The Jewish Novel: What Is It?

February 12, 2012 By Evelyn Leave a Comment

The question is not  new, but I wanted some opinions as to what qualifies a novel as being Jewish.

Erika Dreifus (The Quiet Americans: Stories) gave the answer-complete to my question: the novel is of Jewish interest.

The ever-present question, right? I don’t think you’re going to get a single, definitive answer on this. For me, as a reader/writer/reviewer, a Jewish novel (or perhaps more precisely, a novel of Jewish interest), is one that features Jewish characters, themes, and/or settings (geographical/historical). One doesn’t have to be Jewish to write a novel of Jewish interest. Likewise, not every book written by a Jewish author is necessarily, for me, a “Jewish book.”

My reply to Erika is as follows:

My immigrant novel THE PROVIDER is coming out at the end if February, and I am presenting it to the Jewish community before I take it to the larger public. (In fact, Temple Beth David in Westminster, CA., on the morning of February 26, is sponsoring the Book Launch.) Ms. Dreifus gave me the very answer I was seeking.

 “Young, beautiful Rosa Galperin arrives in the United States from Soviet Russia in 1922 with high expectations for fulfilling her American Dream. She falls in love with another immigrant who complicates her dream.”

This novel, then, is about the American Dream and the characters happen to be immigrant Jews. But their Jewishness is not the concern here.  Their entry into America is. This could be anyone’s story. However, the fact that the characters are Jewish immigrants qualifies them  into the literature.