Welcome to the June installment of our monthly books series, bringing you our most anticipated Jewish books of the month! June is gifting us with a wide diversity of Jewish stories, from a reissue of an antifascist novel published in 1938 to a heartwarming YA romance featuring a young Jewish harpist. Plus, don’t miss the “other books of note section,” highlighting a bunch more books you will definitely want to check out. As per usual, this list is all shoppable on Bookshop, a platform supporting local bookstores.
Happy reading! Happy June!
1. Morningside Heights by Joshua Henkin (June 15)
Joshua Henkin tells the story of a marriage between Pru and Spence, and what happens when Spence develops early-onset Alzheimer’s. What happens when the person you married becomes a different person? It is a beautifully written novel, and the story of their marriage and Spence’s illness is told with deep care. When Pru meets a divorced man, the possibility of a new romance unfolds as she is stuck trying to figure out how to care for her husband. Flashbacks throughout feature Spence’s estranged son, Arlo, and his current relationship with his father. A powerful novel of families, love and health.
Read if you’re into: crying while you read. The Jewish angle: Both main characters, Spence and Pru, are Jewish, and Spence’s Lower East Side childhood reemerges in the throes of his illness. Get it here.
2. The Hidden Palace: A Novel of the Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker (June 8)
Chava is a golem, a woman made of clay, who can hear the thoughts and longings of those around her and feels compelled by her nature to help them. Ahmad is a jinni, a restless creature of fire, once free to roam the desert but now imprisoned in the shape of a man. Chava and Ahmad both try to pass as human in 1900s Manhattan, but they impact the actual humans around them. A sequel to “The Golem and the Jinni,” it’s just as magical as the first, and includes two new characters — an heiress, Sophia, who searches for a cure to her mysterious illness and travels to the Middle East and meets a jinni, and Kreindel, a young Jewish girl on the Lower East Side who builds a golem, Yossele, with her rabbi father. A captivating story.
Read if you’re into: Jewish folklore, romance. The Jewish angle: the titular golem, hello!! Get it here.
3. The Summer of Lost Letters by Hannah Reynolds (June 15)
Abby Schoenberg is 17 and she’s just broken up with her boyfriend. It’s the summer before senior year and she has no clue what she’s doing — until her recently deceased grandmother’s possessions show up, including love letters from a man named Edward. Abby didn’t know much about her grandmother’s past, except that she fled Germany at age 5, escaping the Holocaust. So, she sets off to Nantucket, where Edward sent the letters from, to understand her grandma better. There, she meets Edward’s grandson, Noah, who doesn’t want her to look into his family’s past. (He’s good-looking, too, obvs.) Jewish author Hannah Reynolds has crafted a wonderful story of teenage love and family secrets — one that will stick with you long after you put it down.
Read if you’re into: family secrets, YA romance. The Jewish angle: the legacy of the Holocaust, Jewish family secrets, the Jewish protagonist. Get it here.
4. Continuum by Chella Man (June 1)
“All of who I am lies on a continuum. My identity cannot be encompassed by a single term,” writes Chella Man, a Jewish Chinese actor, artist and activist. “My ethnicity. I am biracial. I am both Jewish and Chinese. My gender. I am genderqueer, existing outside of the binary of ‘boy’ and ‘girl.’ My disability. I am Deaf with access to some sound through two cochlear implants. My sexuality. I am pansexual, loving beyond ‘straight’ or ‘gay.'” Chella Man beautifully writes of his experiences within his Deaf, transgender, genderqueer, Jewish and Chinese identities. A must-read essay that is part of the Pocket Change Collective series.
Read if you’re into: well, CHELLA MAN!! Also, queer Jews! The Jewish angle: once again, Chella Man!!! Get it here.
5. Address Unknown by Katherine Kressmann Taylor (June 29)
I am cheating a little; this is a reissue of a book initially published in 1938. But there’s a new introduction, so let’s call it new? Originally published in Story magazine in 1938, “Address Unknown” is “credited with exposing the dangers of Nazism to American readers early on, it is also a scathing indictment of fascist movements around the world and a harrowing exposé of the power of the pen as a weapon.” The story is a series of letters between Max, a Jewish art dealer living in San Francisco, and Martin, his former business parter in Berlin, in 1932. As Martin turns on Max, you realize how quickly antisemitism and fascism can take hold. A powerful, ever-relevant read.
Read if you’re into: reading classics, thinking about fascism. The Jewish angle: the Jewish main character, Max, witnessing the rise of Nazism. Get it here.
6. Life on the Line: Young Doctors Come of Age in a Pandemic by Emma Goldberg (June 8)
I wasn’t sure if I was ready to read about the pandemic, but boy am I glad I started with Emma Goldberg’s “Life on the Line.” Her book is the eye-opening story of six young doctors who were on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City, all of whom graduated early from med school to go work. Goldberg, a New York Times journalist, expertly tells the story of the six new doctors — Sam, Gabriela, Iris, Elana, Jay and Ben — after having spent extensive time with them, their families and loved ones. What results is an emotional portrait of what working as a new doctor during the pandemic felt like, and it’s hard to put down. Two of the doctors are Jewish, and their stories were particularly powerful as a Jewish reader. Sam, a gay Jewish man, is shaped by the legacy of the AIDS pandemic — he met his partner, Jeremy, marching in a NYC AIDS walk for their synagogue, Beit Simchat Torah, a queer congregation. And Elana is moved by the Jewish value of pikuach nefesh (saving a life) — her first Friday working in a COVID ward, she realizes she would not make it home before sundown. “As the sky outside the hospital darkened, Elana had to keep repeating to herself: Saving a life trumps the Sabbath,” Goldberg writes. Each of the stories of the six doctors she follows are heartbreaking and powerful and inspiring. Goldberg also expertly works in the history of the American medical system and the homogeneity of America’s doctors and what that means for patients. Overall, even if you’re not ready to read about the pandemic: Read this.
