Lat’s Bookish Adventures of 2023 – #5

Posted December 31, 2023 by geograph in Uncategorized / 0 Comments

Lat’s Bookish Adventures of 2023 – #5People Love Dead Jews: Reports from a Haunted Present by Dara Horn
Published by W. W. Norton & Company on September 7, 2021
Genres: Political Science / Genocide & War Crimes, Political Science / Human Rights, Social Science / Jewish Studies, Social Science / Violence in Society
Pages: 272
Format: Paperback
Source: Booksweet
Booksweet link.

Winner of the 2021 National Jewish Book Award for Con­tem­po­rary Jew­ish Life and Prac­tice
Finalist for the 2021 Kirkus Prize in Nonfiction

A New York Times Notable Book of the Year A Wall Street Journal, Chicago Public Library, Publishers Weekly, and Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year

A startling and profound exploration of how Jewish history is exploited to comfort the living.

Renowned and beloved as a prizewinning novelist, Dara Horn has also been publishing penetrating essays since she was a teenager. Often asked by major publications to write on subjects related to Jewish culture—and increasingly in response to a recent wave of deadly antisemitic attacks—Horn was troubled to realize what all of these assignments had in common: she was being asked to write about dead Jews, never about living ones. In these essays, Horn reflects on subjects as far-flung as the international veneration of Anne Frank, the mythology that Jewish family names were changed at Ellis Island, the blockbuster traveling exhibition Auschwitz, the marketing of the Jewish history of Harbin, China, and the little-known life of the "righteous Gentile" Varian Fry. Throughout, she challenges us to confront the reasons why there might be so much fascination with Jewish deaths, and so little respect for Jewish lives unfolding in the present.

Horn draws upon her travels, her research, and also her own family life—trying to explain Shakespeare’s Shylock to a curious ten-year-old, her anger when swastikas are drawn on desks in her children’s school, the profound perspective offered by traditional religious practice and study—to assert the vitality, complexity, and depth of Jewish life against an antisemitism that, far from being disarmed by the mantra of "Never forget," is on the rise. As Horn explores the (not so) shocking attacks on the American Jewish community in recent years, she reveals the subtler dehumanization built into the public piety that surrounds the Jewish past—making the radical argument that the benign reverence we give to past horrors is itself a profound affront to human dignity.

This year I read two books at very different times, but in some ways inextricably paired: PEOPLE LOVE DEAD JEWS by Dara Horn in January and THE GOLEM OF BROOKLYN by Adam Mansbach in September/October. THE GOLEM OF BROOKLYN was screamingly funny; PEOPLE LOVE DEAD JEWS was bittersweetly nonfiction. Sometimes you walk around a problem your whole life and try not to stare it in the face, and both of these books unpacked antisemitism and laid it in front of me, and asked me what I was going to do about it. PEOPLE LOVE DEAD JEWS presented some solutions that I didn’t like, and THE GOLEM OF BROOKLYN neither told me what to think nor what to do, and both books left me percolating.

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