David Harris-Gershon, author of the forthcoming memoir “What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?,” is frank about the contradictions in his personality.
Monica Lewinsky reportedly is writing a memoir about her White House affair with President Bill Clinton.
According to press reports, Dick Cheney’s memoir, set to be released this week, is one long exercise is not regretting any decision he made while serving as Vice-President of the United States. This is a shame. The first step in teshuvah, repentance, is recognizing the wrongs that one has committed. Cheney, rather, articulates his continued support for interrogation tactics, including waterboarding, extremes of heat and cold, sleep deprivation, long-term isolation, sensory deprivation and stress positions. It’s clear he will continue to defend his authorization of such torture and has no remorse for the criminal acts of torture he authorized. Cheney could have helped in the effort to repair the harms caused by torturing prisoners by expressing some regret for his actions. He has not.
Dick Cheney urged former President George W. Bush to bomb Syria, according to the former Vice President's new memoir.
Frail, cold and surrounded by death, the Jewish teenager Anne Frank did her best to distract younger children from the horrors of a Nazi concentration camp by telling them fairy tales, a survivor of the camp says.
When I look back on my childhood, it is not an idyllic landscape of memories. My relationship with my father was strained, and my childhood was an emotionally difficult time for me. I began performing when I was five years old, and my father - a tough man - pushed my brothers and me hard, from the earliest age, to be the best performers we could be.
Curtis doesn't fully appreciate how much his on-screen allure owed to his being Jewish
Before I entered the Chabad house in Mumbai, I thought, "What kind of people would leave a comfortable and secure life in a religious community to live in the middle of Mumbai; a dirty, difficult, crowded city?" As I got to know Rivky and Gabi over the course of this past summer, I understood that G-d creates some truly special people willing to devote their lives to bettering the world.
Max Gross, by his own admission, used to be your average schlub: He sported an unkempt Jewfro, the bottoms of his jeans were tattered and he'd gamely put a good burger before a diet.
Treating him like a rock star, the crowd mobbed 70-something Eshaghian, seeking an autograph or photo op during the May 20 launch party for his Persian-language memoir, "A Follower of Culture."
Review of former Jewish Defense League member Brad Hirschfield's "You Don't Have to Be Wrong for Me To Be Right: Finding Faith Without Fanaticism" (Harmony Books, Random House, 2007).
Every so often, I read a book that is extraordinary, a book that is so good, so well written, so moving, so memorable that you just want to holler out: Read this! Such a book is "The Invisible Wall" by Harry Bernstein.
Gary David Goldberg did not set out to be a screenwriter. He was already 30 when a teacher at San Diego State University guided him toward the profession. That fateful nudge set Goldberg on his path to becoming a successful writer/producer and director of a string of films and television shows that include "Spin City," "Brooklyn Bridge" and the phenomenally popular sitcom, "Family Ties."
Rita Lowenthal raised her family in a nice Jewish home, lived in a nice Jewish neighborhood and belonged to a nice Jewish temple. So how did her son become a heroin addict at age 13?
The need for an answer to that question, as well as a desire for closure, is what inspired Lowenthal to pen "One-Way Ticket: Our Son's Addiction to Heroin" (Beaufort Books, $14), a memoir that compiles her experiences and correspondence with her son and his journal entries while in and out of San Quentin State Prison.
For the past 10 years, Dinah Lenney, author of the memoir, "Bigger Than Life," has lived with the memory of the murder of her father, a prominent New Jersey businessman and onetime senatorial candidate who was knifed to death by three teens in Manhattan.
Dressed in black, Shalom Auslander wears three tiny silver blocks on a chain that falls close to his neck, with Hebrew letters spelling out the word "Acher," or other. This was a gift from his wife when he completed his memoir, "Foreskin's Lament." Acher was the name given to Elisha ben Abuya, a learned second-century rabbi, after he adopted heretical opinions.
Why Iran? Why now, you may ask.
In part, it is incredible that such an old and established Jewish community is unknown to most of us, and that the life they led is, for the most part, no more.
The scion of an aristocratic Jerusalem family, Nusseibeh traces his roots back 1,300 years to one of the tribal leaders who joined Mohammad on his seventh century pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
Our summers have markers, memories that trigger a specific time: The summer of the walk on the moon, Hurricane Bob or the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles; personal events like a high school prom, a kitchen renovation or a houseguest who long overstays.
Kirk Douglas is not done yet, not by a long shot. Just out is his ninth book, "Let's Face It: 90 Years of Living, Loving and Learning." It is a mix of reminiscences, anecdotes, tributes to Hollywood luminaries now faded or gone, a critique of America's present leadership and somber thoughts on the drug-induced suicide of Eric, the youngest of his four sons.
