Monthly Archives: May 2013

Lorri M. Book Review: The Golem and the Jinni

thegolemandthejinni I have been busy reading. I don’t normally read a book in this genre, but from the first page I was wrapped within the story. The 496-page book The Golem and the Jinni: A Novel, by Helene Wecker, is quite unique and extraordinary, and for a first novel, I thought it was extremely well-written. I would rate the novel 3.5 stars, with five being the highest, mainly due to the historical background.

It is a story, as the title states, about a golem and a jinni. The novel is a combination of historical fiction, fantasy, superstition, and so much more. The golem is a super-strong, clay creature in female form that was created for a man who is a withdrawn person, and can not seem to find a wife, a woman who wants to be married to him. He decides to have her created to specific specifications. He takes the golem with him, when he departs for New York City from Europe. Her “master” dies on the ship, and she disembarks in New York City. She meets a Rabbi, who takes her in, knowing she is of the “earth”. She begins her “life” with Jewish roots.

The Jinni has managed to escape out of the lamp he has been held in for over one thousand years, due to a tinsmith breaking inadvertently creating an opening. He is a jinni that has been imprisoned within the walls of the lamp, and comes out in human form in New York City. His origins are Arabian Syria, and through fire as his force, he must stay away from water, especially rivers and rain. The two of them eventually meet, and their unusual friendship begins.

Their relationship develops, each one a stranger and immigrant in a new land. Each one not actually human, yet each one takes on human qualities. The story envelops Arabs, Muslims and Jews within the pages, not in a conflicting manner, but in acceptance of each other and their cultures. That, in itself, is worth the read. The communities of Little Syria and the Jewish sector, blend together, and the reader is given scenes of life, not only in the two communities within New York City, but of 1898 New York City just before the turn of the century. The writing of the scenarios by Wecker is fantastic! Wecker is masterful in her descriptions of New York City at the end of the 19th century. Her ability to illuminate the streets filled with carts, horses, trolleys, architecture, people from all over the world, shops, and daily life is impeccable. She captures the very essence of olde New York City. The reader can visualize her portraits, inhale the aromas, hear the noises, and feel the essence of city life on a daily basis. Her minute details breathe life into each sentence, each page.

The fact that the Golem (Chava), and the Jinni (Ahmad) are basically immigrants learning to assimilate and cope with every day living in realms they don’t understand is not a new concept, in reality. But, within the fact that they are not human, not only do they have to try to blend in within their environment, but also have to try to appear to be human, with human mannerisms, actions, and qualities. Chava is bright and clever, always aware and cognizant. Jinni is mocking and arrogant, yet still trapped in human form. Chava is constantly watching and learning, trying to adapt. She is sensitive, and trusting, trying to find independence. Within that sphere, she must always remind herself not to show her physical strength. The Jinni can take on human form, and within that abilty, he must be cautious of his warmth, his sexual desires, his inability to feel emotions or understand others. He is self-absorbed.

There are other characters that play into the story line. From the Rabbi to the bakery owners, the tinsmith who lets Ahmad work in his shop to the ice cream man, people come and go within the pages, but all are integral to the story line. Cultural barriers are opened, and acceptance is gained by one community for the other. There are back stories, as the novel jumps back and forward in time, but not in a manner that the reader can’t keep up with. The back stories are as important as the current time period.

The supernatural, magical creatures, superstitions, Kabbalah all combine in one incredible novel. Some of it lends the reader to disassociate their non-belief, but that is the beauty of the story that Weckler has written.

The human condition and efforts to survive in an unknown land is brilliantly brought to the forefront with sensitivity and clarity. Many questions were brought to my mind: Is it worth the effort to try to overcome the challenges of cultural mores a nd realities? What is freedom? What is enslavement? Are we really slaves to our environment, or a slave to a former world with old and traditional ideals? Are we product of old and new? What is assimilation, and does it require mimicking those around us, or letting others manipulate us into what they want us to be? These and so many more questions were food for thought.

Within the pages of this fantasy and adventure story we see life through the eyes of those who are trying to find themselves within a strange, and sometimes hostile environment. Life is depicted in all of its beauty and ugliness, with the positives and the negatives. New York City is illuminated through vivid word-imagery, people and their personalities are excellently depicted. Cultural mores are drawn together, showing the similarities within both the Syrian community and the Jewish community. Each culture wants the same for their own kind. The human situation and all it encompasses are woven within the tapestry of the pages within The Golem and the Jinni.

