For the third year in a row, Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning
and Leadership will spearhead One Book | One Community,
the Chicago Jewish Community's Jewish Book Month initiative, in which a single book is selected
as the focus of a series of activities and resources. This year’s pick, Jami Attenberg’s The
Middlesteins, is a story of marriage, family, and obsessions, set amidst
the landscape of suburban Chicago. Activities begin in October with a special
kick-off event and a series of book discussions, and then culminate in November
with three Chicago-area appearances by the author.
JUF News is the media sponsor of One Book | One Community.
Attenberg, who grew up in Buffalo Grove and now lives in Brooklyn, has
written for The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Salon, and more. Her debut collection of
stories, Instant Love, was published
in 2006. She is also the author of the novels The Kept Man and The Melting
Season. The Middlesteins, her
third novel, was published in October 2012 by Grand Central Publishing. It
appeared on TheNew York Times bestseller list and will be published in England,
Taiwan, Russia, Italy, France, Turkey, and the Netherlands.
Beth Schenker, Spertus director of Programming, said about the choice of The Middlesteins, “The book, which
centers on a contemporary, multi-generational Jewish family, expertly explores
many intriguing themes, giving readers a lot to think about and discuss. We
also like that the author and the
characters are from the Chicago area.”
A specially prepared Readers’ Guide explores the themes and characters in
The Middlesteins. The Readers’ Guide is
now available for download from the the Spertus website — at spertus.edu/Middlesteins.
Activities kick off on Thursday, Oct.17, at Spertus Institute in Chicago.
Beginning at 6:30 p.m. Spertus Institute Executive Chef Laura Frankel will treat
participants to an edible history of the special relationship between Jews and
Chinese food, a relationship deliciously explored in The Middlesteins. Along with their history, attendees will learn to
make bao dumplings with pulled brisket, lo mein noodles with wok-charred long
beans and vegetables, and more. Tickets are $25 (and include ample tastings).
Two weeks later, on Wednesday, Oct. 30 at 6:30 p.m., Spertus will host
the first of two free book discussions. This discussion will be led by expert
facilitator Rachel Kamin, director of the Gray Cultural & Learning Center
at North Suburban Synagogue Beth El.
On Tuesday, Nov. 5 at 7 p.m., the second free book discussion will be
held at the Skokie Public Library... This discussion will be facilitated by
Skokie Public Library reference librarian Lee Leibik and author Attenberg, will
join the final part of the discussion via Skype.
Readers will then have three additional opportunities to meet the author
at one of three Chicago-area locations. On Sunday, Nov. 10 at 2 p.m., Attenberg
will discuss The Middlesteins at Congregation Etz Chaim in Lombard. At 7 p.m.
that evening, Attenberg will appear Congregation Beth Judea in Long Grove, where
her parents are longtime members. Both events are free.
Activities conclude on Monday, Nov.
11 at 7 p.m. at Spertus Institute. This ticketed event, entitled “A Literary
Conversation with Jami Attenberg,” will include a reception and book signing. Award-winning Chicago Tribune health and family
reporterBonnie Miller Rubin will
interview author Jami Attenberg about her writing, The Middlesteins, and what she’s working on next. Tickets for this
event are $15. However, those who present a ticket stub from the Oct.17 kick-off
program will receive a 2-for-1 admission.
Reservations are requested for the free programs and advance tickets are
recommended for the Oct. 17 and Nov. 11 events. Information is available at spertus.edu/Middlesteins.
In conjunction with One Book | One Community, Spertus presents a pair of
large-scale photographs by Jay Wolke from his landmark study of Chicago Jewry. Just
as The Middlesteins explores life in
Jewish Chicago, these images offer a vivid look into the ways that age-old Jewish
traditions are reimagined in a uniquely American context.
The Middlesteins will be for sale at all programs. Jami
Attenberg will be signing books at the Author Events.
For those programs taking place at Spertus, discount parking is available
for $10 with Spertus validation at the Essex Inn, two blocks south of Spertus.
Book Month is an annual event on the American Jewish calendar dedicated to the
celebration of Jewish books. It is observed during the month preceding
Hanukkah, thus the exact date changes each year. This year Hanukkah begins at
sundown on Nov. 27 and events celebrating Jewish literature will take across
North America throughout October and November.