Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, where book bloggers are invited to share their top ten lists centered on a certain theme.
Happy Hanukkah! Growing up in a culturally Jewish family, I struggled as a kid to find books with Jewish characters that weren’t just about the Holocaust. I’ve been so happy to see more books with Jewish rep over the last few years, and there’s even more great ones coming out in 2019.
Need a last minute Hanukkah gift for someone (or yourself)? Or just want to support Jewish stories and/or authors this holiday season? Here’s a list of books to buy, pre-order, or borrow from your library (remember, there are lots of ways you can support authors even if you’re not able to purchase their books!) centered on Jewish voices.
1. You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone by Rachel Lynn Solomon
Without a doubt one of my favorite books of the year, this one is a heartbreaking look at family, sisterhood, and identity.
Goodreads summary: “Eighteen-year-old twins Adina and Tovah have little in common besides their ambitious nature. Viola prodigy Adina yearns to become a soloist—and to convince her music teacher he wants her the way she wants him. Overachiever Tovah awaits her acceptance to Johns Hopkins, the first step on her path toward med school and a career as a surgeon.
But one thing could wreck their carefully planned futures: a genetic test for Huntington’s, a rare degenerative disease that slowly steals control of the body and mind. It’s turned their Israeli mother into a near stranger and fractured the sisters’ own bond in ways they’ll never admit. While Tovah finds comfort in their Jewish religion, Adina rebels against its rules.
When the results come in, one twin tests negative for Huntington’s. The other tests positive.
These opposite outcomes push them farther apart as they wrestle with guilt, betrayal, and the unexpected thrill of first love. How can they repair their relationship, and is it even worth saving?”
2. Invisible Ghosts by Robyn Schneider
This book won me over with its Buffy references, but also had a thoughtful look at how complicated grief is.
Goodreads summary: “Rose Asher believes in ghosts. She should, since she has one for a best friend: Logan, her annoying, Netflix-addicted brother, who is forever stuck at fifteen. But Rose is growing up, and when an old friend moves back to Laguna Canyon and appears in her drama class, things get complicated.
Jamie Aldridge is charming, confident, and a painful reminder of the life Rose has been missing out on since her brother’s death. She watches as Jamie easily rejoins their former friends–a group of magnificently silly theater nerds–while avoiding her so intensely that it must be deliberate.
Yet when the two of them unexpectedly cross paths, Rose learns that Jamie has a secret of his own, one that changes everything. Rose finds herself drawn back into her old life–and to Jamie. But she quickly starts to suspect that he isn’t telling her the whole truth.
All Rose knows is that it’s becoming harder to choose between the boy who makes her feel alive and the brother she isn’t ready to lose.”
3. Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert
I love this intersectionally diverse YA contemporary about a queer Black Jewish teen dealing with mental health and blended families.
Goodreads summary: “When Suzette comes home to Los Angeles from her boarding school in New England, she isn’t sure if she’ll ever want to go back. L.A. is where her friends and family are (along with her crush, Emil). And her stepbrother, Lionel, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, needs her emotional support.
But as she settles into her old life, Suzette finds herself falling for someone new…the same girl her brother is in love with. When Lionel’s disorder spirals out of control, Suzette is forced to confront her past mistakes and find a way to help her brother before he hurts himself–or worse.”
4. Lucky Broken Girl by Ruth Behar
This middle grade historical novel is on my TBR, and it features a Cuban-Jewish main character. I love the illustrated cover with floral details!
Goodreads summary: “Based on the author’s childhood in the 1960s, a young Cuban-Jewish immigrant girl is adjusting to her new life in New York City when her American dream is suddenly derailed.
Ruthie Mizrahi and her family recently emigrated from Castro’s Cuba to New York City. Just when she’s finally beginning to gain confidence in her mastery of English and enjoying her reign as her neighborhood’s hopscotch queen, a horrific car accident leaves her in a body cast and confined her to her bed for a long recovery. As Ruthie’s world shrinks because of her inability to move, her powers of observation and her heart grow larger. She comes to understand how fragile life is, how vulnerable we all are as human beings, and how friends, neighbors, and the power of the arts can sweeten even the worst of times.”
5. In the Neighborhood of True by Susan Kaplan Carlton
Another historical novel, this one is a YA novel about a Jewish teen who moves to the South and begins to hide her faith.
Goodreads summary: “After her father’s death, Ruth Robb and her family transplant themselves in the summer of 1958 from New York City to Atlanta—the land of debutantes, sweet tea, and the Ku Klux Klan. In her new hometown, Ruth quickly figures out she can be Jewish or she can be popular, but she can’t be both. Eager to fit in with the blond girls in the “pastel posse,” Ruth decides to hide her religion. Before she knows it, she is falling for the handsome and charming Davis and sipping Cokes with him and his friends at the all-white, all-Christian Club.
Does it matter that Ruth’s mother makes her attend services at the local synagogue every week? Not as long as nobody outside her family knows the truth. At temple Ruth meets Max, who is serious and intense about the fight for social justice, and now she is caught between two worlds, two religions, and two boys. But when a violent hate crime brings the different parts of Ruth’s life into sharp conflict, she will have to choose between all she’s come to love about her new life and standing up for what she believes.”
