Jul 31 2014
Do we, as Jewish mothers, love our children “too much”?
Arguably, the fact that I react to that statement by saying, “There’s no such thing as too much!” says all you need to know. Of course, I also feel that way about fresh-out-of-the-oven chocolate chip cookies.
The question is inherently posed by “The Jewish Daughter Diaries: True Stories of Being Loved Too Much By Our Moms,” edited by Rachel Ament. It’s a quick-read book of essays that vary widely in quality, but are all about the experience of being a daughter to a Jewish mother. Read the rest of this entry →
Jun 30 2014
Thirteen years ago, a friend gave me a book to read saying that I would love it. And I did. A curvy, Jewish girl who had a neurotic dog and is dating a doctor? Check, check, and check. I felt an immediate kinship with Cannie Shapiro and the woman who created her. With each subsequent book by Jennifer Weiner, I, and thousands of other women, fell deeper in love with her heroines and their creator.
I sat down with Jen to discuss her fantastic new book, “All Fall Down,” about a suburban mommy blogger who succumbs to an addiction to prescription meds, her boyfriend (he loves her kids!) and what makes her kvell (same thing as most of us!).
What was the hardest part of writing “All Fall Down”? Read the rest of this entry →
Jun 13 2014
“Could you read us another chapter? Could you?” Miri asked.
I had just finished reading the second to last chapter of “My Little Boy” to my kids for their bedtime story, but they wanted more; clearly they were as in love with the boy in the story as I was with the boy’s father.
After hearing a version of the book performed by Orson Welles, I had to read it, and after reading it, I reread it. What was it about this book that made it so compelling, so magical? And why am I reading this adult book to my kids? Read the rest of this entry →
Jun 9 2014
Jewish teachings are rife with parenting advice. Not surprisingly, my favorite is also one of the most popular:
A father is obligated to do the following for his son: to circumcise him, to redeem him if he is a first born, to teach him Torah, to find him a wife, and to teach him a trade. Others say: teaching him how to swim as well.
(I prefer to use words such as “parent,” “child,” and “partner,” but you get the point.) Read the rest of this entry →
Jun 2 2014
Welcome to the Third Annual Jordana Horn Summer Reading List! This list is by no means conclusive, but it’s a list of books I’ve read in the past six months that I thought were particularly terrific. Please put your own ideas and suggestions for great reads in the comments, and friend me on GoodReads (I’m “Jordana Horn Gordon” there) so we can keep talking books, which I love passionately. Without further ado, here are some great reads that should sit on your shelf or device this summer, in no particular order.
1. To Rise Again at a Decent Hour, by Joshua Ferris
This one is demanding and intellectually ambitious, but well worth your time. It’s the story of dentist Paul O’Rourke, who is bored with his life, dental practice, and his relationship to the world at large–until his online identity begins to be recreated by strangers. These strangers claim to be the descendants of Amalekites, the ancient enemy of the Jewish people–which is interesting enough without including the fact that they claim that Paul is one of them, and he just might believe them. This is a book about identity–what it means to be part of a people and a person. It’s jaw-droppingly good. Read the rest of this entry →
Apr 17 2014
Shortly after our discussions on Kveller about the appropriateness of the Purim story for preschoolers, my 4th grader needed to read “Number the Stars” by Lois Lowry (whom I will always adore due to the “Anastasia Krupnik” series).
I knew it was a book about the Holocaust, and I decided to read it first, so that I could be prepared for any questions he might have. (I’d initially confused it with another title, which follows the main character and her family all the way to Auschwitz.)
What I found in “Number the Stars,” however, was a book about the Holocaust… kind of. Read the rest of this entry →
Mar 17 2014
I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Tova Mirvis about her new book, “Visible City,” the all-consuming nature of parenting, and the freedom that comes with accepting imperfection.
In “Visible City,” unlike your previous novels, Judaism isn’t a central theme. What took its place in this book?