Helene Wecker is masterful, in my opinion, in her ability to portray the characters within the varied settings and cultural aspects. I especially enjoyed the historical aspects of The Golem and the Jinni: A Novel, within the realm of an adult fairy tale!

May 20, 2013 11 Sivan, 5773

All rights reserved © Copyright 2007 – 2013 – All Rights Reserved – No permission is given or allowed to reuse my photography, book reviews, writings, or my poetry in any form/format without my express written consent/permission.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Immigrant Experience, Judaism, Lorri's Blog, Novels

Sunday Scenes – May 19, 2013

pond in middle

And, you think you might have it difficult, or you might have family problems! Three sisters had the BRCA test, tested positive, and each one opted for double mastectomies. After their initial surgeries (one sister in October, one in January, and one in February) it was determined that one of them, indeed, did have breast cancer. The surgery saved her life. They don’t feel sorry for themselves, but feel glad to be free of cancer.

Getting tested is an individual choice, and is not the right choice for everyone. For some, the option is not covered by insurance, for others, they do not want to be tested, and for some it is simply not necessary due to their family history. We each have our own circumstances and decisions that factor into getting or not getting the BRCA test. That is not what the blurb above is about, and I am not promoting getting tested or not getting tested, or trying to alarm anyone. It is about the fact that not one, but three sisters tested positive for the genetic mutation, within less than a year’s time, and each one had a double mastectomy. It is not something you read about every day, and it caught my attention on the front page of the news edition.

Did you know that Ashkenazi Jews have a higher risk of Breast Cancer?

In book news:


And the Mountains Echoed
, by khaled Hosseini, will be released on May 21, 2013. I enjoyed his previous works, The Kite Runner, and also A Thousand Splendid Suns.

The 2013 Canadian Jewish Book Award was given to Matti Friedman for The Aleppo Codex.

hills and pond

May 19, 2013 – 10 Sivan, 5773

All rights reserved © Copyright 2007 – 2013 – All Rights Reserved – No permission is given or allowed to reuse my photography, book reviews, writings, or my poetry in any form/format without my express written consent/permission.

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Lorri M. Friday News 5/17/13

2 Mogen david

I reviewed the memoir, Country of Ash: A Jewish Doctor in Poland 1939-1945.

I wrote about Cancer in Varied Forms, this week.

I finished reading The Golem and the Jinni, and I absolutely enjoyed it, although it is not my normal genre of reading.

Blossomsmall

Hannah’s Nook has a delicious sounding Fruity Red Lentil Curry recipe posted.

Leora’s Sketching Out blog has a wonderful colored-pencil drawing: Fishing at the Raritan River: Man and Boy. What are your thoughts on it?

Visit Shiloh Musings and read her Jewish Blog Roundup which has several links to browse.

Zivah writes on Naso – raising us up.

Yidstock 2013 – The Festival of New Yiddish Music

Visit Women of the Wall to see their latest update.

The Jewish Journal has a post about the new documentary: State 194: A Documentary About Palestine.

Jewish Waltz With Planet Earth Retreat, such an interesting concept.

Shabbat Shalom!

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Filed under Book Reviews, Holocaust/Genocide, Jewish History, Judaism, Lorri's Blog, Memoirs, news

Lorri M. Book Review: Country of Ash: A Jewish Doctor in Poland 1939-1945

country of ash Country of Ash: A Jewish Doctor in Poland 1939-1945, by Edward Reicher, is a compelling memoir, and one that speaks forthrightly about the Holocaust and how it affected Reicher and his family.

The horrific incidents and events that took place between 1939-1945 are depicted with candor, leaving no detail undisclosed. From the Lodz ghetto to the Warsaw ghetto and all locations in between, Reicher writes about the horrors of the Jewish ghetto life, the inhumanities that the Jewish population faced and had to deal with, and the agonizing moments of family separation.

At one point he had to make a choice between his severely ill father in his house, and his wife and child back home. He chose to stay with his father, because he felt he would not be able to go on without him. He felt that his family would be able to survive, and prayed he made the right decision.

Being a doctor who specialized in skin disorders, he was forced to treat the Germans. which he did. He was not given special privilege for his efforts. Reicher literally saved Germans from the agony of skin diseases, including syphilis and gonorrhea. He did so out of duty as a doctor. He also treated other Jews who ended up turning on him, and did nothing to help him. He eventually was able to hide on the Aryan side of Warsaw, disguised and running from place to place.