So I read this season's selection of books with perhaps a different eye and an increased curiosity. There are serious books about Jewish mothers, lighthearted books, how-to volumes and memoirs and some manage to cross categories. Some offer knowing advice, others observations and jokes. The best are those that are open, honest and wise, not preachy or sentimental.
It was not until several years ago that Laura Hillman completed her Holocaust memoir, "I Will Plant You a Lilac Tree" (Atheneum, 2005), which reads like a teenager's journal of life in eight labor and concentration camps. The lyrical, brutally honest book recreates her youthful musings -- echoing the most famous of the Holocaust diarists, Anne Frank.
"Write and record," historian Simon Dubnow urged his fellow Jews, as he was taken to his death in Riga. Over the decades since Dubnow's murder in 1941, many have taken his words to heart, and scholars, survivors, novelists, poets, members of the second and third generations continue to publish new work on the Holocaust. This season, in time for the commemoration of Yom HaShoah, there are impressive historical works, memoirs of lost childhoods, personal testimonies and artful works of fiction; many written by those who feel an obligation to those whose voices were stilled.
Nothing can bring out the worst in families more than the holidays -- "to grandmother's house we go," but which grandmother? To avoid conflict, some families eat two turkey dinners. Or there is the "this year, we'll go to your parents' house and next year we'll drive to Sheboygan to visit my parents."
Amid this seasonally induced excitement, if we are lucky, we'll be spending more time with our families -- both nuclear and extended.
The following excerpt is the prologue to "You're Lucky You're Funny: How Life Becomes a Sitcom," (Viking, 2006) a memoir by Phil Rosenthal, creator and executive producer of "Everybody Loves Raymond."
Goldberg recently won the Anti-Defamation League's Daniel Pearl Award and goes so far as to suggest that being Jewish has benefited him in his dealings with terrorists.
This season brings engaging reading in a mix of genres: literary fiction, comedy, love stories, detective novels, memoirs, historical fiction and books that break genre boundaries; books by veteran authors and others not-yet well-known.
On April 7, 1944, Rudolf Vrba escaped from Auschwitz, one of very few to do so; he died last week at age 81, a professor of pharmacology at the University of Vancouver, British Columbia. Vrba once said that he spent 95 percent of his life on science and 5 percent on the Holocaust. It is worth considering the importance of that 5 percent and the controversy it engendered, which resonates to this day.
If there's an overriding theme among the newest books related to the Holocaust, it's one of concealment and discovery, whether in the writer's own wartime experience or invented on the page. Sometimes it's a case of lost books being rediscovered.
When sexy authors like Erica Jong and Jerry Stahl get together onstage, you expect fireworks. But when I drag my friend Kay up to Skirball for the Writers Bloc conversation, the room is too bright, and Kay tells me Jong's blue-framed eyeglasses and gold necklace make her come off more Carol Channing than "sex goddess."
The title, "Madame Dread: A Tale of Love, Voodoo and Civil Strife in Haiti," comes from the nickname given to her by the kids in her Port-au-Prince neighborhood. In Haitian tradition, women take on the first names of their husbands; in her case she was named for the dreadlocks of her boyfriend (who later became her husband). She also refers to herself as a "Voodoo Jew."
Zeroing in on 30, rocker Jen Trynin gave herself an ultimatum: either make it now or get out of the game. Her youthful looks belied the years she spent slogging through the Boston music scene without much to show for it besides too many hangovers.
7 Days in the Arts
Arlene Blum describes her new book, "Breaking Trail: A Climbing Life," as an answer to a question she has often asked herself, as she did on Annapurna in the Himalayas: "What's a nice Jewish girl from the Midwest doing at 21,000 feet, going down a knife-edged ridge all alone?"
While some admirers have envisioned Wiesenthal as a Jewish John Wayne or James Bond, the diminutive Kingsley, who has played numerous Jewish characters in his film career, including Meyer Lansky in "Bugsy" and Fagin in the current "Oliver Twist," depicts him as a much more modest man, frail after the camps, dedicated to his work, not given to swagger or seduction.
On the telephone, Anders speaks exactly like the book she's written. Candid, passionate and prone to interspersing the conversation with hysterical impersonations of her mother's Cuban-accented English, Anders also emphasized that she "fiercely loves" her parents, now in their 70s.
The reason Goodman's words carry extra authority will become clear to anyone who reads his excellent new memoir, "Let Me Create a Paradise, God Said To Himself: A Journey of Conscience From Johannesburg to Jerusalem" (Perseus Books Group). Anyone who equates Israel with an apartheid state should be left in a quiet room with a copy of the book. If anyone can compare the old South Africa with the current Israel, it's Goodman.
