Kaytek the Wizard Receives Honorable Mention in the 2013 Science Fiction and Fantasy in Translation Award!

August 28, 2013

Kaytek the WizardKaytek the Wizard (written by Janusz Korczak, translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones, illustrated by Avi Katz) received a Long Form Honorable Mention in the 2013 Science Fiction and Fantasy in Translation Award!

Reviews from the award website:

Alexis Brooks de Vita found Kaytek the Wizard “sublimely poignant, as painful as it is raw, so obviously written by a man who loves childhood and children and uses fantasy to prepare them—and us—for fatality as well as mortality. Huckleberry Finn more than Tom Sawyer, reaching across a century-and-a-half to conjure Harry Potter, Kaytek’s loner protagonist finally becomes not only Frankenstein but his self-created monster, a childish Melmoth the Wanderer, made wise enough to have become capable of conveying the author’s historically heartbreaking final lines.”

Kathryn Morrow added, “This is a fresh, sophisticated, and psychologically authentic exemplar of the Bildungsroman type of fantasy. The author’s unique sensibility is well served by Lloyd-Jones’s lively translation.”


Jewish Book Awards

January 31, 2013

Check out this comprehensive list of Jewish writing awards for Jewish fiction, non-fiction, journalism, poetry, children’s books and more!


Video of the 4th Annual Howard Adelman Lecture with author Robert Rubinstein

November 29, 2011

Click The 4th Annual Howard Adelman Lecture for the video online.
Featuring Robert Rubinstein, author of An Italian Renaissance: Choosing Life in Canada,
Winner of the 2011 Canadian Jewish Book Award, in the category of Holocaust Literature
Delivered at York University, Toronto

Robert Eli Rubinstein, An Italian Renaissance: Choosing Life In Canada 
Published by Urim Publications

The author, a businessman and community leader in Toronto has written a remarkable memoir of the physical and spiritual rejuvenation of his parents, Hungarian survivors of the Holocaust, after the unspeakable horrors they had experienced. With most of their immediate families murdered and the Russians imposing a new tyranny in Hungary, they decided to leave. Early in 1946, they and a few of their surviving relatives escaped to Italy. There, in a Displaced Persons camp located on the grounds of a former psychiatric hospital near Turin, birthplace of the author, they found the healing conditions to revive their hope in the future and their commitment to their faith.

By a fortunate, almost accidental chance, that future led them to Toronto, where the Rubinsteins and their cousins became leading real estate developers and benefactors of the community. This work, however, is not just the record of a remarkable family’s survival in the Holocaust and re-establishment in Canada; it is above all a sensitive tribute by a loving son of the debt he feels to his parents for the character and values they have imbued in him by their actions and example. Beautifully expressed, this memoir is a wonderful contribution to the hitherto largely ignored area of Holocaust survivors’ re-establishment of their shattered lives.


Howard Jacobson and the escape from Jewish destiny

October 9, 2011

by Shana Rosenblatt Mauer

Now that his Booker Prize win has made him a best-selling author in the U.S., Howard Jacobson’s publisher is bringing out his older titles there. First to appear: The Mighty Walzer, about the coming-of-age of a typically self-denying Mancunian Jew.

The Mighty Walzer by Howard Jacobson. Bloomsbury, 388 pages, $16 ‏(Paperback‏). U.K.: Vintage, 400 pages, £9
The Finkler Question, by Howard Jacobson
Bloomsbury, 307 pages, $15 ‏(Paperback‏)

Howard Jacobson, a writer who has been well-known in his native England for nearly three decades, has enjoyed a growing international reputation since winning the Man Booker prize last fall for his latest novel, The Finkler Question. In the wake of Finkler’s success, an earlier Jacobson novel, The Mighty Walzer, from 1999, has now been published in the United States for the first time. ‏(Bloomsbury has also just released his 1998 No More Mr. Nice Guy in the U.S.‏)

Written largely in the Mancunian jargon of its setting and punctuated by emphatic Yiddish slang and sentiment, it is not hard to understand why the book had not previously been released to the American market. For the uninitiated, many passages, sentences and words have to be read more than once. Yet, that very quality is the novel’s greatest strength.

There is little plot development and action in The Mighty Walzer, but the tale of Oliver Walzer’s journey from early adolescence to late adulthood is narrated in a conversational style that is so authentic and engaging that the lack of narrative intrigue is irrelevant. Oliver’s first-person account of his life rings true with the cadence, tone and descriptive powers of a compelling, if not necessarily likable, character.

The novel begins in the late 1950s, when Oliver is a shy, pre-adolescent trying to make sense of his lower middle-class Jewish family − a family that is, paradoxically, voluble and retiring, close-knit and disconnected − and its array of psychologically uneven relatives, Jewish friends and acquaintances. In explaining the Walzer family’s disparate character, Oliver notes: “Grandiosity was in the family …. On my father’s side.” In contrast, his mother’s side “went in for reserve.” It is a constellation of opposites that confounds him throughout his life, though he remains ever attuned to the fragility and woes of his family and friends. He comprehends how hard it is to be his father, a man with a bombastic nature who is limited by his trying economic circumstances.

How can a man like Joel Walzer be the kind of husband and father that his family expects, Oliver asks, “when his head’s full of plans. And big disappointments.” He is likewise sensitive to his mother’s timorous sisters, whom his father christens the Shrinking Violets. “Let a moth come in through an open window on a summer’s night and beat its wings in a lampshade, and their lives hung in doubt before them. A thread finer than cobweb attached them to life.” Read the rest of this entry »


2011 Helen and Stan Vine Canadian Jewish Book Awards

June 16, 2011

Congratulations to all the winners!

The writeup in The Canadian Jewish News on pages 1 and 18 can be found here, and a blog post on June 7, 2011 with pictures from the Awards ceremony can be found here.

2011 Helen and Stan Vine Canadian Jewish Book Awards: Citations

FICTION Alison Pick, Far to Go Published by House of Anansi Press Inc.

The magic of good storytelling brings into sharp relief the steady deterioration of Jewish daily life in Czechoslovakia under the influence Nazism just before the onset of World War II in Allison Pick’s novel Far to Go. Woven into the historical setting of the Czech Jewish experience is an exploration of the relationship of a contemporary historian of the Holocaust to her subject, upon the discovery of a set of letters that bring the past to life. The Jury was impressed with the crisp and elegant writing, and the novel’s subtle probing of the inner life of both Jews and non-Jews as Nazi racial ideology takes hold. The double narrative – past and present – examines the ways that the stories we uncover and tell shape our lives, our values, our sense of meaningfulness and possibilities.

POLITICS & HISTORY Tarek Fatah, The Jew is Not My Enemy: Unveiling the Myths that Fuel Muslim Anti-Semitism Published by McClelland & Stewart

It took courage for Tarek Fatah to write The Jew is Not My Enemy. It also takes courage for its Jewish and non-Jewish readers to follow the history of Muslim hate towards the Jews as the political activist and broadcaster depicts it, and the harsh but hopeful conclusion that there is no black and white resolution. The Jury noted the diligent scholarly and journalistic research examining the historical, political and theological ideas. In the end the book is a personal history of a journey towards tolerance and reconciliation.

HOLOCAUST LITERATURE Robert Eli Rubinstein, An Italian Renaissance: Choosing Life In Canada Published by Urim Publications

The author, a businessman and community leader in Toronto has written a remarkable memoir of the physical and spiritual rejuvenation of his parents, Hungarian survivors of the Holocaust, after the unspeakable horrors they had experienced. With most of their immediate families murdered and the Russians imposing a new tyranny in Hungary, they decided to leave. Early in 1946, they and a few of their surviving relatives escaped to Italy. There, in a Displaced Persons camp located on the grounds of a former psychiatric hospital near Turin, birthplace of the author, they found the healing conditions to revive their hope in the future and their commitment to their faith.

