15 Books By Young Jewish Authors To Read This Hanukkah
It's difficult to find Hanukkah books that aren't meant for children, but book nerds can still find plenty of books by young, Jewish authors to read this holiday season. Although the 15 books on the list below aren't about Hanukkah per se, they will make great additions to your reading list during this year's Festival of Lights.
Let's clear one thing up: Hanukkah is not the Jewish Christmas. It's a separate celebration, unconnected to Christianity, that just so happens to occur around the same time of year. Because the Hebrew calendar does not coincide with Gregorian calendar from year to year, the first of Hanukkah's eight nights may begin on Nov. 28, Dec. 27, or anywhere in between. The festival celebrates the rededication of the Second Temple, when a single flask of oil — enough for one night of light — provided enough fuel to light the Temple's menorah for eight nights.
So who's young, and who's Jewish? Although most Jewish communities consider a person to have been born a Jew if their mother was Jewish, a Jewish author, for the purposes of this list, is anyone who either personally identifies as Jewish, or who has at least one Jewish parent. A young author is anyone age 40 or younger at the time of this writing:
'Panic in a Suitcase' by Yelena Akhtiorskaya
Set over the course of 20 years in the lives of the Nasmertov family, Yelena Akhtiorskaya's semi-autobiographical debut novel follows the family's youngest member, Frida, as she journeys back to Odessa, Ukraine to discover what the Nasmertovs left behind.
'Sonora' by Hannah Lillith Assadi
Phoenix natives Ahlam and Laura forge an intense bond in the desert landscape of their childhood, clinging together ever tighter as their fellow teenagers begin to die around them. They soon run away to New York City, but their relationship begins to spin toward disaster.
'The Immortalists' by Chloe Benjamin
In 1969, the four Gold siblings make a clandestine visit to a psychic to learn the dates of their deaths. Armed with this information, the Golds grow up and move apart, pursuing their dreams and dealing with the weight of their futures.
'The People of Forever Are Not Afraid' by Shani Boianjiu
The People of Forever Are Not Afraid follows three teen girls — Avishag, Lea, and Yael — as they begin their compulsory service in the Israel Defense Forces, where they are exposed to a couple of years of alternating terror, excitement, anger, and love.
'Paulina & Fran' by Rachel B. Glaser
Set in a New England art school, Paulina & Fran revolves around its two titular characters, whose friendship is torn apart when one begins to date the other's ex.
'Florida' by Lauren Groff
This collection of short stories from Fates and Furies author Lauren Groff meanders through the eponymous Sunshine State, touching on the topic of motherhood in varying ways.
'Waking Lions' by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen
When Dr. Eitan Green hits and kills a man on a lonely highway one night, he leaves the body behind, and attempts to move on with his life. But the dead man's wife turns up at his door the following day, and her demands could destroy Eitan's life.
'I Might Regret This' by Abbi Jacobson
From Broad City star Abbi Jacobsen comes this essay collection, which features artwork and musings from the comedian and illustrator.
'Mischling' by Affinity Konar
Auschwitz, 1944: twins Pearl and Stasha enter the infamous death camp, not knowing that they will soon be subjected to terrible experiments at the hands of Josef Mengele. By the time the camp is liberated, Pearl has disappeared, leaving Stasha to search for her in the aftermath of their ordeal.
'The Patriots' by Sana Krasikov
This family saga begins at the dawn of the Great Depression, when Florence leaves Brooklyn for Moscow, where a job awaits. Unable to leave her new country, Florence raises her son, Julian, in Moscow, where he stays until an opportunity allows him to return to the U.S.
'My Year of Rest and Relaxation' by Ottessa Moshfegh
From Eileen author Ottessa Moshfegh comes this novel, about a woman who, aided by medication, attempts to sleep for an entire year.
'Those Who Knew' by Idra Novey
Set in a country in the middle of political upheaval, Those Who Knew centers on Lena, an activist who begins to suspect that a senator she once knew is responsible for the death of his young aide.
'Sadness Is a White Bird' by Moriel Rothman-Zecher
Another novel exploring the life of a young soldier in the IDF, Sadness Is a White Bird follows Jonathan, a Pennsylvania native who enlists in Israel's army, but finds his service complicated by his friendship with Palestinian twins Nimreen and Laith, themselves the children of his mother's friend.
'The Awkward Age' by Francesca Segal
A complicated family dynamic lies at the heart of Francesca Segal's The Awkward Age, in which a newlywed couple must reckon with the relationship that develops between their teenage children.
'Vaclav and Lena' by Haley Tanner
After they meet in an ESL class in NYC, Vaclav and Lena hit it off almost immediately. But when Lena vanishes without a word one day, Vaclav will spend the next seven years of his life waiting for answers.