NOTE: Susan really is a great woman! She is donating a portion of her royalties from the Demo Tapes from now to January 31st to the Red Cross relief effort in Haiti. Click here for more details.
The Hadassah Book ClubAlthough I've got a web page set up for my book club (http://westofmars.com/west-of-mars/the-hbc), a lot of people don't realize a fancy, powerful writer like me is even in a book club -- let alone its leader. And then people look us and really doubt my claims. After all, my book club is made up of a dozen women, most of whom have kids my age. There's a definite age gap, but let me tell you, these women are my contemporaries. The are smart, savvy, with it, and well-read. They keep me on my toes -- and never make me feel like I'm their daughter. I like them better than I like some of the women my own age.
Best of all, we came together because of a love for Jewish lit.
It's not a huge genre -- and yet it is. Back when Saul Bellow, Bernard Malamud, and Erica Jong were the trend-setting Jewish authors, they pretty well defined the different veins of Jewish lit. Today, the immigrant experience captured so perfectly by Malamud is an issue our parents or grandparents faced, not us. Erotica and its various subgenres have become mainstream. And erudite literature a la Bellow continues to chug along.
When people think of Jewish lit today, the first thing that comes to mind is the Holocaust. The body of literature -- both fiction and non-fiction -- that has sprung from this generation-defining event is huge. Fiction, non-fiction, controversy, fantasy... it's all there. Heck, we could run an entire second book club just focusing on Holocaust lit.
However, as a group, we try to limit the Holocaust books we read. Most of the books are downers. Even when redemption or love is the theme, the setting is still bleak. Death and brutality are all around. We prefer it lighter.
Thus, we've gravitated toward Biblical historicals, an interesting genre. We have Jewish writers like Anita Diamant and Maggie Anton. And then we have non-Jews like my friend India Edghill. In truth, the religion you practice shouldn't matter when you love and respect your subject. However, I've also run across some Biblical historicals that have had a blatant Christian bend. Hardly the sort of book for a Jewish group!
Overall, I'd have to say that historicals are our favorite genre. We've read about incredible periods in history, from the Spanish inquisition to growing up in the 1960s -- hardly historical, but not quite contemporary, either. And we've read everything in between, too. As much as we can find.
Because we don't want to limit ourselves to one genre, we've also read mysteries -- an uncommon thing for a book club. Rochelle Krich has written two great series, but it's the Molly Blume books that we read together. Rita Lakin's senior citizens straddle the line between mystery and our other favorite genre: lighthearted, frivolous, and fun. And don't forget the mystery/thriller such as Daniel Silva writes. Those are a bit darker and oh, so smart!
You'll note how all over the map we are. Literary one meeting, light and fun the next, a memoir after that... I do my best to keep it fresh. A book club shouldn't be drudgery. It should be a continued chance to experience some of the best (and, at times, worst) of the written word.
If you'd like to see what we've read and what we're planning on reading, stop by the website anytime. I keep it updated -- and I'm always searching for suggestions. I'd love to hear if you've got any.
Susan Helene Gottfried is the author of two short story anthologies: ShapeShifter: The Demo Tapes -- Year 1 and ShapeShifter: The Demo Tapes: Year 2. She holds two degrees in English, reads voraciously, and breathes music the way others breathe air. Visit with her at http://westofmars.com. To see what Susan's fictional characters are up to, stop in the Meet and Greet (http://westofmars.com/blog). To find out what great books are being given away and what authors are touring the Internet, be sure to visit Win a Book (http://winabook.westofmars.
I am so grateful to Susan for telling us about her very special book club experiences. If you are interested in participating in a future Book Club Exchange, please contact me at bookingmama(at)gmail(dot)com.