TE Book Club

Temple Emanuel Book Club

2022 Titles and Dates - All Meetings on Tuesdays

 

January 25, 2022:  The Last Million by David Nasaw (Discussion led by Ted Weinberg)

March 1, 2022:  House on Endless Waters by Emuna Elon (Discussion led by Barbara Lewington)

April 5, 2022:  The House of Fragile Things: Jewish Art Collectors and the Fall of France by James McAuley (Discussion led by Lisa Silverberg)

May 17, 2022:  The Paris Hours by Alex George (Alex will join us)

June 14, 2022: Caste by Isabelle Wilkinson (Discussion led by Michelle Drabin)

July 19, 2022: A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende (Discussion led by Yona Weinberg)

August 23, 2022:  The Bee Play. Play reading led by Eddie Coffield, Artistic Director of the

New Jewish Theatre. A copy of the play will be sent to you in advance.

Performed September 8 through September 28.

September 20, 2022:  The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris (Discussion led by Norm Berkowitz)

October 25, 2022:  Digging to America by Anne Tyler (Discussion led by Harriet Turner)

November 29, 2022: The Tunnel by A. B. Yehoshua (Discussion led by Ted Weinberg)

December 27, 2022: The Thread by Victoria Hislop (Discussion led by Yona Weinberg)

 

The Last Million by David Nasaw

In May 1945, German forces surrendered to the Allied powers, putting an end to World War II in Europe. But the aftershocks of global military conflict did not cease with the German capitulation. Millions of lost and homeless concentration camp survivors, POWs, slave laborers, political prisoners, and Nazi collaborators in flight from the Red Army overwhelmed Germany, a nation in ruins. British and American soldiers gathered the malnourished and desperate refugees and attempted to repatriate them. But after exhaustive efforts, there remained more than a million

displaced persons left behind in Germany: Jews, Poles, Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Ukrainians, and other Eastern Europeans who refused to go home or had no homes to return to. The Last Million would spend the next three to five years in displaced persons camps, temporary homelands in exile, divided by nationality, with their own police forces, churches and synagogues, schools, newspapers, theaters, and infirmaries.

 

The international community could not agree on the fate of the Last Million, and after a year of debate and inaction, the International Refugee Organization was created to resettle them in lands suffering from postwar labor shortages. But no nations were willing to accept the 200,000 to 250,000 Jewish men, women, and children who remained trapped in Germany. In 1948, the United States, among the last countries to accept refugees for resettlement, finally passed a displaced persons bill. With Cold War fears supplanting memories of World War II atrocities, the bill

granted the vast majority of visas to those who were reliably anti-Communist, including thousands of former Nazi collaborators and war criminals, while severely limiting the entry of Jews, who were suspected of being Communist sympathizers or agents because they had been recent residents of Soviet-dominated Poland. Only after the controversial partition of Palestine and Israel's declaration of independence were the remaining Jewish survivors able to leave their displaced persons camps in Germany.

 

House on Endless Waters by Emuna Elon

At the behest of his agent, renowned author Yoel Blum reluctantly agrees to visit his birthplace of Amsterdam to promote his books, despite promising his late mother that he would never return to that city. While touring the Jewish Historical Museum with his wife, Yoel stumbles upon footage portraying prewar Dutch Jewry and is astonished to see the youthful face of his beloved mother staring back at him, posing with his father, his older sister...and an infant he doesn’t recognize.

 

This unsettling discovery launches him into a fervent search for the truth, shining a light on Amsterdam’s dark wartime history—the underground networks that hid Jewish children away from danger and those who betrayed their own for the sake of survival. The deeper into the past Yoel digs to tell the story of his life, the better he understands his mother’s silence, and the more urgent the question that has unconsciously haunted him for a lifetime—Who am I?—becomes.

 

Part family mystery, part wartime drama, House on Endless Waters is an unforgettable meditation on identity, belonging, and the inextricable nature of past and present."