Since 1968, when his novel "My Michael" -- exquisitely narrated by a despairing young wife in Jerusalem -- mesmerized thousands of readers, Amos Oz has been recognized as one of Israel's most gifted and prolific authors. He has produced 22 books -- 11 novels, three collections of stories and novellas, one children's book, and seven books of articles and essays -- that have been translated into 35 languages. His work is his autobiography, and until now Oz had been reticent about his own life.
The most memorable books I've read recently have been, ironically enough, three memoirs that stand out for their sensitivity, intelligence and literary quality.
There is a fierce anger at the core of Ruth Linn's work, the anger of a woman who suddenly and irrefutably discovers that the story she has been told by her Israeli teachers, Israeli society and Israeli culture from childhood onward regarding the Holocaust is but a partial narrative.
If Jacob Green sounds like every teenager who's hated mandatory Shabbat dinners, he's also the protagonist of Joshua Braff's viciously witty and poignant new novel.
"Shanda: The Making and Breaking of a Self-Loathing Jew" by Neal Karlen (Touchstone, $23). Like Bob Dylan a decade before him, writer Neal Karlen turned up on Rabbi Manis Friedman's doorstep in St. Paul, Minn., in desperate search of his soul.
"Revenge" revolves around a 1998 staging of Stephen Fife's acclaimed adaptation of Sholem Asch's Yiddish classic, "God of Vengeance," directed by his idol, the legendary Joseph Chaikin. The book recounts Fife's misadventures during that Atlanta production -- such as his frantic attempts to find free places to crash -- between astute insights into the play, the American theater and his colorful past.
"To write or not to write," Eva Gossman ponders in the first chapter of her Holocaust memoir, recounting the internal debate she had about whether to write this book. She asked many deep and tough questions: about whether it made sense, given all that has been written about the period, to write one more account; whether a personal narrative would add to historians' understanding; whether memory is reliable after so many years.
Once upon a time, Joel ben Izzy worked as a mime -- until he injured his hip in a car crash.
Then he became a storyteller who lost his voice.
"If I could market irony, I'd be rich," said the wry, rueful performer.
Ben Izzy -- who eventually regained his speech -- recounts the journey in a moving new book, "The Beggar King and the Secret of Happiness" (Algonquin, $22.95). Woven into the memoir are 15 multicultural folk tales, including the Talmudic legend of how King Solomon achieved wisdom after temporarily losing his empire.
Earlier this year, two remarkable authors came to town and changed the way I thought about being Jewish.
Frederic Brenner, the French photographer, came to speak about his new book, "Diaspora: Exiles at Home" (HarperCollins). The product of 25 years of work, the book contains photographs of Jews living very different kinds of lives in 45 different countries. The images are powerful, as are the accompanying analyses by some of the great thinkers and writers of our time.
7 Days in Arts
The author of "The Cross and the Pear Tree: A Sephardic Journey," a nonfiction work largely about that curse, died in Santa Cruz on June 14. He was 69.
While Louise Steinman was growing up Reform in Culver City, her father seemed unknowable. A taciturn, workaholic pharmacist, he never spoke of his combat experiences in the Pacific. But Asian food was banned from the house and his four children weren't allowed to cry in front of him. "Reminds him of the war," his wife said.
In fact, few people would have recognized Franklin's contribution had it not been for Watson.
Pride in American Jewish life, from the ivory towers to the country club greens, has centered on "Making It," as longtime Commentary Editor-in-Chief Norman Podhoretz unabashedly titled his 1968 memoir. More recently, popular oversized books like "Great Jewish Men" and "Great Jewish Women" adorn coffee tables and assure us that, though we disembarked from refugee ships, we have arrived. For the last 50 years, Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg has railed that we ought to busy ourselves less with how many of us sit in the Senate or nab Nobel Prizes -- and more with how many can read a page of Talmud. Hertzberg notes that Podhoretz's memoir includes not a single reference to the Holocaust and that we have "made it" to a better than 50 percent intermarriage rate.
"Girl Meets God: On the Path to Spiritual Life" by Lauren Winner (Algonquin Books, $23.95).
Lauren Winner's spiritual memoir, "Girl Meets God," is a passionate and thoroughly engaging account of a continuing spiritual journey within two profoundly different faiths.
Winner, the child of a Reform Jewish father and a "lapsed Southern Baptist" mother, was raised as a Jew in the South. Told she was not really Jewish, since Jewish law dictates that Judaism passes through the blood of the mother, she chose to convert to Orthodox Judaism at the end of high school, following her parents' divorce. By the end of her senior year at college, she decided that while in graduate school in England she would convert again, this time to evangelical Christianity.