6. Our Year of Maybe by Rachel Lynn Solomon
Yes, I have two Rachel Lynn Solomon books on here. I’ve already pre-ordered this one and will definitely be ordering anything she writes! Rachel is also doing a super awesome pre-order giveaway, which you can read about here.
Goodreads summary: “Aspiring choreographer Sophie Orenstein would do anything for Peter Rosenthal-Porter, who’s been on the kidney transplant list as long as she’s known him. Peter, a gifted pianist, is everything to Sophie: best friend, musical collaborator, secret crush. When she learns she’s a match, donating a kidney is an easy, obvious choice. She can’t help wondering if after the transplant, he’ll love her back the way she’s always wanted.
But Peter’s life post-transplant isn’t what either of them expected. Though he once had feelings for Sophie too, he’s now drawn to Chase, the guitarist in a band that happens to be looking for a keyboardist. And while neglected parts of Sophie’s world are calling to her—dance opportunities, new friends, a sister and niece she barely knows—she longs for a now-distant Peter more than ever, growing increasingly bitter he doesn’t seem to feel the same connection.
Peter fears he’ll forever be indebted to her. Sophie isn’t sure who she is without him. Then one blurry, heartbreaking night twists their relationship into something neither of them recognizes, leading them to question their past, their future, and whether their friendship is even worth fighting for.”
7. You Asked For Perfect by Laura Silverman
I loved Laura’s debut, Girl Out of Water, and am so excited that her next one deals with academic pressure (and queer rep!).
Goodreads summary: “Senior Ariel Stone is the perfect college applicant: first chair violin, dedicated community volunteer, and expected valedictorian. He works hard – really hard – to make his life look effortless. A failed Calculus quiz is not part of that plan. Not when he’s number one. Not when his peers can smell weakness like a freshman’s body spray.
Figuring a few all-nighters will preserve his class rank, Ariel throws himself into studying. His friends will understand if he skips a few plans, and he can sleep when he graduates. Except Ariel’s grade continues to slide. Reluctantly, he gets a tutor. Amir and Ariel have never gotten along, but Amir excels in Calculus, and Ariel is out of options.
Ariel may not like Calc, but he might like Amir. Except adding a new relationship to his long list of commitments may just push him past his limit.”
8. Knit One, Girl Two by Shira Glassman
I just came across this Jewish f/f novella about an artist and a yarn dyer on Goodreads and can’t wait to read it! It sounds fluffy, adorable, and the ebook is only $1.99! I might just buy this one for myself as a Hanukkah treat this week.
Goodreads summary: “Small-batch independent yarn dyer Clara Ziegler is eager to brainstorm new color combinations–if only she could come up with ideas she likes as much as last time! When she sees Danielle Solomon’s paintings of Florida wildlife by chance at a neighborhood gallery, she finds her source of inspiration. Outspoken, passionate, and complicated, Danielle herself soon proves even more captivating than her artwork.”
9. My Basmati Bat Mitzvah by Paula J. Freedman
When I was growing up, I had no idea there were other mixed-race Asian-American Jews out there, and I definitely felt like an anomaly. My childhood self would have flipped out about this middle grade book! It’s on my TBR and I hope to pick it up soon.
Goodreads summary: “During the fall leading up to her bat mitzvah, Tara (Hindi for “star”) Feinstein has a lot more than her Torah portion on her mind. Between Hebrew school and study sessions with the rabbi, there doesn’t seem to be enough time to hang out with her best friend Ben-o–who might also be her boyfriend–and her other best friend, Rebecca, who’s getting a little too cozy with that snotty Sheila Rosenberg. Not to mention working on her robotics project with the class clown Ryan Berger, or figuring out what to do with a priceless heirloom sari that she accidentally ruined. Amid all this drama, Tara considers how to balance her Indian and Jewish identities and what it means to have a bat mitzvah while questioning her faith.”
10. Playing With Matches by Suri Rosen
A contemporary YA about a teen matchmaker from an Orthodox Jewish background. I haven’t read this one yet but have seen some great reviews for it!
Goodreads summary: “When 16-year-old Raina Resnick is expelled from her Manhattan private school, she’s sent to live with her strict aunt-but Raina feels like she’s persona non grata no matter where she goes. Her sister, Leah, blames her for her broken engagement, and she’s a social pariah at her new school. In the tight-knit Jewish community, Raina finds she is good at one thing: matchmaking! As the anonymous “MatchMaven,” Raina sets up hopeless singles desperate to find the One.
Can she find the perfect match for her sister and get back on her good side, or will her secret life catch up with her?
In this debut novel, Suri Rosen creates a comic and heartwarming story of one girl trying to find happiness for others, and redemption for herself.”
BONUS: It’s A Whole Spiel edited by Katherine Locke
Be sure to have this YA anthology on your radar for 2019. It’s made up of #OwnVoices Jewish authors from all backgrounds and is such an important book. It doesn’t have a cover or official release date yet, but is anticipated for Fall 2019, so make sure to add it to your TBR.
Do you know any other books with Jewish rep? I’m always looking for recommendations, especially if they’re YA or MG, or are intersectionally diverse.