“The novel’s women are tough and subversive, pushing those around them toward more nuanced approaches to religion and life…Jerusalem as a Second Language [is] a sensitive novel about how religiosity is adapted in liminal spaces.” -Foreword Reviews, July/August 2020
Please join me in spreading the word about JERUSALEM AS A SECOND LANGUAGE (Trade Paperback; Aubdae Publishing; ISBN 978-1-951547-06-6; $19.95), the wonderful new novel by the late Rochelle Distelheim. Rochelle was an award winning short story writer whose debut novel, Sadie in Love, was published in 2018, when she was ninety! She passed away just a few weeks ago at the age of 92, but I hope we can bring attention to her and her writing and honor her legacy.
SYNOPSIS: It’s 1998. The old Soviet Union is dead, the new Russia is awash in corruption and despair. Manya and Yuri Zalinikov, secular Jews – he, a gifted mathematician recently dismissed from the Academy, she, a concert pianist -- sell black market electronics in a market stall, until threatened with a gun by a Mafioso in search of protection money. Yuri sinks into a Chekhovian melancholy, emerging to announce that he wants to “live as a Jew” in Israel. Manya and their daughter, Galina, are desolate, asking “how does one do that,” and “why?”
Thus begins their odyssey, part tragedy, part comedy but always surprising. Struggling against loneliness, language, and danger, Yuri finds a Talmudic teacher equally addicted to religion and luxury; Manya finds a job playing the piano at The White Nights supper club, owned by a wealthy, flamboyant Russian with a murky history, who offers lust disguised as love. Galina, enrolled at Hebrew University, finds dance clubs and pizza emporiums and a string of young men, one of whom Manya hopes will save her from the Israeli army by marrying her.
Against a potpourri of marriage wigs, matchmaking television shows, disastrous investment schemes, and a suicide bombing, JERUSALEM AS A SECOND LANGUAGE confronts the thin line between religious faith and skepticism.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rochelle Distelheim, a Chicago native, earned numerous short story literary awards, including The Katherine Anne Porter Prize; Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards and Fellowships; The Ragdale Foundation Fellowships; The Faulkner Society Gold Medal in Novel-in-Progress; The Faulkner Society Gold Medal in Novel; The Gival Press 2017 Short Story Competition; Finalist, Glimmer Train’s Emerging Writers; and The Salamander Second Prize in Short Story. In addition, Rochelle’s short stories earned nominations for The Best American Short Stories and The Pushcart Prize. Her stories appeared in national magazines such as Glamour, Good Housekeeping, Ladies Home Journal, Woman’s Day, Woman’s World, Working Woman, Working Mother, and more. Her first novel, Sadie in Love, was published in 2018 when she was 90 years old. She lived in Highland Park, IL. Here is the obituary that ran in the Chicago Tribune: https://www.legacy.com/
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