"People of the Books" Blog

AJL's 2020 Jewish Fiction Award

The Association of Jewish Libraries Announces the 2020 Winners of the Jewish Fiction Award

Goldie Goldbloom is the winner of the Association of Jewish Libraries (AJL) Jewish Fiction Award for her novel On Division, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. The award includes a $1,000 cash prize and support to attend the 56th Annual Conference of the Association of Jewish Libraries in Evanston, IL, June 29-July 1, 2020. One honor book was also recognized: The Flight Portfolio by Julie Orringer, published by Knopf. The Committee reviewed over 75 works of fiction originally written in English with significant Jewish thematic content published in the United States in 2019. Thanks to all those who submitted entries for consideration. The wide array of books published in 2019 is a testament to the vibrant state of contemporary Jewish fiction.

Cover of On DivisionCover of Flight Portfolio“In On Division, Goldbloom writes about Surie, a newly-pregnant fifty-seven year old mother, grandmother, and almost great-grandmother living in the Chasidic community of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Haunted by the death of her son Lipa, Surie finds herself keeping this pregnancy a secret from everyone, including her beloved husband. The author, a member of the Chasidic community, writes with accuracy, authenticity, and respect – celebrating the positive aspects of the community with beauty, warmth, and love while also exposing negative, harmful, and shameful practices. The result is a multi-layered story of how secrets can shake even the most secure and close-knit families that is accessible to readers both familiar and unfamiliar with the insular world of ultra-Orthodox Jews,” noted Rachel Kamin, member of the Award Committee.

“In The Flight Portfolio author Julie Orringer imagines the daring and conflicted existence of the little-known real-life hero Varian Fry as he sets up a rescue operation in Vichy France, helping artists, writers and intellectuals, mainly Jewish, escape from their increasingly precarious existence to safety in America. As the Nazis increase their presence and control, he and his assistants evade German and Vichy authorities, search for new escape routes, work around American governmental indifference, and wrangle eccentric personalities. The author’s gorgeous writing and well-researched historical background plunge the reader into the dangers of life in southern France in 1940 with a love story, a suspenseful escape story, and the ethical question of whom do you save when all are worth saving,” commented Merrily Hart, member of the Award Committee.

The AJL Jewish Fiction Award Committee members are Merrily Hart, Rachel Kamin, Rosalind Reisner, Laura Schutzman, and Sheryl Stahl.

The Association of Jewish Libraries gratefully acknowledges the generous support of Dan Wyman Books for underwriting the Award. Submissions for the 2021 AJL Fiction Award (titles published in 2020) are now being accepted. For more information, please visit www.jewishlibraries.org.

The Association of Jewish Libraries is an all-volunteer professional organization that promotes Jewish literacy through enhancement of libraries and library resources and through leadership for the profession and practitioners of Judaica librarianship. The Association fosters access to information, learning, teaching and research relating to Jews, Judaism, the Jewish experience and Israel.

2019 Winners of the AJL Jewish Fiction Award

The Association of Jewish Libraries Announces 2019 Winners of Jewish Fiction Award

Mark Sarvas is the winner of the Association of Jewish Libraries (AJL) Jewish Fiction Award for his novel Memento Park, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. The award includes a $1,000 cash prize as well as support to attend the 54th Annual Conference of the Association of Jewish Libraries in Woodland Hills, CA, June 17-19, 2019. Two honor books were also recognized: The Cloister by James Carroll, published by Nan Talese, an imprint of Knopf Doubleday, and The Fourth Corner of the World by Scott Nadelson, published by Engine Books. The Committee reviewed over 70 works of fiction originally written in English with significant Jewish thematic content that were published in the United States in 2018. Thanks to all those who submitted entries for consideration. The wide array of books published this year is a testament to the vibrant state of contemporary Jewish fiction.

book cover of Memento Park The protagonist in Mark Sarvas’s second novel, Memento Park, becomes aware of a valuable painting believed to have been stolen from his family in World War II. In order to recover the mysterious work, he must reconnect with his father, his family history, and his own Judaism. “Dramatically paced and laced with mordant wit, Mark Sarvas has fashioned a meditation on art, family, faith, and Jewish history in the form of a suspenseful intellectual thriller,” notes Yermiyahu Ahron Taub, Chairperson of the Award Committee.

 

In The Cloister, James Carroll tells the timeless love story of the discredited medieval French scholar Peter Abelard and his intellectual paramour Héloïse, and its impact on a priest and a Holocaust survivor in post-World War II Manhattan. “Assiduously researched and richly imagined, James Carroll has created a riveting glimpse into how the encounter between Christianity and Judaism many centuries ago continues to reverberate to devastating effect in more recent times,” writes Yermiyahu Ahron Taub. Cover of The Cloister

 

Book cover of the Fourth Corner of the World The characters in Scott Nadelson’s short story collection, The Fourth Corner of the World, abandon their lands of origin, sever their roots, and distance themselves from the people they once were. “With diverse settings and time periods - from 1920s Paris, Jewish utopian farmers in 1880s Oregon, teenage girls in 1980s New Jersey, and modern-day suburbanites – each story is fascinating and emotionally charged,” commented Rachel Kamin, a member of the Award Committee.

 

The AJL Jewish Fiction Award Committee members are Merrily Hart, Rachel Kamin, Clare Kinberg, Rosalind Reisner, and Yermiyahu Ahron Taub.

The Association of Jewish Libraries gratefully acknowledges the generous support of Dan Wyman Books for underwriting the Award. Submissions for the 2020 AJL Fiction Award are now being accepted. For more information, please visit https://jewishlibraries.org/AJL_Jewish_Fiction_Award.

The Association of Jewish Libraries is an all-volunteer professional organization that promotes Jewish literacy through enhancement of libraries and library resources and through leadership for the profession and practitioners of Judaica librarianship. The Association fosters access to information, learning, teaching and research relating to Jews, Judaism, the Jewish experience and Israel.

For more information, contact Yermiyahu Ahron Taub, ajljewishfictionaw[email protected]