Read if you’re into: narrative nonfiction, thinking about the pandemic and American healthcare systems. The Jewish angle: Two of the doctors she focuses on are Jewish, and Goldberg is a Jewish writer. Plus, “Life on the Line” is set in New York, the epicenter of the pandemic, a very Jewish place. Get it here.
7. Something Wild by Hanna Halperin (June 29)
Hanna Halperin’s debut novel is the story of sisters Tanya and Nessa Bloom who return to their childhood home in the Boston suburbs to help their mother move out. As they return, they realize their mother is in an abusive relationship with their stepfather, and Tanya tries to urge her to get a restraining order. However, Nessa’s response to the abuse brings back a traumatic moment in the Bloom sisters’ childhood and the wide-ranging impact its had on them in the present. I just love how it’s described: “A magnetic, unflinching portrait of the bond between sisters, as well as a psychologically acute exploration of the legacy of divorce, the ways trauma reverberates over generations, and how it might be possible to overcome the past.” A powerful, heartbreaking story you won’t be able to put down.
Read if you’re into: sisterhood, stories that unfold simultaneously in the past and present, understanding legacies of abuse. The Jewish angle: There are many! Hanna Halperin, the author, is Jewish. The Bloom sisters in the story are an interfaith Catholic-Jewish family & Tanya, who married a Jewish man, is struggling with her Jewish identity (classic). Get it here.
8. We Can’t Keep Meeting Like This by Rachel Lynn Solomon (June 8)
This new YA romance is between a Jewish wedding harpist, Quinn Berkowitz, and a cater-waiter, Tarek Mansour. Quinn and Tarek’s families have been in the wedding business together for years, and last summer, Quinn confessed her crush on Tarek — and then he left for college and didn’t respond. It’s a new wedding season, they’re forced to work together, and Quinn can’t deny her feelings. As Quinn struggles to figure out what she really wants to do with her life, the thought of joining her family’s wedding business fills her with a sense of dread. “We Can’t Keep Meeting Like This” is effortlessly Jewish; there are details about mezuzahs and BBYO and messy, complicated Jewish families. And, Quinn and Tarek’s love story is really a freaking DELIGHT.
Read if you’re into: love stories!!! The Jewish angle: Quinn, the protagonist, is Jewish. Get it here.
Other Jewish Books of Note
- “The Netanyahus: An Account of a Minor and Ultimately Even Negligible Episode in the History of a Very Famous Family” by Jewish novelist Joshua Cohen is the story of one disastrous night in the winter of 1959/1960 when Benzion Netanyahu, the historian and father of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, interviews for a teaching position at a fictional college in upstate New York. (June 22)
- “SPIN: A Novel Based on a (Mostly) True Story” by Peter Zheutlin is the tale of Annie Londonderry, the Jewish woman who became the first woman to cycle around the world. Jewish author Zheutlin is a descendant of Annie, making this for a family story. Plus, I am always in favor of more biographies of female athletes! (June 1)
- Amanda Montell’s “Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism” is a fascinating look at cults. It doesn’t dive into any Jewish cults but the Jewish linguist dives into the spectrum of cults — from Jonestown to Instagram influencers. (June 15)
- “Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch” by Rivka Galchen, a historical fiction novel from the Jewish author about Katharina Kepler, the mother of astronomer Johannes Kepler. (June 8)
- Jewish professor Eli Faber’s posthumous book “The Child in the Electric Chair: The Execution of George Junius Stinney Jr. and the Making of a Tragedy in the American South” tells the tale of a 14-year-old Black boy executed in South Carolina after a trial that only lasted a few hours. (June 25)
- “Bodies Are Cool” by Jewish illustrator Tyler Feder, a delightful children’s book about bodies. (June 1)
- Anne Sebba’s “Ethel Rosenberg: An American Tragedy,” the story of the Jewish woman who was convicted as a spy and executed in 1953. (June 8)
- Speaking of, Francine Prose’s “The Vixen” uses the Rosenbergs’ execution as a jumping off point to tell the story of a young Jewish editor dealing with editing a terrible anti-communist novel that sensationalizes their exploits in the U.S. (June 29)
- Jewish author Mike Rothschild dives into QAnon, including how QAnon is a deeply antisemitic movement, in “The Storm is Upon Us: How QAnon Became a Movement, Cult, and Conspiracy Theory of Everything.” (June 22)
- “Wolf Lamb Bomb,” a debut poetry collection from Jewish writer Aviya Kushner. The collection reimagines the Book of Isaiah in an intimate conversation between woman and prophet. (June 1)
- “The Engagement: America’s Quarter-Century Struggle Over Same-Sex Marriage” by Jewish author Sasha Issenberg chronicles the 25 years leading up to the Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage. (June 1)
Even more summer reading this way!
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