 

The House of Fragile Things: Jewish Art Collectors and the Fall of France by James McAuley

This is about the 5 prominent Jewish families -Rothschild, Cahen d’Anverse, Fuld, Camando, Reinach-and how they got it all so wrong.

 

In the dramatic years between 1870 and the end of World War II, a number of prominent French Jews—pillars of an embattled community—invested their fortunes in France’s cultural artifacts, sacrificed their sons to the country’s army, and were ultimately rewarded by seeing their collections plundered and their families deported to Nazi concentration camps.

 

In this rich, evocative account, James McAuley explores the central role that art and material culture played in the assimilation and identity of French Jews in the fin-de-siècle. Weaving together narratives of various figures, some familiar from the works of Marcel Proust and the diaries of Jules and Edmond Goncourt—the Camondos, the Rothschilds, the Ephrussis, the Cahens d'Anvers—McAuley shows how Jewish art collectors contended with a powerful strain of anti-Semitism: they were often accused of “invading” France’s cultural patrimony. The collections

these families left behind—many ultimately donated to the French state—were their response, tragic attempts to celebrate a nation that later betrayed them.

 

The Paris Hours by Alex George

Told over the course of a single day in 1927, Alex George's The Paris Hours takes four ordinary people whose stories, told together, are as extraordinary as the glorious city they inhabit. Paris between the wars teems with artists, writers, and musicians, a glittering crucible of genius. But amidst the dazzling creativity of the city’s most famous citizens, four regular people are each searching for something they’ve lost.

 

Camille was the maid of Marcel Proust, and she has a secret: when she was asked to burn her employer’s notebooks, she saved one for herself. Now she is desperate to find it before her betrayal is revealed. Souren, an Armenian refugee, performs puppet shows for children that are nothing like the fairy tales they expect. Lovesick artist Guillaume is down on his luck and running from a debt he cannot repay―but when Gertrude Stein walks into his studio, he wonders if this is the day everything could change. And Jean-Paul is a journalist who tells other people’s stories,

because his own is too painful to tell. When the quartet’s paths finally cross in an unforgettable climax, each discovers if they will find what they are looking for.

 

Caste by Isabelle Wilkinson

In this brilliant book, Isabel Wilkerson gives us a masterful portrait of an unseen phenomenon in America as she explores, through an immersive, deeply researched narrative and stories about real people, how America today and throughout its history has been shaped by a hidden caste system, a rigid hierarchy of human rankings.

 

Beyond race, class, or other factors, there is a powerful caste system that influences people’s lives and behavior and the nation’s fate. Linking the caste systems of America, India, and Nazi Germany, Wilkerson explores eight pillars that underlie caste systems across civilizations, including divine will, bloodlines, stigma, and more. Using riveting stories about people—including Martin Luther King, Jr., baseball’s Satchel Paige, a single father and his toddler son, Wilkerson herself, and many others—she shows the ways that the insidious undertow of caste is experienced

every day. She documents how the Nazis studied the racial systems in America to plan their out-cast of the Jews; she discusses why the cruel logic of caste requires that there be a bottom rung for those in the middle to measure themselves against; she writes about the surprising health costs of caste, in depression and life expectancy, and the effects of this hierarchy on our culture and politics. Finally, she points forward to ways America can move beyond the artificial and destructive separations of human divisions, toward hope in our common humanity.

 

Beautifully written, original, and revealing, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents is an eye-opening story of people and history, and a reexamination of what lies under the surface of ordinary lives and of American life today.

 

A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende

In the 1930s, civil war gripped Spain, when General Franco and his Fascists succeeded in overthrowing the government, hundreds of thousands are forced to flee over the mountains to the French border. Among them is Roser, a pregnant young widow, who finds her life intertwined with Victor Dalmau, an army doctor and brother-in-law. In order to survive, the two must marry though neither wants to, together they are sponsored by poet Pablo Neruda to embark on the SS Winnipeg along with 2,200 other refugees for a new life. They emigrate to Chile as the rest of Europe erupts in World War. Starting over on a new continent, they will face test after test. But they also find joy as they wait patiently for a day when they are exiles no more, and will find friends in the most unlikely of places. Through it all, it is that hope of being reunited with their home that keeps them going. And in the end, they will find that home might have been closer than they thought all along.

