8 Books for Jewish-American Heritage Month

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Disclaimer: This post cites an article from the Anti-Defamation League in its introduction. The post reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Pine Reads.
Happy Jewish-American Heritage Month! If you’re Jewish like me, I’ve got some books here you might be able to relate to. If you’re not, you should still pick one up! According to an article published in January by the Anti-Defamation League, antisemitism has gone up 360% in the United States since October. One way you can help combat this is by learning more about the Jewish people, which you can do through the wonders of fiction. Jews are known to be really funny, by the way, so if you’re interested in comedy, some (though definitely not all) of these books may pique your interest.

Those Summer Nights by Laura Silverman

Hannah Klein had big dreams for her future. She was going to play soccer in the Olympics before she got injured last year. Oh, and what’s more, her bubbie (Yiddish for “grandma”) died around the same time. Hannah also had a falling out with her best friend from childhood, Brie. After Hannah’s poor decision-making last summer, her parents sent her to boarding school to learn to cope. In order to prove that they don’t need to send her back for the next school year, she needs to achieve four goals set by her parents, one of which includes getting a job. This year, she is working at Bonanza, an entertainment multiplex featuring all kinds of competitive activities that get included in a tournament meant for Bonanza employees. Some of her fellow employees include her brother, Joey; Ethan, her brother’s best friend; Patrick, a cute distraction; and Brie. With help from those around her, Hannah will try to make healthy choices and get past the hardships of the previous summer.

Going Bicoastal by Dahlia Adler

Natalya Fox can either stay in New York City with her dad or move to Los Angeles with her mom, and she only has one day to make a decision. In New York, she hopes to strike up a romance with the girl she’s had a crush on for ages. In California, maybe she can strike one up with the guy she’s interested in. This book is sort of a two-in-one story, showing the results of each decision in rotating chapters. Either way, Natalya will keep kosher, have weekly Shabbat dinners, and try to strengthen her relationship with her mother, whom she has not been particularly close with until now. Both choices come with benefits and consequences.

In the Neighborhood of True by Susan Kaplan Carlton

It’s 1958, and Ruth Robb has recently lost her dad. To be closer to her own family, Ruth’s mother uproots her from her life in New York City and plants her in a new one in Atlanta. The South has its own rules for fitting in, especially in the midst of the KKK. Unfortunately for Ruth, two of those main rules are that you must be white, and you also must be Christian. As far as the attractive, white, and Christian Davis knows, Ruth fits into both of these categories perfectly, and she’d like to keep him thinking that. In fact, she’d like to keep everyone thinking that she is the perfect Southern Belle. Alternatively, there’s also Max, who Ruth meets at the religious services her mother forces her to go to in honor of her Jewish father. Max is big on social justice, and when a hate crime strikes close to Ruth, she finds that social justice matters to her too—maybe even enough to sacrifice her Southern Belle disguise.

What I Like About You by Marisa Kanter

Kels and Nash are best friends. They only know each other on the Internet, but she knows that he’s a skilled artist and an avid reader, and he knows that she runs an awesome blog called One True Pastry that combines her love of cupcakes and books. What he doesn’t know is that Kels’ actual name is Halle Levitt, and she isn’t really as self-assured out in the real world. When Halle moves to Connecticut to live with her grandpa, she meets the real-life Nash. In fact, she starts seeing him everywhere, from school to the synagogue. Halle is falling in love with Nash, but Nash is falling in love with Kels, who Halle feels is way cooler than who she actually is. Nash could never go for the real Halle, could he? Should Halle tell Nash who she actually is?

The Assignment by Liza Wiemer

Logan March and Cade Crawford are seniors in high school, meaning that they’re almost done with school. They just need to get through the rest of the year. That means that they shouldn’t argue with teachers, especially beloved ones within the school. However, in one particular class, students are assigned to debate in favor of The Final Solution, the term for Jewish genocide during the Holocaust. Logan and Cade are not Jewish, but they know this is wrong, and they are willing to fight against an assignment encouraging mass murder of the Jewish people, even if some of their classmates think of it as just another debate led by a favored teacher. Unfortunately, this book is based on actual events, which makes it all the more important to read.

