TE Book Club

Temple Emanuel Book Club

2021-22 Titles and Dates

 

February 2021

We Are the Levinsons: A Comedy - (a play by Wendy Kout)

Rosie, a daughter with mother issues, surprises her parents with a trip home. And life surprises Rosie with losing her mother, moving in with her grieving father, hiring a live-in, transgender caregiver, and dealing with her own daughter’s mother issues. Sanity, survival and humor are tested and love is deepened in this three generation family and chosen family comedy/drama.

 

March 2021

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummines

Lydia Quixano Pérez runs a bookstore in Acapulco, Mexico, where she lives with her husband, Sebastián, who is a journalist, and their son, Luca. When a man starts visiting her store, buying books and striking up a friendship, she has no idea initially that he will be responsible for turning her life upside down. But Lydia and Luca will have to flee Acapulco, setting them on a journey they will share with countless other Central and South Americans-turned migrants. There is very little I can say about this novel that hasn't already been said, and it hasn't even been published yet. The buzz has been building early, and when it does go on sale it will likely be one of the most talked about (and widely read) books of the year. From the colossal opening chapter to the epilogue, American Dirt is a novel of crisp writing, urgent pacing, and remarkable empathy. It deserves the attention it has received.

 

April 2021

The Sistine Secrets by Rabbi Benjamin Blech and Roy Doliner

Five hundred years ago Michelangelo began work on a painting that became one of the most famous pieces of art in the world—the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Every year millions of people come to see Michelangelo's Sistine ceiling, which is the largest fresco painting on earth in the holiest of Christianity's chapels; yet there is not one single Christian image in this vast, magnificent artwork.

 

June 2021

Saving The Music by Vincent Lococo

It is the winter of 1942, and the world is at war. A few Jewish musicians attempt to flee the Nazi death grip, each desperately trying to navigate his own path to safety. With the courageous aid and kindness of strangers, they soon find themselves in Rome, where under the highly secret help of the Vatican, they are hidden in Bellafortuna, a small village in Sicily. The residents of Bellafortuna welcome them and care for them, and for a fleeting moment, the horrors the musicians are facing are forgotten while residing in the beautiful, idyllic landscape of Sicily.

 

July 2021

A Good American by Alex George

It is 1904. When Frederick and Jette must flee her disapproving mother, where better to go than America, the land of the new? Originally set to board a boat to New York, at the last minute, they take one destined for New Orleans instead ("What's the difference? They're both new"), and later find themselves, more by chance than by design, in the small town of Beatrice, Missouri. Not speaking a word of English, they embark on their new life together.

Beatrice is populated with unforgettable characters: a jazz trumpeter from the Big Easy who cooks a mean gumbo, a teenage boy trapped in the body of a giant, a pretty schoolteacher who helps the young men in town learn about a lot more than just music, a minister who believes he has witnessed the Second Coming of Christ, and a malevolent, bicycle-riding dwarf.

 

September 2021

Razor Girl by Carl Hiaasen

When Lane Coolman's car is bashed from behind on the road to the Florida Keys, what appears to be an ordinary accident is anything but. Behind the wheel of the other car is Merry Mansfield--the eponymous Razor Girl--and the crash scam is only the beginning of events that spiral crazily out of control.

 

October 2021

The Convert by Stefan Hertmans (translated by David McKay)

The Middle Ages have just begun when Vigdis Adelaïs, a young woman from a prosperous French family, falls in love with David Todros, a student at the city's yeshiva, and the son of a rabbi. To be together, they must flee their city, Vigdis renouncing a life of privilege and comfort. Pursued by her father's knights and in constant danger of betrayal, the lovers embark on a dangerous journey to the south of France, only to find their brief happiness destroyed by the vicious wave of anti-Semitism that sweeps Europe with the onset of the First Crusade. This meticulously retraces Vigdis's epic journey, first across France and then beyond, to Palermo and the Middle East.

 

November 2021

The Library Book by Susan Orlean

On the morning of April 28, 1986, a fire alarm sounded in the Los Angeles Public Library. The fire was disastrous: it reached two thousand degrees and burned for more than seven hours. By the time it was extinguished, it had consumed four hundred thousand books and damaged seven hundred thousand more. Investigators descended on the scene, but more than thirty years later, the mystery remains: Did someone purposefully set fire to the library—and if so, who?

December 2021

Evicted: Poverty and Profits in the American City by Matthew Desmond

Princeton sociologist and MacArthur "Genius" Matthew Desmond follows eight families in Milwaukee as they struggle to keep a roof over their heads. Evicted transforms our understanding of poverty and economic exploitation while providing fresh ideas for solving one of 21st-century America's most devastating problems. Its unforgettable scenes of hope and loss remind us of the centrality of home, without which nothing else is possible.

 

January 2022 

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.