CBE Book Group
Join us for a discussion of a book or books determined by this lay-led group. All are welcome! If you have any questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The CBE Book Group has been privileged to welcome several acclaimed authors to speak about their works. To view recordings of some of these talks, including conversations with Jamie Bernstein, Matti Friedman, Yousef Bashir, David Maraniss, Helen Fremont, Julie Metz, and Sherry Turkle, click here.
National Jewish Book Award Winner in Contemporary Jewish Life and Practice Finalist for the 2021 Kirkus Prize in Nonfiction A New York Times Notable Book of the Year A Wall Street Journal, Chicago Public Library, Publishers Weekly, and Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year A startling and profound exploration of how Jewish history is exploited to comfort the living. Renowned and beloved as a prizewinning novelist, Dara Horn has also been publishing penetrating essays since she was a teenager. Often asked by major publications to write on subjects related to Jewish culture―and increasingly in response to a recent wave of deadly antisemitic attacks―Horn was troubled to realize what all of these assignments had in common: she was being asked to write about dead Jews, never about living ones. In these essays, Horn reflects on subjects as far-flung as the international veneration of Anne Frank, the mythology that Jewish family names were changed at Ellis Island, the blockbuster traveling exhibition Auschwitz, the marketing of the Jewish history of Harbin, China, and the little-known life of the “righteous Gentile” Varian Fry. Throughout, she challenges us to confront the reasons why there might be so much fascination with Jewish deaths, and so little respect for Jewish lives unfolding in the present. Horn draws upon her travels, her research, and also her own family life―trying to explain Shakespeare’s Shylock to a curious ten-year-old, her anger when swastikas are drawn on desks in her children’s school, the profound perspective offered by traditional religious practice and study―to assert the vitality, complexity, and depth of Jewish life against an antisemitism that, far from being disarmed by the mantra of “Never forget,” is on the rise. As Horn explores the (not so) shocking attacks on the American Jewish community in recent years, she reveals the subtler dehumanization built into the public piety that surrounds the Jewish past―making the radical argument that the benign reverence we give to past horrors is itself a profound affront to human dignity.
Named one of the best books of 2021 by NPR, The Washington Post, and Financial Times
“No one states problems more correctly, more astutely, more amusingly and more uncomfortably than Francine Prose . . . The gift of her work to a reader is to create for us what she creates for her protagonist: the subtle unfolding, the moment-by-moment process of discovery as we read and change, from not knowing and even not wanting to know or care, to seeing what we had not seen and finding our way to the light of the ending.”—Amy Bloom, New York Times Book Review “Depending on the light, it’s either a very funny serious story or a very serious funny story. But no matter how you turn it, The Vixen offers an illuminating reflection on the slippery nature of truth in America, then and now.”—Washington Post Critically acclaimed, bestselling author Francine Prose returns with a dazzling new novel set in the glamorous world of 1950s New York publishing, the story of a young man tasked with editing a steamy bodice-ripper based on the recent trial and execution of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg—an assignment that will reveal the true cost of entering that seductive, dangerous new world. It’s 1953, and Simon Putnam, a recent Harvard graduate newly hired by a distinguished New York publishing firm, has entered a glittering world of three-martini lunches, exclusive literary parties, and old-money aristocrats in exquisitely tailored suits, a far cry from his loving, middle-class Jewish family in Coney Island. But Simon’s first assignment—editing The Vixen, the Patriot and the Fanatic, a lurid bodice-ripper improbably based on the recent trial and execution of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, a potboiler intended to shore up the firm’s failing finances—makes him question the cost of admission. Because Simon has a secret that, at the height of the Red Scare and the McCarthy hearings, he cannot reveal: his beloved mother was a childhood friend of Ethel Rosenberg’s. His parents mourn Ethel’s death. Simon’s dilemma grows thornier when he meets The Vixen’s author, the startlingly beautiful, reckless, seductive Anya Partridge, ensconced in her opium-scented boudoir in a luxury Hudson River mental asylum. As mysteries deepen, as the confluence of sex, money, politics and power spirals out of Simon’s control, he must face what he’s lost by exchanging the loving safety of his middle-class Jewish parents’ Coney Island apartment for the witty, whiskey-soaked orbit of his charismatic boss, the legendary Warren Landry. Gradually Simon realizes that the people around him are not what they seem, that everyone is keeping secrets, that ordinary events may conceal a diabolical plot—and that these crises may steer him toward a brighter future. At once domestic and political, contemporary and historic, funny and heartbreaking, enlivened by surprising plot turns and passages from Anya’s hilariously bad novel, The Vixen illuminates a period of history with eerily striking similarities to the current moment. Meanwhile it asks timeless questions: How do we balance ambition and conscience? What do social mobility and cultural assimilation require us to sacrifice? How do we develop an authentic self, discover a vocation, and learn to live with the mysteries of love, family, art, life and loss?