 

The Bee Play by Elizabeth Savage

Carver Washington, a brilliant, young beekeeper from the Bronx finds his only respite from caring for his little sister and his housebound grandmother by escaping to his oasis on his building’s roof. Rooftop visits from Devora, a kindred spirit fresh out of Yale who’s setting up a kibbutz in the neighborhood, lead them to share their dreams, anxieties and hopes during a time of colony collapse, both for bees and humans. With the city far below, they wonder together what forgiveness might look like in the 21st century.

 

The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris

In the spirit of The Known World and The Underground Railroad, a profound debut about the unlikely bond between two freedmen who are brothers and the Georgia farmer whose alliance will alter their lives, and his, forever.

 

Digging to America by Anne Tyler

In what is perhaps her richest and most deeply searching novel, Anne Tyler gives us a story about what it is to be an American, and about Maryam Yazdan, who after thirty-five years in this country must finally come to terms with her “outsiderness.”

 

Two families, who would otherwise never have come together, meet by chance at the Baltimore airport—the Donaldsons, a very American couple, and the Yazdans, Maryam’s fully assimilated son and his attractive Iranian American wife. Each couple is awaiting the arrival of an adopted infant daughter from Korea. After the babies from distant Asia are delivered, Bitsy Donaldson impulsively invites the Yazdans to celebrate with an “arrival party,” an event that is repeated every year as the two families become more deeply intertwined.

 

Even independent-minded Maryam is drawn in. But only up to a point. When she finds herself being courted by one of the Donaldson clan, a good-hearted man of her vintage, recently widowed and still recovering from his wife’s death, suddenly all the values she cherishes—her traditions, her privacy, her otherness—are threatened. Somehow this big American takes up so much space that the orderly boundaries of her life feel invaded.

 

The Tunnel by A. B. Yehoshua

Zvi Luria is a retired road engineer who has been having trouble remembering first names., days of the week and his car ignition code. His family has noticed his forgetfulness and his wife takes him to a neurologist who finds that a small part of Zvi's brain is atrophied. This indicates dementia and cognitive decline but there are no telling how fast it will progress.

 

Zvi’s wife, a pediatrician, wants Zvi to stay active and engaged in life, a recommendation seconded by the neurologist. She helps him get a job as an unpaid assistant to a road engineer who is in charge of building a road in a crater in the Negev Desert. This is considered a covert military operation. What Zvi didn't bank on was the family of Palestinian nomads living in the crater under the protection of Shibbolet, an archeological anthropologist.

 

Living nearby where the roadwork is to be built - and a tunnel connecting easy entrance between Israel and Palestine....is a Palestinian family living ( mostly secretly), up on a hill. Luria becomes friends with the young women....who's family is living on the hill. It gets complicated -- boundaries - human justice -road work - and so on...and we witness how Luria manages his relationships- his job expertise - with his new medical condition. Driving a car becomes an issue. Luria continues having medical checkups on the status of his (shhh: non dementia).... and his

wife (Mrs. Medical Doctor herself), becomes very sick. There are a few hilarious scenes —I may never think of Romeo and Juliet the same again. Or a reader may think twice before allowing Grandpa to watch over two little kids as the single adult Guardian in charge.

 

The Thread by Victoria Hislop

The Thread is a magnificent story of a friendship and a love that endures through the catastrophes and upheavals of the twentieth century-both natural and man-made-in the turbulent city of Thessaloniki, Greece. Victoria Hislop, internationally bestselling author of The Island and The Return, has written a wonderfully evocative and enthralling saga enriched by deep emotion and sweeping historical events, from fire to civil war to Nazi brutality and economic collapse. The Thread is historical fiction at its finest, colorful, and captivating with truly unforgettable

characters-a novel that brilliantly captures the energy and life of this singular Greek city.