Orthodox Excellence: New YA Novels Centering Orthodox Characters

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    🕮    Representation of Orthodox Judaism has been virtually non-existent in traditionally published contemporary young adult fiction, but that is starting to change. In this episode, I spoke with Leah Scheier, author of The Last Words We Said published by Simon & Schuster, and Isaac Blum, author of The Life and Crimes of Hoodie Rosen, published by Philomel Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House. These two young adult novels offer layered and insightful portraits of well-rounded Orthodox characters in books aimed well beyond an Orthodox readership. 

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BONUS: JEWISH BOOK MONTH RECOMMENDATIONS

LEAH: I'm happy to recommend THE BOOK THIEF by Marcus Zusak for its beautiful prose, YOU'LL MISS ME WHEN I'M GONE by Rachel Lynn Solomon-- a book that features music, nerdiness and two compelling Jewish teens, and THE SUMMER OF LOST LETTERS by Hannah Reynolds if you are looking for a light, fun summer romance. Obviously I recommend Hoodie Rosen but that goes without saying :-)

ISAAC: THIS REBEL HEART by Katherine Locke is a YA novel about a student revolution in 1950s Hungary. It's smart, Jewish, and magical, and it highlights a fascinating moment in history I knew nothing about. BLACK BIRD, BLUE ROAD by Sofiya Pasternack is a touching middle grade novel about the love between siblings. It's also fantastical, historical, and full of adventure. And THE VIEW FROM SATURDAY by E.L. Konigsburg is a classic. It won the Newberry Medal. So you've probably read it already. But it's worth reading again. I wish there were more Jewish children's novels like this: an ensemble cast of Jewish and non-Jewish characters, told in vignettes.

HEIDI: Other recent books from mainstream presses featuring contemporary Orthodox characters include AVIVA VS THE DYBBUK by Mari Lowe from Levine Querido and HONEY AND ME by Meira Drazin from Scholastic.

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