Finalist for the 2022 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction “Painful, refractive, beautiful . . . Goldman is beloved.”—New York Review of Books
In Monkey Boy, Francisco Goldman’s “brilliantly constructed auto-fiction” (NPR), we meet Francisco Goldberg, a middle-aged writer grappling with the challenges of family and love, legacies of violence and war, and growing up as the son of immigrants—a Guatemalan Catholic mother and a Russian Jewish father—in a predominantly white, working-class Boston suburb. Told in an irresistibly funny, tender and passionate voice, this extraordinary portrait of family explores the pressures of living between worlds. Our narrator, Francisco Goldberg, an American writer, has been living in Mexico when, because of a threat provoked by his journalism, he flees to New York City, hoping to start afresh. His last relationship ended devastatingly five years before, and he may now finally be on the cusp of a new love with a young Mexican woman he meets in Brooklyn. But Francisco is soon beckoned back to his childhood home outside Boston by a high school girlfriend who witnessed his youthful humiliations, and to visit his Guatemalan mother, Yolanda, whose intermittent lucidity unearths forgotten pockets of the past. On this five-day trip, the specter of Frank’s recently deceased father, Bert, an immigrant from Ukraine – pathologically abusive, yet also at times infuriatingly endearing ― as well as the dramatic Guatemalan woman who helped raise him, and the high school bullies who called him “monkey boy,” all loom. Told in an intimate, irresistibly funny, and passionate voice, this extraordinary portrait of family and growing up “halfie,” unearths the hidden cruelties in a predominantly white, working-class Boston suburb where Francisco came of age, and explores the pressures of living between worlds all his life. Monkey Boy is a new masterpiece of fiction from one of the most important American voices in the last forty years.
National Jewish Book Award Winner in Debut Fiction A dazzling novel—set in early 1970’s New York and rural India—the story of a turbulent, unlikely romance, a harrowing account of the lasting horrors of World War II, and a searing examination of one man’s search for forgiveness and acceptance. “Looks deeply at the echoes and overlaps among art, resistance, love, and history … an impressive debut.” —Meg Wolitzer, best-selling author of The Female Persuasion
New York City, 1972. Jaryk Smith, a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto, and Lucy Gardner, a southerner, newly arrived in the city, are in the first bloom of love when they receive word that Jaryk’s oldest friend has died under mysterious circumstances in a rural village in eastern India. Travelling there alone to collect his friend’s ashes, Jaryk soon finds himself enmeshed in the chaos of local politics and efforts to stage a play in protest against the government—the same play that he performed as a child in Warsaw as an act of resistance against the Nazis. Torn between the survivor’s guilt he has carried for decades and his feelings for Lucy (who, unbeknownst to him, is pregnant with his child), Jaryk must decide how to honor both the past and the present, and how to accept a happiness he is not sure he deserves. An unforgettable love story, a provocative exploration of the role of art in times of political upheaval, and a deeply moving reminder of the power of the past to shape the present, A Play for the End of the World is a remarkable debut from an exciting new voice in fiction.
A memoir, biography, work of history, and literary criticism all in one, this moving book tells the story of three exiled writers—Erich Auerbach, François Fénelon, and W. G. Sebald—and their relationship with the classics, from Homer to Mimesis. In a genre-defying book hailed as “exquisite” (The New York Times) and “spectacular” (The Times Literary Supplement), the best-selling memoirist and critic Daniel Mendelsohn explores the mysterious links between the randomness of the lives we lead and the artfulness of the stories we tell. Combining memoir, biography, history, and literary criticism, Three Rings weaves together the stories of three exiled writers who turned to the classics of the past to create masterpieces of their own—works that pondered the nature of narrative itself: Erich Auerbach, the Jewish philologist who fled Hitler’s Germany and wrote his classic study of Western literature, Mimesis, in Istanbul; François Fénelon, the seventeenth-century French archbishop whose ingenious sequel to the Odyssey, The Adventures of Telemachus—a veiled critique of the Sun King and the best-selling book in Europe for a hundred years—resulted in his banishment; and the German novelist W.G. Sebald, self-exiled to England, whose distinctively meandering narratives explore Odyssean themes of displacement, nostalgia, and separation from home. Intertwined with these tales of exile and artistic crisis is an account of Mendelsohn’s struggle to write two of his own books—a family saga of the Holocaust and a memoir about reading the Odyssey with his elderly father—that are haunted by tales of oppression and wandering. As Three Rings moves to its startling conclusion, a climactic revelation about the way in which the lives of its three heroes were linked across borders, languages, and centuries forces the reader to reconsider the relationship between narrative and history, art and life.
