What’s in my Beach Bag

With a few more weeks left to enjoy summer, and me heading out today for two weeks of vacation, now seems like a good moment to share some of what I’ve been reading this summer.

I love a good travelogue and there are two this year that I have particularly appreciated:

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South to America by Imani Perry

A Black woman from Alabama returns home to encounter the South in all its diversity. It is a brilliant examination of 400 years of history and culture below the Mason-Dixon line that provides deep insight into the American nature. Bonus: There’s some story telling about the Jews of the South, and in particular of New Orleans, that is fascinating and nuanced.

Twelve Tribes by Ethan Michaeli

In this portrait of Israel, somewhat inspired by President Rivlin’s now famous “four tribes” speech, an Israeli-American spends four years traveling around the country, immersing himself in the people, the cultures, and the food. I found myself recognizing fondly many of the places and voices as Michaeli paints a vivid portrait of a diverse country. Reading it almost felt like I was on one of our study tours.

Two writers I enjoy have new works out this season:

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Koshersoul by Michael Twitty

The James Beard Award winning chef follows up his first cookbook come memoir, The Cooking Gene, with this new volume exploring the intersection of his Jewish and African heritages, and the food he creates based on these identities and cultures. It’s a beautiful, touching, and revealing work.

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The Hurting Kind by Ada Limón

Named as America’s poet laureate earlier this year, her most recent volume is a stunning collection. I’m reading it very slowly because I’m just cherishing the sounds and images of every line, exploring the humanity, loss, interconnectedness and relationships.

I love history, and the reexamination thereof, and there are two new works that I can’t stop talking about:

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The Arc of a Covenant by Walter Russell Mead

This fantastic volume flips the table on decades of conventional wisdom about the U.S.-Israel relationship. It centers the story of American Christians, going back to the 19th century, within the context of Jewish homecoming; and demonstrates how the success of the modern state of Israel has impacted Christianity in America.

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The Pope at War, by David I. Kertzer

In 2020, the Vatican unsealed many of Pius XII’s papers, including voluminous documents covering the Pope’s interactions with Nazi Germany. This is the first of what will no doubt be many works examining these archives detailing the Pope’s thoughts and actions as Europe was engulfed in war and genocide.

Finally, a dive into two collections of new classics:

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Charlotte Perkins Gilman: Novels, Stories & Poems, Library of America

As a collector (and a patron) of the Library, I enjoy discovering an author I haven’t been previously introduced to. This volume brings a collection of late 19th century Gothic tales, speculative fiction, and other writings for a contemporary audience.

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Captain America, Penguin Classics/Marvel Collection

Because I’m me, I was thrilled when these two publishers teamed up to canonize early comics that are now cultural classics. There are three volumes out this year, covering foundational stories from Spider-Man and the Black Panther, but I’m starting with the OG anti-Nazi, Captain America (who punches Hitler on his very first cover, back in 1941, included below).

For more on my interest in the early Jewish comic book artists who poured their identity into their characters, check out this conversation I had this last Spring with Mark Sokoll at the JCC of Greater Boston. Timestamp 2:00-4:25.

That’s some of what I’m reading this summer. I’d love to know what you are reading, and maybe I’ll add it to my fall pile.

Till I return from vacation I wish you a Happy Labor Day, and a Shabbat Shalom,

Jeremy

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