I sort of stole this book from my university library. I promise to return it so as not to pay the $75 fine they’ve told me I owe, but not until I reread the many poems I dog-eared (another library sin, I’m sure). I’m not much of a poetry reader, I’m afraid, but I love every word that this woman wrote, fiction, essay, or verse.

Broccoli and Other Tales of Food and Love by Lara Vapnyar

Not only are all of the stories in this collection titled after traditional Russian foods like borscht and “Puffed Rice with Meatballs,” but there are also recipes(!) at the end of the book! This is Vapnyar’s third book of fiction since 2002, which is pretty impressive, and if the stories of hers that I’ve read in the New Yorker and elsewhere are any indication, these too are bound to be funny and sad and to stay with me for hours after I read them.

Opting In: Having a Child Without Losing Yourself by Amy Richards

As you may have noticed, there’s been a lot of chatter at Jewesses with Attitude about motherhood and feminism, which are Richards’ twin foci in this book. It promises to be part feminist history, part sociological examination of motherhood in the contemporary world, and part how-to on being as balanced a woman/mother as one aspires to be.

The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East by Sandy Tolan

I tend not to read books about the Middle East because I end up sad, angry, or confused, but this piece of non-fiction, which tells the parallel stories of an Israeli and a Palestinian who both have family ties to a single home in Ramla, because of its specific portrayals of the individuals involved, sounds like it might be just nuanced enough to be a good read.

Check back soon for reviews!

Topics: Fiction, Poetry
The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Thanks for this great reading list! All the books sound fascinating.

Thanks for contributing this post to the first Jewish Book Carnival; lots of great info. THE LEMON TREE was a big hit at my old synagogue library.

How to cite this page

Rabinoff-Goldman, Lily. "The Jewesses with Attitude Summer Reading List." 23 June 2008. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on September 24, 2023) <>.

Read the latest from JWA from your inbox.

sign up now