Booker Prize Finalist • Based on a true event, this novel is “a blues song cut straight from the heart … about the unjust death of an innocent Black man caught up in a corrupt system. The full life of Mahmood Mattan, the last man executed in Cardiff for a crime he was exonerated for forty years later [is] brought alive with subtle artistry and heartbreaking humanity” (Walter Mosley, best-selling author of Devil in a Blue Dress). In Cardiff, Wales in 1952, Mahmood Mattan, a young Somali sailor, is accused of a crime he did not commit: the brutal killing of Violet Volacki, a shopkeeper from Tiger Bay. At first, Mahmood believes he can ignore the fingers pointing his way; he may be a gambler and a petty thief, but he is no murderer. He is a father of three, secure in his innocence and his belief in British justice. But as the trial draws closer, his prospect for freedom dwindles. Now, Mahmood must stage a terrifying fight for his life, with all the chips stacked against him: a shoddy investigation, an inhumane legal system, and, most evidently, pervasive and deep-rooted racism at every step. Under the shadow of the hangman’s noose, Mahmood begins to realize that even the truth may not be enough to save him. A haunting tale of miscarried justice, this book offers a chilling look at the dark corners of our humanity.
An entirely original novel in which a book—Joseph Roth’s masterpiece Rebellion—narrates its own astonishing life story, from 1930s Germany to the present day, at the heart of a gripping mystery. “A powerful, powerful piece of work.” —Colum McCann, best-selling author of Apeirogon One old copy of the novel Rebellion sits in Lena Knecht’s tote bag, about to accompany her on a journey from New York to Berlin in search of a clue to the hand-drawn map on its last page. It is the brilliantly captivating voice of this novel—a first edition nearly burned by Nazis in May 1933—that is our narrator. Fast-paced and tightly plotted, The Pages brings together a multitude of dazzling characters, real and invented, in a sweeping story of survival, chance, and the joys and struggles of love. At its center are Roth, an Austrian Jewish author on the run, and his wife, Friederike, who falls victim to mental illness as Europe descends into war. With vivid evocations of Germany under Nazism and today, The Pages dramatically illuminates the connections between past and present as it looks at censorship, oppression, and violence. Here is a propulsive, inspiring tale of literature over a hundred years: a novel for book lovers everywhere that will bring a fresh audience to this acclaimed writer.
The only edition in print of the classic book at the center of Hugo Hamilton’s highly anticipated novel, The Pages: Joseph Roth’s 1924 tale of a one-legged street musician defying his fate in postwar Vienna. Andreas Pum, having lost his leg in World War I, is rewarded with a medal and a permit to support himself by playing a barrel organ in the streets of Vienna. At first the simpleminded veteran is entirely satisfied with his lot, and he even finds a voluptuous widow to marry. But then a public quarrel with a respectable citizen on a tram propels Andreas’s life into a rapid downward trajectory. As he loses his beggar’s permit, his new wife, and even his freedom, he is provoked into finally rejecting his blind faith in the benevolence of the powers that govern his life. Joseph Roth’s remarkable novel deploys the haunting atmosphere and propulsive power of a dream to convey the bewilderment of an ordinary man as his world falls apart around him.
The Empathy Diaries by Sherry Turkle
The Tunnel by A. B. Yehoshua
Culture Warlords: My Journey into the Dark Web of White Supremacy by Talia Lavin
The Slaughterman’s Daughter by Yaniv Iczkovits
Who by Fire: Leonard Cohen in the Sinai by Matti Friedman
The Netanyahus: An Account of a Minor and Ultimately Even Negligible Episode in the History of a Very Famous Family by Joshua Cohen
More Than I Love My Life by David Grossman
The King of Warsaw by Szczepan Twardoch
The Polish Boxer, Monastery, and Mourning by Eduardo Halfon
The Orchard by David Hopen
Eva and Eve by Julie Metz
The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste
The Art of Leaving by Ayelet Tsabari
A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win WWII by Sonia Purnell
Gun Island by Amitav Ghosh
The Escape Artist by Helen Fremont
Apeirogon by Colum McCann
A Good American Family: The Red Scare and My Father by David Maraniss
The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck
Revolutionaries by Joshua Furst
The Words of My Father by Yousef Bashir
Nine Folds Make a Paper Swan by Ruth Gilligan
The Mandelbaum Gate by Muriel Spark
A Terrible Country by Keith Gessen
Spies of No Country: Secret Lives at the Birth of Israel by Matti Friedman
The Parisian by Isabella Hammad
Famous Father Girl by Jamie Bernstein
Family Papers: A Sephardic Journey Through the Twentieth Century by Sarah Abrevaya Stein
I Want You to Know We’re Still Here: A Post-Holocaust Memoir by Esther Safran Foer
CBE Community Art Show
The CBE Community Art Show is a weekend packed with art, food, music, and great conversation. For years, artists of all mediums within the CBE community have displayed their works in a weekend-long show at CBE.
In 2023, the show will take place during the weekend of May 5–7. If you’re an artist interested in sharing your work at the show, submissions are currently open. