Oakton Reads Jewish Literature 2020

Posted on January 24, 2020. Filed under: Event, Fiction, Nonfiction | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

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 2 distinguished professors: Davis Schneiderman and Josh Corey from Lake Forest College and Elana Barron from Oakton Community College. The books being discussed this current semester are:

Memento Park
by Mark Sarvas
Meeting Date: January 29

“After receiving an unexpected call from the Australian consulate, Matt Santos becomes aware of a painting that he believes was looted from his family in Hungary during the Second World War. To recover the painting, he must repair his strained relationship with his harshly judgmental father, uncover his family history, and restore his connection to his own Judaism. Along the way to illuminating the mysteries of his past, Matt is torn between his doting girlfriend, Tracy, and his alluring attorney, Rachel, with whom he travels to Budapest to unearth the truth about the painting and, in turn, his family. As his journey progresses, Matt’s revelations are accompanied by equally consuming and imaginative meditations on the painting and the painter at the center of his personal drama, Budapest Street Scene by Ervin Kalman. By the time Memento Park reaches its conclusion, Matt’s narrative is as much about family history and father-son dynamics as it is about the nature of art itself, and the infinite ways we come to understand ourselves through it. Of all the questions asked by Mark Sarvas’s Memento Park—about family and identity, about art and history—a central, unanswerable predicament lingers: How do we move forward when the past looms unreasonably large?” (Descriptive content provided by Syndetics).

The Merchant of Venice
by William Shakespeare; edited by Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine
Meeting Date: February 19

“In The Merchant of Venice, the path to marriage is hazardous. To win Portia, Bassanio must pass a test prescribed by her father’s will, choosing correctly among three caskets or chests. If he fails, he may never marry at all. Bassanio and Portia also face a magnificent villain, the moneylender Shylock. In creating Shylock, Shakespeare seems to have shared in a widespread prejudice against Jews. Shylock would have been regarded as a villain because he was a Jew. Yet he gives such powerful expression to his alienation due to the hatred around him that, in many productions, he emerges as the hero” (Descriptive content provided by Syndetics).

The Day of Atonement: A Novel
by David Liss
Meeting Date: March 25

“Sebastião Raposa is only thirteen when his parents are unjustly imprisoned, never to be seen again, and he is forced to flee Portugal lest he too fall victim to the Inquisition. But ten years in exile only serve to whet his appetite for vengeance. Returning at last to Lisbon, in the guise of English businessman Sebastian Foxx, he is no longer a frightened boy but a dangerous man tormented by violent impulses. Haunted by the specter of all he has lost—including his exquisite first love—Foxx is determined to right old wrongs by punishing an unforgivable enemy with unrelenting fury.

Well schooled by his benefactor, the notorious bounty hunter Benjamin Weaver, in the use of wits, fists, and a variety of weapons, Foxx stalks the ruthless Inquisitor priest Pedro Azinheiro. But in a city ruled by terror and treachery, where money and information can buy power and trump any law, no enemy should be underestimated and no ally can be trusted. Having risked everything, and once again under the watchful eye of the Inquisition, Foxx finds his plans unraveling as he becomes drawn into the struggles of old friends—and new enemies—none of whom, like Lisbon itself, are what they seem.

Compelled to play a game of deception and greed, Sebastian Foxx will find himself befriended, betrayed, tempted by desire, and tormented by personal turmoil. And when a twist of fate turns his carefully laid plans to chaos, he will be forced to choose between surrendering to blood lust or serving the cause of mercy” (Descriptive content provided by Syndetics).

Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian
by Avi Steinberg
Meeting Date: April 22

“Avi Steinberg is stumped. After defecting from yeshiva to attend Harvard, he has nothing but a senior thesis on Bugs Bunny to show for himself. While his friends and classmates advance in the world, Steinberg remains stuck at a crossroads, his ‘romantic’ existence as a freelance obituary writer no longer cutting it.

Seeking direction (and dental insurance) Steinberg takes a job running the library counter at a Boston prison. He is quickly drawn into the community of outcasts that forms among his bookshelves—an assortment of quirky regulars, including con men, pimps, minor prophets, even ghosts—all searching for the perfect book and a connection to the outside world. Steinberg recounts their daily dramas with heartbreak and humor in this one-of-a-kind memoir—a piercing exploration of prison culture and an entertaining tale of one young man’s earnest attempt to find his place in the world” (Descriptive content provided by Syndetics).

Sinners and the Sea: The Untold Story of Noah’s Wife
by Rebecca Kanner
Meeting Date: May 13

“The young heroine in Sinners and the Sea is destined for greatness. Known only as ‘wife’ in the Bible and cursed with a birthmark that many think is the brand of a demon, this unnamed woman lives anew through Rebecca Kanner. The author gives this virtuous woman the perfect voice to make one of the Old Testament’s stories come alive like never before.

Desperate to keep her safe, the woman’s father gives her to the righteous Noah, who weds her and takes her to the town of Sorum, a land of outcasts. Noah, a 600-year-old paragon of virtue, rises to the role of preacher to a town full of sinners. Alone in her new life, Noah’s wife gives him three sons, but is faced with the hardship of living with an aloof husband who speaks more to God than with her. She tries to make friends with the violent and dissolute people of Sorum while raising a brood that, despite a pious upbringing, have developed some sinful tendencies of their own. But her trials are nothing compared to what awaits her after God tells her husband that a flood is coming—and that Noah and his family must build an ark so that they alone can repopulate the world. As the floodwaters draw near, she grows in courage and honor, and when the water finally recedes, she emerges whole, displaying once and for all the indomitable strength of women.

Kanner weaves a masterful tale that breathes new life into one of the Bible’s voiceless characters. Through the eyes of Noah’s wife we see a complex world where the lines between righteousness and wickedness blur. And we are left wondering: would I have been considered virtuous enough to save?” (Descriptive content provided by Syndetics).

-posted by Kevin Purtell


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