What We’re Reading

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Here are the books that are taking the writers, editors and interns of Washington Jewish Week and Baltimore Jewish Times through the summer.

“Defending Jacob”
William Landay


One of the biggest challenges I face with reading is finding the time. My attention seems to be spread  between demanding work emails, family time, staying in touch with friends and — I won’t deny it — keeping up with my favorite Netflix series.

“Defending Jacob” is a 420-page novel that broke through my dense schedule. It left me intellectually charged and sitting on the edge of my seat. I read before bed and in any free moment I had — on weekends and while waiting for Zoom meetings to start.

A prosecutor’s son has been charged with murder. For the first time in his career, Andy Barber has to learn how to be on the defense. Not only in the courtroom, but with his family, colleagues and the people he once called friends.

If there’s one thing to note about this book, it’s to keep reading until the end. A plot twist will shatter everything you thought you knew about the story and its characters.

Elisa Posner, WJW intern

 

“Glimpses of Jewish Baltimore”
Gilbert Sandler
When I moved to Baltimore in February, I wanted to start reading about the city’s history and culture. I’m also the type of reader who tackles more than one book at a time, but one that I’m working on now is about the history of the Jewish community in Baltimore.

“Glimpses of Jewish Baltimore,” is a collection of columns by historian Gilbert Sandler, originally published in the Baltimore Jewish Times. Each chapter provides a nostalgic, slice-of-life look at different episodes in the city’s history, from tales of the corner drug store to Restaurant Row.

It also includes names of the clergy, teachers and storeowners, and interviews with people reminiscing. It’s an easy book to breeze through, filled with lots of historic black-and-white photos. If, like me, you’re not a native, you’ll enjoy this introduction to one of the country’s oldest Jewish communities. And if you grew up in Baltimore from the 1920s to the 1980s, I imagine this book will have you saying, “Oh, I remember that!”

Selah Maya Zighelboim, editor of the JT

 

“Hood Feminism”
Mikki Kendall
I just finished “Hood Feminism.” I love learning about women’s rights, history and different perspectives. In this book, Kendall focused on issues women face through the lens of the black community. She discusses issues such as how black girls are made to be seen as older in fiction, or how they must live up to white beauty standards. While it is important to recognize these problems, I must say I was disappointed to not have learned anything new from the book.

Next I will reread “And Then There Were None,” by Agatha Christie. I’ve never been a big murder mystery fan, but this book left such an impression on me years ago that I decided to pick it up and appreciate it again. I’m already wrapped up in the whodunnit — Christie is brilliant.

Carolyn Conte, JT staff reporter

 

“The Once and Future King”
T.H. White
Needing something to occupy myself while vacationing with family in North Carolina’s Outer Banks, and looking to check it off my bucket list, I picked up a copy of T.H. White’s “The Once and Future King,” a 1958 retelling of the legend of King Arthur.

While I’ve become familiar with the myths and legends of a few different cultures, most of what I know about Arthurian lore comes from the Disney animated film “The Sword and the Stone” (which, as it happens, borrowed much of its material from White’s book), and I wanted to address that issue.

While so far I’m only 70 pages into the 600-page read, White spins a yarn about a medieval world melding history and fantasy. The flawed characters tend to be funny, from a wandering king who cheats at fencing to the lord of a manor who refuses to acknowledge the supernatural even when icicles are hanging off his nose in the height of summer. The focus, of course, is on the young boy Arthur (nicknamed “Wart”), whose sense of fairness and concern for others stand out in a world of warriors often out for themselves, and on his tutor, the wizened wizard Merlyn who, due to his living backward in time, is able to inject 20th-century wisdom into the future king of Britain.

Jesse Berman, JT staff reporter

 

“Scud: The Disposable Assassin”
Rob Schrab
This summer I plan to kick back, relax and crack open some books I’ve been meaning to get to. At the top of my list is Rob Schrab’s “Scud: The Disposable Assassin.” The ‘90s comic series follows a robotic assassin who self-destructs upon eliminating its target. Wanting to live, the Scud robot instead knocks its target into a coma and must take onadditional contract killings in order to pay for the hospital bills. The version I got, “The Whole Shebang,” contains every issue, making it the best way to read the entire series in one go.

The other book near the top of my list is “The Desert and The Sea: 977 Days Captive on the Somali Pirate Coast.” The book was a gift from my dad and now seems like the perfect time to give it a try. Author Michael Scott Moore retells his experience being captured and held for ransom by Somali pirates in 2012. Moore’s other works have been exciting reading, so this true story is something I’m expecting to be both gripping and captivating.

Eric Schucht, WJW staff writer

 

“Slaughterhouse Five”
Kurt Vonnegut
An Israeli friend said she was reading “Slaughterhouse Five” because it dealt with PTSD. I’d never read this Vietnam-era book about American soldiers in World War II, although I dimly remember seeing the movie. I pulled an old hand-me-down copy (Dell, 95 cents) out of a box of paperback books and learned that, 20 years after witnessing the Allied firebombing of Dresden (revisited as napalming the Viet Cong), Vonnegut was only able to bare his trauma by telling the story of Billy Pilgrim, a cipher and prisoner of war, who tolerates his life by becoming disassociated from it, specifically by traveling through time between points in his life in upstate New York, the frozen winter in Germany of 1945, and his kidnapping by aliens who display him in a zoo on their planet, and who teach him that there is no free will because past, present and future “always have existed, always will exist.”

Despite this eternal now, the story seems to have taken place before Jews were associated with World War II, because aside from two oblique references to the Holocaust, its terrible trauma goes unspoken.
So it goes.

David Holzel, editor of WJW

 

“A Woman is No Man”
Etaf Rum

I’m nearing the finish line for “A Woman is No Man” by Etaf Rum. The novel details the struggles and abuse faced by Palestinian women by detailing the experiences of one family over the course of three generations.

Usually, I’m skeptical about books given to me by my mother (who has a very different taste in literature), but I admit she was right about this one. It’s been both fascinating and troubling how little I knew about the Palestinian community in Brooklyn, and specifically the high levels of domestic violence present, as a Jew who was raised in nearby Westchester.

It’s the type of book that makes you cringe — not exactly in a good way, but in a raw, you know it’s important to read kind of way. And the closer I get to the end, the more honest and disturbing the story becomes.

Yakira Cohen, JT intern

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