Reicher witnessed a lot of abusive actions and witnessed Jews being murdered. He, himself, suffered abuse, but he writes about that in a minor fashion compared to what other Jews endured. He had involvement with Chaim Rumkowski, a man that he described as a madman, and a self-appointed “King of the Jews”. He courageously testified against Hermann Hofle, and how Hofle helped send hundreds of thousands of Jews to their deaths in Poland.

Reicher survived the Holocaust, along with his wife and daughter. His daughter, Elisabeth Bizouard-Reicher translated her father’s book to French from Polish, and now, it has been translated to English by Magda Bogin.

Country of Ash: A Jewish Doctor in Poland 1939-1945 is not only a tribute to the strength, determination, and fortitude, but a tribute to all of the Jewish victims of the Holocaust. It is a tribute to those who were not Jewish, yet did strive to offer a place to hide and offer food to Reicher and/or his family. It is a memoir that honors Reicher’s daughter, Elisabeth Bizouard-Reicher’s determination to see her father’s memoir in print for all the world to read the horrors and inhumanities suffered by the Polish Jews.

Country of Ash
is intense, graphic with its depictions, and a brilliantly written account of one man’s environment and interactions during the Holocaust. It is written without flourish or exaggeration, but written as Edward Reicher witnessed events, and as he found himself involved in the many crossroads of decision and action.

It is not a book I will soon forget due to the extensiveness and intensity of the content, which makes it a difficult read. But, read, I had to, because I wanted to know the truth of his story. It is not a book I will soon forget.
May 16, 2013 – 7 Sivan, 5773

All rights reserved © Copyright 2007 – 2013 – All Rights Reserved – No permission is given or allowed to reuse my photography, book reviews, writings, or my poetry in any form/format without my express written consent/permission.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Holocaust/Genocide, Jewish History, Judaism, Lorri's Blog, Memoirs, Non-Fiction, World War II

Cancer in Varied Forms

Most of us know a family member, a friend, or have heard of a family member or friend of a friend, who has/had cancer. I had both my ovaries removed in 1989, when it was determined that one was precancerous. Life went on, and continues to do so. I felt relieved to be free of the possibility of a future with ovarian cancer. The scar I bear, to this day, is an attribute to my decision to have the second ovary removed, so as not to be surprised down the road with ovarian cancer. The fact I had the two ovaries removed did not define who I am, but rather define who I am not. I am not one to stand back and feel sorry for myself.

My mother had Stage IV Metastatic Breast Cancer, and had a mastectomy, to remove her entire breast along with more than a dozen of axillary lymph nodes (supraclavicular nodes, infraclavicular nodes and internal mammary nodes). She was extremely lucky to have the surgeon she did.

She survived the cancer, and when she died it was not from breast cancer or any form of cancer. She was an inspiration, forging forward, ever cognizant of life, and held a positive attitude throughout everything she encountered. For her, the loss of a breast was nothing compared to loss of life. She would look in the mirror and give thanks to G-d for allowing her to have more time with family and friends. She would look in the mirror and not let her scarred skin determine the person she was.

My first cousin died in 2008 from breast cancer. She battled it for three years. A cousin of mine died last August of lung cancer. The mother of my daughter-in-law had a lung removed due to lung cancer, and she never smoked a day in her life! One of my daughter’s coworkers has breast cancer. The cousin of one of my daughter’s coworkers has breast cancer…she is 26 years old, and needs a complete mastectomy…she feels lucky that it was found.

It has come to light that the actress Angelina Jolie had a double mastectomy recently, due to high breast cancer risk. I applaud her for coming forth with the fact.

Other celebrities, such as Sharon Osbourne, Christina Applegate and Giulana Rancic have had mastectomies. TV host Brooke Burk-Charvet has surgery for thyroid cancer. These are just recent incidents.

I have ancestors who died of cancer…colon cancer and also pancreatic cancer. Unfortunately cancer is here to stay, and generations to come will become involved with the disease.

Cancer is not a pretty sound. Many people choose to ignore the word, others choose to fight the fight. Whatever the choice one makes, it is individual. Education regarding the various diseases that are encompassed within the cancer realm is extremely important in order to educate others so they can make informed decisions.

Tonight the festival of Shavuot begins, honoring the day G-d gave the Torah to the entire Israeli nation who were present at Mount Sinai. Take a moment, within your commemoration to reflect upon those you know, or know of, who have had cancer.

Sorry for the update…I saw an error needing correction.

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Birthday Wishes

LifeLines1

Yom Hu’ledet Same’ach Le’Abba! Happy Birthday, Dad! I miss and love you! Memories of you reside within me, blessings from my past.

yarz

May your Memory be for a Loving Blessing.

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