Tag Archives: non fiction book

The Jewish Odyssey of George Eliot Book Review

In her own time, the author George Eliot was either a lunatic or a visionary. But that depended on the person providing the opinion.

Her 1876 novel, Daniel Deronda, was a revolutionary book in it’s own right. It is the story of a young man who discovers his Jewish heritage. By the end of the novel, he has embraced his identity and leaves England for the Holy Land.

Gertrude Himmelfarb’s 2009 non fiction book, The Jewish Odyssey of George Eliot, starts with the author’s early life. She was born to an evangelical Christian family, the product of her father’s second marriage. As a young woman, she was one of the earliest converts to agnosticism. Her education was more extensive than other young women of her era, she was well read and spoke several languages, including Hebrew. Daniel Deronda is her last novel.

Daniel Deronda was written during a blessed lull in Jewish history. The Jews lived in peace with their neighbors, the Dreyfus affair that was the spark that created modern Zionism has not yet occurred. But antisemitism was still rampant and the rare Jewish characters that appeared in Victorian literature ( a la Fagin from the Charles Dickens novel Oliver Twist) was not exactly the most positive of images.

The author examines all of these individual  elements and how they all come together to create what is essentially the first pro-Zionist novel with Jewish characters that are as fully formed and human as their Christian counterparts. I like this book because it pulls back from the fiction to reveal the woman behind the novel. I do want to warn readers that the book is a bit academic and might not hold the reader who is not using it for school purposes.

But it is a good book and I recommend it.

 

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Chick Lit and Post Feminism Book Review

The chick lit genre is usually defined as light and frothy, with just a little bit of drama to keep the story interesting.  The ending is the typical Hollywood ending.

Stephanie Harzewski’s 2011 non fiction book, Chick Lit and Postfeminism,  follows the path of the chick lit genre from it’s earliest foremothers to it’s newest incarnations. Ms. Harzewski starts with two of the genre’s foremothers, Jane Austen and Edith Wharton. Using Austen’s Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice and Wharton’s Lily Bart from the House Of Mirth as models, she compares them to some of the newer characters who inhabit the genre.

I enjoyed this book. I am not a usually a fan of the chick lit genre, but sometimes a light and frothy book with a predictable ending is just what the doctor ordered.  What I specifically enjoyed was that Ms. Harzewski did her homework, but the book was not the boring college textbook it could have been. As both a feminist and a book worm, I was able to appreciate where we as women have been and will be going in the future.

I recommend this book.

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Unworthy Book Review

On the surface, many of us may seem to have it all. A thriving career, loving family, healthy children, supportive spouse or romantic partner, etc.  But underneath all of that, many of us have a secret darkness. This darkness call us names. Tell us that we are stupid, ugly, unworthy, unloved, etc. It keeps us from living our lives to the fullest and fulfilling our dreams.

Anneli Rufus’s non fiction book, Unworthy: How to Stop Hating Yourself is not the average self help book on low self esteem. Unlike many self help books on the subject that from from psychiatrists and doctors that come off as snooty and know it all, this book comes from one of us. Ms. Rufus writes in great detail the reasons for her lack of self esteem. She interviews a variety of people and borrows snippets of press interviews from some well known celebrities who suffered in secret from internal self hatred.

I enjoyed this book. Ms. Rufus writes from a place of understanding. She is one of us, looking in the mirror and see what is wrong with her instead of what is right with her. What I enjoyed about the book was the honest telling of her own fight with low self esteem. She encourages her readers to fight the negative thoughts and anxiety that are so pervasive and persuasive in our lives.

This fight is not easy, but it is worth it.

I recommend this book.

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Got Religion: How Churches, Mosques and Synagogues Can Bring Young People Back Book Review

A recent Pew study revealed that young people are increasingly moving away from organized religion.

Naomi Schafer Riley’s non fiction book, Got Religion: How Churches, Mosques and Synagogues Can Bring Young People Back, explores this shift in American culture and why many young people are  not as apt to openly declare themselves to be a certain religion as their parents and grandparents were.

Interviewing a variety of sources and researching a vast array of American religious institutions (one Muslim, one Jewish and several Christian denominations), Schaefer Riley comes to the conclusion that the Millennial generation (born between the late 1970-s and the mid 1980’s)  is looking for community to call their own.

I liked this book. As a member of the Millennial generation, I can understand why many of us choose to not identity or practice any specific religion. Religious practice is often associated with marriage and parenthood. Many of my generation are putting off marriage and parenthood or choosing all together to not marry and not become a parent. I think this is an important book, not just for my generation, but for parents and religious leaders. It might be the key to our religious future in America.

I recommend this book.

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