Jewish Journal

Celebrating Jewish Book Month

by Jonathan Kirsch

Posted on Oct. 31, 2012 at 2:45 pm

Jonathan Adler

Jonathan Adler

Nothing says more about the unsettled state of American publishing than the fact that Jonathan Adler is the only author who will be presenting a book event at the Skirball Cultural Center during Jewish Book Month. 

Adler, of course, is famous as a designer, retailer and pop culture arbiter, but as a literary figure  — not so much. But he has written a book, “100 Ways to Happy Chic Your Life” (Sterling Signature: $24.95), described as “a vibrant, hilarious mash-up of style bible, decorating tome and self-help guide,” and the fact that he is scheduled to appear at one of America’s premier Jewish venues speaks volumes about the sparsity of author events at old-fashioned bookstores, much less at a full-blown Jewish book festival as in days of yore.

Adler will present his new book at 2:30 p.m. Dec. 9 at the Skirball, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. On the same day, a Jonathan Adler trunk show will be mounted in Audrey’s Museum Store, where you can pick up a dachshund menorah or a peace-symbol sculpture from the Adler collection. The style-setting artist and author will be autographing books, of course, but he will also put his famous name on “larger scale” merchandise. For more information, visit skirball.org.

By contrast, The Jewish Federation of the Greater San Gabriel and Pomona Valley is again sponsoring its own Jewish Book Festival, an ambitious annual event that takes place at multiple venues around the San Gabriel Valley throughout Jewish Book Month. 

Eyal Press will present his stirring account of heroism in the face of oppression, “Beautiful Souls: Saying No, Breaking Ranks, and Heeding the Voice of Conscience in Dark Times” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux: $24), from 4 to 6 p.m. Nov. 4 at Temple Sinai of Glendale, 1212 N. Pacific Ave., Glendale.

Maggie Anton, author of the book-club favorite “Rashi’s Daughter, Secret Scholar,” will introduce her new historical novel, “Rav Hisda’s Daughter: A Novel of Love, the Talmud and Sorcery” (Plume: $16) from 10 a.m. to noon Nov. 10 at Beth Shalom of Whittier, 14564 Hawes St., Whittier.

Ben G. Frank takes readers on a travelogue through the Jewish world in “The Scattered Tribe: Traveling the Diaspora From Cuba to India to Tahiti & Beyond” (Globe Pequot: $17.95) from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Nov. 17 at Temple Beth Israel of Pomona, 3033 N. Towne Ave., Pomona; the program includes a musical performance and a dessert reception (tickets $10-12).

Some Jewish Book Festival events require tickets and some are free. For a complete list of Jewish Book Festival activities, and for more information on each event, visit jewishsgpv.org/events.

Sinai Temple has long celebrated Jewish Book Month with an annual breakfast featuring a famous author. This year’s outing will feature Rich Cohen, best known for such provocative books as “Tough Jews” and “Israel Is Real,” who is presenting his latest book, “The Fish That Ate the Whale: The Life and Times of America’s Banana King” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux: $27). It’s a biography of Samuel Zemurray, a Jewish immigrant who started out as a fruit peddler and ended up in charge of United Fruit Co., a business enterprise so commanding that it figured in the making (and unmaking) of the United States as an imperial power. Cohen sees “Sam the Banana Man” as an embodiment of the Jewish immigrant saga and the American dream but also allows us to see the darker side of corporate capitalism. The Jewish Book Month Breakfast will take place 9:30 a.m. to noon Dec. 2 at Sinai Temple, 10400 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. For tickets and information, call (310) 481-3217 or visit sinaitemple.org. (Cohen will also appear at The Jewish Federation of the Greater San Gabriel and Pomona Valley’s Jewish Book Festival from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Nov. 7 at the Jewish Federation, 555 S. Second Ave., Arcadia.)

American Jewish University (AJU) welcomes opera singer and author Laurie Rubin to the Colen Conference Center on Nov. 6 to present her memoir, “Do You Dream in Color?: Insights From a Girl Without Sight” (Seven Stories Press: $18.95). Although the Rubin event is not offered as part of AJU’s official Jewish Book Month programming, it’s an opportunity to meet and hear a distinguished Jewish author. 

Blind from birth, Rubin found a path out of the isolation and loneliness of childhood to Carnegie Hall and other first-rank musical stages, where her performances have won international acclaim. “ ‘Do You Dream in Color?’ shows the same clarity, honesty and devotion that Laurie has always had with her art,” enthuses her fellow mezzo-soprano, Frederica von Stade. “A wonderful book!” From 10 to 11:30 a.m. Nov. 6 at American Jewish University, 15600 Mulholland Drive, Los Angeles. For tickets and information, call (310) 440-1283 or visit ajula.edu.

AJU’s official roster of Jewish Book Month events includes Michael Feinstein, author of “The Gershwins and Me: A Personal History in Twelve Songs” (Melcher Media: $45), but the maestro’s evening of performance and conversation on Nov. 8 is already listed as sold out. 

Of course, Jewish-themed book events can be found across Southern California throughout the year, not only at bookstores, libraries, cultural centers, synagogues and other community venues but in many other settings, too: book groups, synagogue programs, adult education classes, and — as Adler surely knows —  department stores, jewelry shops and fashion boutiques. In that sense, Jewish Book Month is only a salutary reminder of why Jewish readers are so ardently sought after by authors, publishers and booksellers.

Jonathan Kirsch, author and publishing attorney, is the book editor of the Jewish Journal. His next book is “The Short, Strange Life of Herschel Grynszpan: A Boy Avenger, a Nazi Diplomat, and a Murder in Paris,” which will be published in 2013 under the Liveright imprint of W. W. Norton to coincide with the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht. Kirsch can be reached at books@jewishjournal.com.

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