By Joshua Cohen
What’s it about?
WINNER OF THE 2022 PULITZER PRIZE FOR FICTION
2021 NATIONAL JEWISH BOOK AWARD WINNER
A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF 2021
A WALL STREET JOURNAL BEST BOOK OF 2021
A KIRKUS BEST FICTION BOOK OF 2021
This novel takes place in a small liberal arts college in upstate New York in 1959. The narrator, Daniel Blum, is an economics professor trying to get tenure. He specializes in tax history and is the only Jewish member of the faculty. When the university is considering hiring Benzion Netanyahu, father of future Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, they ask Ruben to sit on the hiring committee. From the start, the campus visit does not go as planned.
What did it make me think about?
Is it possible to be seen in small town America as “an average American” when you are the only Jew around? Does it make it even more obvious that you are different when you try too hard to assimilate?
Should I read it?
So it turns out that this book was loosely based on a true story. Joshua Cohen takes the outline of what happened and then adds layer upon layer of observations. For me, the book is about being an American Jew. Let’s not even start with the complicated relationship many Jews have to Israel, Jewish suffering throughout history, or the idea that all history is revisionist?
“I am a Jewish historian, but I am not a historian of the Jews,”