By a fortunate, almost accidental chance, that future led them to Toronto, where the Rubinsteins and their cousins became leading real estate developers and benefactors of the community. This work, however, is not just the record of a remarkable family’s survival in the Holocaust and re-establishment in Canada; it is above all a sensitive tribute by a loving son of the debt he feels to his parents for the character and values they have imbued in him by their actions and example. Beautifully expressed, this memoir is a wonderful contribution to the hitherto largely ignored area of Holocaust survivors’ re-establishment of their shattered lives.

BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR Charles Foran, Mordecai: The Life and Times Published by Random House Canada

A decade after his death at 71, Mordecai Richler has found the biographer he deserves. The jury declared that Charles Foran has written the definitive biography – generous, thoroughly researched, psychologically nuanced, highly readable. They lauded him for uncovering the demons that drove Richler to create. Foran shows how the novelist’s gritty early life in working-class Jewish Montreal and his experience as a child born of a poisoned marriage shaped his prickly personality, which remained unchanged throughout his life. Foran skillfully contrasts Richler, the tender father and husband, with the hard-drinking Richler who made people angry and uncomfortable. He reveals Richler as deeply moral, using his sharp wit to expose snobbery, hypocrisy, inauthenticity, lies, anti-Semitism, and cant of all kinds.

SCHOLARSHIP Harold Troper, The Defining Decade: Identity, Politics, and the Canadian Jewish Community in the 1960s Published by University of Toronto Press

While Jews were present in Canada almost from the birth of the country, their community always remained at the edge and separate from mainstream society. They were kept apart by internal and external contingencies. In the dramatic years after the Second World War, a new conscience emerged as the place Jews should occupy as individuals and as a community. In the 1960s, the blooming of the Jewish community reaches its maturity when it confronted and accepted inside dissident voices and fully engaged in the national community at all levels. Several events but mainly the Six Day war became moments of conscience when all members of the community took stand, realizing their place and role as Jews and as Canadian.

With great insight, Harold Troper offers us in The Defining Decade, a sensible analysis of the crucial years of transformation of the community, which parallels the one of the country. With great expertise and detailed documentation, he clearly exposes the many and deep changes and the dynamic of the process.

YOUTH LITERATURE Judie Oron, Cry of the Giraffe Published by Annick Press

Cry of the Giraffe is a powerful novel that skillfully achieves what characterizes the best of historical fiction: a seamless blending of the personal story of the main characters with the forces that alter the course of their lives. The story of young Wuditu is set against the ugly backdrop of government persecution of the Jews of Ethiopia, where they are demonized as a despised minority. The book provides an inside view of the daily lives of Ethiopia’s Jews, even offering a peek at their Passover customs and their schooling. Oron masterfully captures the drama of the Ethiopian story, tracing the difficult trek to the refugee camp in Sudan and the perilous situation of women left alone in a male-dominated world. The reader’s interest is gripped by the heroine’s courageous struggle, against unimaginable odds, to find her sister, protect herself, and flee to the Promised Land, “Yerusalem.” Cry of the Giraffe is a fitting celebration of the rescue of one family as we celebrate the twentieth anniversary of Operation Solomon, the airlift of 14,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel in May, 1991.


Political activist, broadcaster and founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress wins 2011 Canadian Jewish Book Award

May 2, 2011

TORONTO, April 21, 2011 – Koffler Centre of the Arts announces that Tarek Fatah, political activist, broadcaster and founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress, has won the 2011 Helen and Stan Vine Canadian Jewish Book Award in the Politics & History category.

The Helen and Stan Vine Canadian Jewish Book Awards is a program of the Koffler Centre of the Arts. The Awards ceremony takes place in Toronto on Monday, May 30 at 8 PM at the The Bram & Bluma Appel Salon at the Toronto Reference Library, 789 Yonge Street. This FREE event is open to the public and all are welcome.

Tarek Fatah’s critically acclaimed second book, The Jew is Not My Enemy: Unveiling the Myths that Fuel Muslim Anti-Semitism, debunks the anti-Jewish writings of Islamic literature and argues that hating Jews is against the essence of the Islamic spirit.

