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by Sharon Chisvin, August 25, 2010

Since introducing this column last spring I have been inundated with books on Jewish topics and by Jewish authors, so many, in fact, that it has been a challenge to read and review all of them in a timely fashion. In view of this, I am taking the liberty of using this week’s column to simply bring to your attention a few titles that are awaiting my attention. Perhaps their brief description will grab your interest … 

There is No Other is a book of short stories written by former Torontonian Jonathan Papernick. Published by Exile Editions, this fiction collection, the author’s second, examines Jewish life and ideas through the eyes of a number of eccentric characters, including an Iraqi war vet who sees the Virgin Mary in a synagogue pulpit, and a Jewish boy of African heritage who disrupts his Hebrew class during its annual Purim celebration. Papernick is also the author of the novel Who by Fire, Who by Blood.

Prairie Kaddish, written by Victoria based poet and occupational therapist Isa Milman and published by Coteau Books, is an intriguing collection of poems, personal reflections, and fascinating historical information that tenderly pays homage to early Canadian Jewry, in particularly those who left behind the old world and settled in the Jewish colonies on the cold and frozen Canadian prairies. Milman is also the author of the poetry collection Between the Doorposts and the chap book Seven Fat Years

Old Jews Telling Jokes:  5,000 Years of Funny Bits and Not-So-Kosher Laughs offers exactly what its title promises. Based on a popular website that goes by the same name, the book, written by Sam Hoffman with Eric Spigelman and published by A. Villard Books, captures the voices of several elderly Jewish men and women as they retell some of their favourite Jewish jokes, most of which are very funny even if  you have likely heard them before.

Inferno is a dark dystopian saga about Red People, Black Boots and an all powerful Council. Written by American Todd Riemer, the novel follows the moral struggles and misadventures of a man named Blum as he seeks revenge for the state sanctioned murder of his beloved. The audio version of the book will be of particular interest to Winnipegers as it is read with great dramatic effect by Los Angeles based actor, artist and film maker Benson Simmonds, who was born and raised in Winnipeg.

Mrs. Kaputnik’s Pool Hall and Matzo Ball Emporium, published by Tundra Books, is, as its name suggests, a book for elementary school age children. Author Rona Arato introduces dragons, gangsters and an assortment of other questionable characters to tell the story of one family’s challenging early 20th century emigration from a small Russian shtetl to the often frightening, confusing and overwhelming streets of New York City.

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