Oakton Reads Jewish Literature
Wednesdays, 7-8:30 p.m., Room A145-152, Skokie Campus
Registration is free through the Alliance for Lifelong Learning Office
Every Spring Semester Oakton Community College Library hosts a Jewish Literature series entitled Oakton Reads Jewish Literature. This year’s five-part series of readings, lectures, and discussions will be led by 3 distinguished professors: Davis Schneiderman and Josh Corey from Lake Forest College, and Elana Barron, English Professor at Oakton Community College. The books being discussed this current semester are:
A Backpack, A Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka: A Memoir
by Lev Golinkin
Meeting Date: February 1, 2017
“A compelling story of two intertwined journeys: a Jewish refugee family fleeing persecution and a young man seeking to reclaim a shattered past. In the twilight of the Cold War (the late 1980s), nine-year old Lev Golinkin and his family cross the Soviet border with only ten suitcases, $600, and the vague promise of help awaiting in Vienna. Years later, Lev, now an American adult, sets out to retrace his family’s long trek, locate the strangers who fought for his freedom, and in the process, gain a future by understanding his past.
Lev Golinkin’s memoir is the vivid, darkly comic, and poignant story of a young boy in the confusing and often chilling final decade of the Soviet Union. It’s also the story of Lev Golinkin, the American man who finally confronts his buried past by returning to Austria and Eastern Europe to track down the strangers who made his escape possible . . . and say thank you. Written with biting, acerbic wit and emotional honesty in the vein of Gary Shteyngart, Jonathan Safran Foer, and David Bezmozgis, Golinkin’s search for personal identity set against the relentless currents of history is more than a memoir—it’s a portrait of a lost era. This is a thrilling tale of escape and survival, a deeply personal look at the life of a Jewish child caught in the last gasp of the Soviet Union, and a provocative investigation into the power of hatred and the search for belonging. Lev Golinkin achieves an amazing feat—and it marks the debut of a fiercely intelligent, defiant, and unforgettable new voice” (Descriptive content provided by Syndetics).
The Parnas: A Scene from the Holocaust
by Silvano Arieti
Meeting Date: Februray 22, 2017
“The Parnas recreates the final days of Giuseppe Pardo Roques, the lay leader, or parnas, of the Sephardic Jewish community of Pisa, Italy, who was killed in his home by the Nazis in August, 1944. Pardo was a mentor to the author, and, indeed, he was a figure adored and celebrated not only by the Jews of Pisa but by the Christians as well. He was learned and generous, but he was also profoundly phobic. Animals terrified him: so much so that he almost never left his house—except to go to the synagogue—for fear of encountering stray dogs or cats.
At the outbreak of World War II, Arieti fled to America where he became a renown psychiatrist. But the parnas, despite a wealth of connections that could have helped him escape, was too phobic to flee Pisa. On the morning of August 1, 1944, Nazi soldiers, searching for Pardo’s fabled riches, entered his home. The soldiers found neither gold nor silver, but they did find the parnas, along with six fellow Jews whom he was sheltering and five Christian neighbors. All were murdered.
In The Parnas, Arieti imagines what took place in the home, and in the mind, of this devout, kindly, and tormented man in the last days of his life, providing, in the process, an overview of Italian Jewry. Arieti hopes to show ‘that tragic times have a perfume of their own, and smiles of hope, and traces of charm, and offer olive branches and late warnings that may not be too late” (Descriptive content provided by Syndetics).
The Paris Architect
by Charles Belfoure
Meeting Date: March 22,2017
“In 1942 Paris, architect Lucien Bernard accepts a commission that will bring him a great deal of money—and maybe get him killed. All he has to do is design a secret hiding place for a wealthy Jewish man, a space so invisible that even the most determined German officer won’t find it.
He sorely needs the money, and outwitting the Nazis who have occupied his beloved city is a challenge he can’t resist. When one of his hiding spaces fails horribly, and the problem of where to hide a Jew becomes terribly personal, Lucien can no longer ignore what’s at stake.
Written by an architect whose knowledge imbues every page, this story becomes more gripping with every soul hidden and every life saved” (Descriptive content provided by Syndetics).
The Golem and the Jinni
by Helen Wecker
Meeting Date: April 19, 2017
“Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a strange man who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic. Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire, born in the ancient Syrian Desert. Trapped in an old copper flask by a Bedouin wizard centuries ago, he is released accidentally by a tinsmith in a Lower Manhattan shop.
Struggling to make their way in 1899 New York, the Golem and the Jinni try to fit in with their immigrant neighbors while masking their true selves. Meeting by chance, they become unlikely friends whose tenuous attachment challenges their opposing natures, until the night a terrifying incident drives them back into their separate worlds. But a powerful menace will soon bring the Golem and the Jinni together again, threatening their existence and forcing them to make a fateful choice.
Marvelous and compulsively readable, The Golem and the Jinni weaves strands of folk mythology, historical fiction, and magical fable into a wondrously inventive and unforgettable tale” (Descriptive content provided by Syndetics).
Marriage of Opposites
by Alice Hoffman
Meeting Date: May 10, 2017
“From the New York Times bestselling author of The Dovekeepers and The Museum of Extraordinary Things: a forbidden love story set on the tropical island of St. Thomas about the extraordinary woman who gave birth to painter Camille Pissarro—the Father of Impressionism.
Growing up on idyllic St. Thomas in the early 1800s, Rachel dreams of life in faraway Paris. Rachel’s mother, a pillar of their small refugee community of Jews who escaped the Inquisition, has never forgiven her daughter for being a difficult girl who refuses to live by the rules. Growing up, Rachel’s salvation is their maid Adelle’s belief in her strengths, and her deep, life-long friendship with Jestine, Adelle’s daughter.
But Rachel’s life is not her own. She is married off to a widower with three children to save her father’s business. When her husband dies suddenly and his handsome, much younger nephew, Frédérick, arrives from France to settle the estate, Rachel seizes her own life story, beginning a defiant, passionate love affair that sparks a scandal that affects all of her family, including her favorite son, who will become one of the greatest artists of France” (Descriptive content provided by Syndetics).
-posted by Kevin Purtell
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