The Jew is not My Enemy is one of six winners of the 23rd annual awards. The panel of judges chose from a wide variety of submissions from books published in 2010 with significant Jewish content by Canadian authors in categories including Fiction, Biography & Memoir, and Youth Literature.

Other winners include Far to Go in the Fiction category by award winning Toronto-based author Alison Pick. Called “one of the best books of the year” by CBC Radio’s Shelagh Rogers, Pick’s novel is an epic historical novel tracing one family’s journey from Czechoslovakia to Canada during the Second World War. Mordecai: The Life and Times, Charles Foran’s definitive, detailed, intimate portrait of legendary Canadian author Mordecai Richler, has won in the Biography & Memoir category.

“The Helen and Stan Vine Canadian Jewish Book Awards honour important contributions to writing on Jewish-related subjects, stimulate publishing in Canada on Jewish subjects, and advance the careers of writers of Jewish themes and content,” says Lori Starr, Executive Director, Koffler Centre of the Arts and Vice President for Culture, UJA Federation of Greater Toronto. “The Koffler Centre of the Arts is thrilled to present these important awards which celebrate the very best in Canadian Jewish literature.”

“This year’s six award-winning books truly reflect the impact Jewish culture has had on all aspects of Canadian society,” adds writer Edward Trapunski, who chaired the distinguished judging panel that includes writers, academics, editors and experts in the literary field. This year’s jury members are Adam Fuerstenberg, Marjorie Gann, Judith Ghert, Alain Goldschläger, Sara Horowitz, Judy Stoffman, Edward Trapunski, and Judy Wolfe.

Full details on the event and all the winners are available at www.kofflerarts.org

The 2011 winners are:

FICTION
Alison Pick, Far to Go Published by House of Anansi Press Inc.

POLITICS & HISTORY
Tarek Fatah, The Jew is Not My Enemy: Unveiling the Myths that Fuel Muslim Anti-Semitism Published by McClelland & Stewart

HOLOCAUST LITERATURE
Robert Eli Rubinstein, An Italian Renaissance: Choosing Life In Canada
Published by Urim Publications

BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Charles Foran, Mordecai: The Life and Times Published by Random House Canada

SCHOLARSHIP
Harold Troper, The Defining Decade: Identity, Politics, and the Canadian Jewish Community in the 1960s Published by University of Toronto Press

YOUTH LITERATURE
Judie Oron, Cry of the Giraffe Published by Annick Press

Read the rest of this entry »


Posturing versus real criticism

March 27, 2011

by Dow Marmur

Two weeks ago, I heard Marina Nemat speak at the Jerusalem International Book Fair. She and her family came to Canada some 20 years ago and settled in the GTA. In the hell that is her native Iran, she was imprisoned as a 16 year old for having an independent mind and held for two years in the notorious Evin jail. She has written two books about her life that have been translated into many languages, including Hebrew. She was in Jerusalem as the guest of her Israeli publishers.

When it became known that she planned to come to Israel, “all her broke lose on the Internet,” she said, because “North Americans urged me to boycott the event.” She refused. As a victim of oppression and a survivor of unspeakable suffering, she has a lot in common with many Israelis and Palestinians. She came as a witness.

Nemat was in good company. The star of the book fair was the British novelist Ian McEwan, the recipient of the 2011 prestigious Jerusalem Prize for Literature awarded every two years to a foreign author with an international reputation.

The pressure on McEwan from British intellectuals to boycott the event was enormous. He, too, resisted and told his Jerusalem audience that he was happy and honoured to be there. He refused to yield not because he agrees with Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza but because he respects its democracy. Similarly, the Italian author Umberto Eco had to resist much pressure but, like many other eminent authors, chose to come.

McEwan spoke with admiration about three of Israel’s most distinguished writers — Amos Oz, A.B. Yehoshua and David Grossman — “who love their country, and made sacrifices for it and have been troubled by the directions it has taken.” A couple of days earlier, McEwan accompanied Grossman to the weekly demonstration in East Jerusalem to protest provocative efforts by Jewish extremists to displace Palestinian residents.

As a tangible expression of solidarity and commitment, McEwan donated the $10,000 prize to Read the rest of this entry »