To write a novel, (especially to write a novel while you have three kids!) you have to be really obsessed and consumed by a subject; it has to pull at you all the time. With my first two novels, “The Ladies Auxiliary” and “The Outside World,” I wanted to explore issues of belief and doubt, and the tensions between community and individuality, tradition and modernity. On a personal note, those books were a way for me to grapple with my own upbringing and life as an Orthodox Jew. Read the rest of this entry →
Mar 3 2014
I am a stay at home mom. And holy crap do I love it. I mean, wow! FOUR human beings call me mom! I am blessed, lucky, honored. In total mothering bliss! But, as being a SAHM seems to be an increasing rarity in my circle of friends, I often get asked how I manage to keep from feeling bored.
Can I tell you something? As much as I love these kids of mine, and as much as I cherish every hair on their beautiful little heads, sometimes, yes, I get a little bored. And sometimes I even start feeling like my whole identity has been consumed by my role as mother. Read the rest of this entry →
Feb 10 2014
I recently interviewed author, journalist, and academic director of the Yiddish Book Center, Josh Lambert. Lambert is a pioneer of The Great Jewish Books Summer Program, a week-long exploration of literature & culture for high school students. Lambert is a father of one son and currently resides in Connecticut with his wife.
I spoke with Lambert about the exciting student literary program, what Jewish books he prefers to read with his students, and the five Jewish books that all parents should read.
1. What three books do you always make sure to teach at the Yiddish Book Center?
Well, despite the name, we don’t teach many whole books in Great Jewish Books–because students are only with us for a week, and there’s only so much they can read every day. But I always tend to start the course with Kafka’s Before the Law–to get us talking about what is and what isn’t Jewish literature, and the history of interpretation in Jewish culture, from the haggadah and midrash to literary modernism. I can’t imagine not teaching Philip Roth’s story “Defender of the Faith” or Avrom Sutzkever’s geto lider (ghetto poems)–these are startling, perfect literary pieces that get at some of the biggest themes treated by Jewish literature: community, continuity, and response to adversity.
2. How have kids reacted to Portnoy’s Complaint and other Roth books that are wrought with awkward sexual confessions?
I’ve never given Portnoy to the Great Jewish Books participants. Not because I don’t think they can handle it, but because (again) there’s not enough time. But in general I’ve found that 16-year-olds are able to handle challenging material with aplomb. I’ve noticed that when the Great Jewish Books students pick examples of literature to read at the reading/talent show we have at the end of the program, they often choose very intense and fascinating work–I recall one very memorable reading of Eve Ensler’s poetry, for example, that wasn’t exactly G-rated. These are people growing up in a world of almost limitless access to so-called adult materials. The ones I meet are thoughtful about what’s appropriate or not for various situations and what they can learn from the difficult stuff. Read the rest of this entry →
Oct 22 2013
Last night, very suddenly, my 5-year-old told me that he was worried about the 14-year- old boy who was missing in the subways. My heart stopped. I asked him how he had heard about that and he replied that he had seen a sign posted in the subway.
My son started reading by himself at age 3. He’ll read anything: storybooks, chapter books, his younger sister’s books, cookbooks, encyclopedias, dictionaries, etc. We’re ecstatic that he is such an avid reader. We simultaneously celebrate it and find it challenging. He can read grocery lists to us when we go to the store, bedtime stories to his sister, and can amuse himself for an hour and a half during rest time. However, as exemplified by last night’s conversation, we long ago learned that just because he can read everything doesn’t mean he should read everything.
Even starting at 3, he would suddenly say strange quotes (“Blistering barnacles!” from The Adventures of Tintin) and ask questions about books that were not age-appropriate that we didn’t know were in his room. When he started asking about mummies, ghosts, and pirates (though he pronounced it pi-rayts), we discovered that he had happened upon the first four Magic Treehouse books. There are no parental control passwords or buttons on what he can read, only what is in his environment (and sometimes, not even then). Read the rest of this entry →