We Ship It by Lauren Kay

Olivia Schwartz is a Jewish-American perfectionist with her life mapped out and no room for error. She’ll do perfect on the SATs, do a research presentation on teenage heart attacks, attend Brown University, and finally, become a doctor. However, to Olivia’s dismay, her parents are bringing her on a family cruise. This gets in the way of her research plans, which are particularly significant to her due to the death of her older brother, Logan. Luckily, she’ll be able to do her presentation online, so Olivia plans to spend all of her time aboard the ship working on it. Instead, she reconnects with an old friend named Jules, who encourages Olivia to be more open-minded. Jules introduces Olivia to Sebastian, who teaches Olivia to be more spontaneous and how to have fun. Olivia even finds herself starting to fall in love. Despite learning that she can handle a little adventure in her life, some of the secrets she uncovers may just turn her perfect world upside down.

The Life and Crimes of Hoodie Rosen by Isaac Blum

In an enemies-to-lovers comedy with serious themes in true Jewish fashion, Hoodie Rosen is a teenager who packs up and moves alongside the rest of his Orthodox Jewish community. They’re headed to Tregaron, New York, though as more of them arrive, the more they find that they are unwelcome by the rest of the town. Generally, Hoodie keeps to his own community and away from those who don’t want him. However, when Hoodie crosses paths with Anna-Marie Diaz-O’Leary, he finds himself falling in love with her, the daughter of the mayor who so desperately wants to keep the Jewish community from joining their town. In trying to figure out who he is, Hoodie struggles with some of his own beliefs and customs as well as antisemitism that eventually turns violent.

Camp by L.C. Rosen

Randy Kapplehoff is Jewish, a theater-nerd, and proudly, flamboyantly gay. For Randy, summer means getting to go to a camp for queer teens known as Camp Outland. That’s where he gets to see his crush, Hudson Aaronson-Lim. Randy knows Hudson will never like him back, though, because Hudson claims only to be interested in guys who act like they are straight. But if Hudson will never like Randy, maybe he’ll like Del, Randy’s masculine alter-ego invented for the sole purpose of winning over Hudson. To Randy’s delight, Hudson does take an interest in Del, but Randy starts to wonder if being with Hudson is worth giving up on who he really is.

Abby Ballas, Pine Reads Review Writer & Editor


10 thoughts on “8 Books for Jewish-American Heritage Month”

  1. Andrea says:

    Thanks for these great suggestions! I do hope more people will be interested in reading more about the experiences of Jewish people (as varied as they are) as there’s a lot of misinformation out there. Books are such an important resource, particularly during times like these when entire groups are judged and often dehumanized. Happy Jewish American Heritage Month!

  2. Saida says:

    Thank you for your outstanding work on the article. Your attention to detail and insightful writing truly made it a pleasure to read. Your expertise and sensitivity in covering this topic, especially considering its religious significance, are truly commendable!

    1. Elaine says:

      Thank you for this enticing list of reads. These synopses alone are a reminder of the added challenges Jewish-American people are faced with in dealing with what most Americans, regardless of ethnicity and religious beliefs, consider just “everyday” life. I’m looking forward to reading several of them and learning how the stories transpire.

  3. Joseph Lacayo says:

    Looking forward to reading The Assignment. This book peaks my interest because I have recently found myself in a very similar situation during various in-class discussions at my university. Like the characters in the book I am also not Jewish , however we should all stand up to injustice and discrimination. Thank you for adding this booklist , I will be sure to share it.

  4. Ami Jones says:

    Ooh! More books for my TBR list!

  5. Andrew Glenn says:

    amazing! a very well written and interesting article. would love to see even more Jewish topics from you guys!

  6. Macy Sinrich says:

    I love good books, and I’m really excited to read books about Jewish people, especially during these trying times. I’ve been looking for more good books to read now that it’s summer. I’m always looking to hear more stories about other peoples experiences, especially as a Jewish person! thank you so much for all the suggestions. I will add them to my cart right now!

  7. Ever says:

    Such a good list with some really important books 🙂 Thank you so much for sharing !!

  8. M says:

    I’ve been looking for more queer and Jewish fiction, I’m excited to check these out!

  9. Heather Netzer says:

    Thank you for sharing this timely list! As a liberal individual, I’m perplexed by those who aren’t supporting the Jewish community, which advocates for equality for all. The Jewish people desire peace and have been persistently attacked. I’m excited to read The Life and Crimes of Hoodie Rosen and hope it gets adapted into a movie! I appreciate you bringing it to my attention.

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