6 short books to read this Yom Kippur – J.

Everyone celebrates Yom Kippur differently. In my family we read – and we always have a light on in one room so that we can all gather together at night.

Since we all read something different, we are all enmeshed in our own private universe. At the same time, reading together connects us. The occasional gasp or giggle, the sound of a growling stomach (already?!), or the touch of my mother’s calf against mine punctuate the paragraphs of the book I chose to read this Yom Kippur.

If, like me, you find that literature helps you reach a level of transcendence, here are six books by Jewish authors that you can start and finish in 25 hours. After all, some of the best books are those that put wisdom in small packages and give the reader room to absorb that wisdom.

“Home is a Stranger” by Parnaz Foroutan (224 pages)

Cover of Foroutan, a Californian Jew, left Iran when she was 7 years old. Eighteen years later, after her father died, she returned to her native country hoping to find something there… Well, it’s complicated. Foroutan’s travelogue is also the coming-of-age story of a woman whose irrepressible love of life brings her into conflict with the country’s theocratic regime. Readers will appreciate the thoughtful manner in which Foroutan portrays traumatic experiences and the realities of life in a repressive society.

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Quotable: ‘I said no. I can do it.’ Pouya knelt down, looked me in the eye and said, ‘Sometimes you have to give others the opportunity to do good.’”

“A Walker in the City” by Alfred Kazin (192 pages)

Kazin’s memoirs are light in plot but full of rich, evocative descriptions. It traces how the author’s largely Jewish neighborhood in Brownsville, Brooklyn, has changed since he lived there as a child. In the end, the book is not only a declaration of love to the city he calls home, but also an examination of time itself.

Quotable: “Everything here now seems so small, old, crushed, more run-down than I remember, but with a heartbreaking familiarity at every door that makes me wonder if I can accommodate something new, that’s how strong I feel in Brownsville I am.” go in my sleep.”

“Lucy” by Jamaica Kincaid (176 pages)

Cover of When 19-year-old Lucy travels to the US from the Caribbean to live and work with a white host family, she is surprised to find that it can be cold outside, even when the sun is shining. Many surprises follow as the headstrong young woman comes to terms with romance, racism, and the challenge of finding her place in black American life as an immigrant. But even as she explores this new world, Lucy grapples with disturbing memories of her country of origin and a complicated relationship with her mother, to whom she ends up sending a rebellious letter.

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Quotable: “I reminded her that my whole upbringing was aimed at preventing me from becoming a slut; Then I gave a brief description of my personal life, offering every detail as proof that my upbringing was a failure and that life as a slut was actually quite comfortable, thank you very much.”

“Kaddish and Other Poems” by Allen Ginsberg (130 pages)

Five years after US Customs officers confiscated copies of Ginsberg’s book Howl and Other Poems for being obscene, the beat poet released his second collection. In a style that reflects the chaos of the mid-20th century, the autobiographical poems here explore grief, confrontation with mortality, and the traumatic psychological impact of the Holocaust on American Jews who learned about it in the news.

Quotable: “Is it only the sun that once shines for the mind, only the flash of existence when none ever was?”

“Seven Stories” by Gina Berriault (176 pages)

Cover of More than two decades after Berriault’s death, Penguin Random House recently reprinted some of the late Jewish author’s short stories. The stories in this collection explore encounters between flawed adults and children who are sometimes theirs and sometimes not. Though primarily set in San Francisco, the stories are imbued with a sense of enchantment that positions them outside of time and space.

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Quotable: “She felt like she was a hundred years old and eventually discovered that the person in her memory that affected her most was not the one she loved the most, but the one she understood the least. “

“Seedfolks” by Paul Fleischman, illustrated by Judy Pedersen (112 pages)

For younger readers (and older ones too—why not?), this tale of an urban garden in a diverse immigrant community is sure to enchant. Thirteen different voices come together to tell the story of the garden, a powerful and much-needed symbol of hope, in its first year of existence.

Quotable: “You can’t see Canada across Lake Erie, but you know it’s there. It’s the same with spring. You have to have faith, especially in Cleveland. Snow in April always breaks your heart.”