12 Canadian books to read for Jewish Heritage Month
May is Jewish Heritage Month in Canada. To celebrate, here's a reading list of poetry, fiction and nonfiction by Canadians of Jewish descent.
In This One Because of the Dead, Laure Baudot's collection of stories, a former ballet dancer and her boyfriend argue about their future, a man on a business trip in Japan is preoccupied with his troubles back home and a former babysitter is called to testify against a client.
This One Because of the Dead is Baudot's first book. Her work has been published in literary journals like The Antigonish Review, Found Press and Prairie Fire.
In Bezmozgis's short story collection Immigrant City, a wannabe boxer finds work as a security guard in the Toronto suburbs, a father and daughter end up in a strange rendition of his immigrant childhood and a young man unwittingly makes contact with the underworld. Immigrant City was shortlisted for the 2019 Scotiabank Giller Prize.
Born in Latvia, Bezmozgis lives in Toronto. He is also the author of the novel The Betrayers and The Free World, both of which were also shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, in 2014 and 2011 respectively.
The Student by Cary Fagan opens in 1957 as an ambitious young woman named Miriam Moscowitz enters her final year of university. Miriam is drawn into an affair with a free-spirited American student, who leaves her to join the civil rights movement in the U.S. Nearly five decades later, Miriam helps with her son's wedding preparations and finds herself thinking about the past.
Fagan is the author of six novels, three short story collections and several children's books. He is nominated twice for a Governor General's Literary Award in 2019. His children's book King Mouse, illustrated by Dena Seiferling, was nominated for a Governor General's Literary award for children's literature — illustration.
Not One of These Poems Is About You is a collection of poetry and illustrations from Toronto comics artist Teva Harrison. Harrison was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, an incurable illness, at 37. She began publishing short comics about her declining health and facing the end of her life in the Walrus. These comics were collected in the graphic memoir In-Between Days. Not One of These Poems Is About You continues to explore the same themes of living with an incurable illness, how one navigates social conventions and the medical system when one is dying and more.
In 2016, Liz Levine's sister Tamara committed suicide. In the memoir Nobody Ever Talks About Anything But the End, Levine tells the story of her sister alongside the story of another death that had a huge impact on her life: that of her childhood sweetheart Judson to cancer. Nobody Ever Talks About Anything But the End is a book about grief, and its messiness, but it's also a book about life and its beauty.
Levine is a television and film producer who has worked on Story of a Girl and jPod. Her writing has appeared in the National Post, The Walrus and the Vancouver Sun. Nobody Ever Talks About Anything But the End is her first book.
As a neuroscientist, Daniel J. Levitin found himself stumped by something: why is it that some people in their 90s maintain all their mental sharpness, while others find their cognitive abilities start to dull in their 50s and 60s? When he couldn't find any books about the subject, he decided to write one himself. Successful Aging: A Neuroscientist Explores the Power and Potential of Our Lives looks at the science and psychology of growing older and uses that to explore what aging really means — and offers advice for living your best life as you get older.
Levitin is a neuroscientist and cognitive psychologist and bestselling author. His books include This Is Your Brain on Music, The World in Six Songs, The Organized Mind and A Field Guide to Lies.
Facing the dissolution of her marriage, Naomi Lewis uncovered a family treasure: her Opa's diary, which details his escape from Nazi-occupied Netherlands in 1942. Lewis travels to Amsterdam on a solo trip to retrace his steps, discovering family secrets and pondering the impact of the Holocaust on present and future generations. She chronicles this journey in Tiny Lights for Travellers.
Lewis is the author of the novel Cricket in a Fist, the short story collection I Know You Remind Me Of and Tiny Lights for Travellers. She lives in Calgary.
Sidura Ludwig's collection of stories, You Are Not What We Expected, takes place in a suburban Jewish neighbourhood over the course of 15 years. A woman and her brother take on the task of raising her grandchildren, a nanny cares for her charge who is an outcast at school and a teenager struggles to accept his father's abandonment.
Ludwig grew up in Winnipeg and now lives in Thornhill, Ont. You Are Not What We Expected is her second book, following the novel Holding My Breath.
Rachel Matlow's mom Elaine was a creative free-spirit, personality traits Rachel celebrated. This was until Elaine is diagnosed with cancer and decides to treat her illness with natural remedies, leaving Rachel to face the fact that what made her mom so special is what's going to kill her. Dead Mom Walking is the story of Rachel, Elaine and Elaine's cancer — based on Rachel's memories, Elaine's journals and the hours of tape they recorded together as they prepared to say goodbye.
Matlow was a producer at CBC Radio and worked on several programs including q, Spark and The Sunday Edition. Dead Mom Walking is their first book and is inspired by Matlow's documentary Dead Mom Talking, which aired on The Sunday Edition.
The Wagers, Sean Michaels's second novel, follows a Montreal grocer named Theo Potiris who works at his family's shabby supermarket by day and bikes to open mic nights at night, never telling the same joke twice. He's been waiting 15 years for his big break, but with his girlfriend overseas with a wealthy benefactor, Theo decides to trade in his dream for the promise of something more. The gamble takes Theo to a fantastic alternate reality of Montreal filled with peacocks, luck thieves and sports-mad mathematicians.
Michaels's first novel, Us Conductors, won the Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2014. Michaels is also a music critic who founded the popular blog Said the Gramophone.
In her memoir, The Listener, Irene Oore shares the stories of her mother, who survived the Holocaust by concealing her Jewish identity. She spent years constantly on the move, on the brink of starvation. Oore heard these stories as a child and is now passing them on to her own children, while contemplating her relationship with her family's history and exploring how trauma can have impact for generations.
Oore is a professor at Dalhouise University. She is also the author of Marie-Claire Blais: An Annotated Bibliography.
Radiant Shards traces the journey of Russians immigrants struggling to survive in Winnipeg during the Depression. The poem follows Hoda, a Jewish sex worker in Winnipeg's North End during the first half of the 20th century, as she reflects on her complicated life and her suffering.
Ruth Panofsky is a poet and editor. She teaches Canadian Literature and Culture at Ryerson University and is the author of two books about Canada's literary history. She received the Helen and Stan Vine Canadian Jewish Book Award for Laike and Nahum: A Poem in Two Voices.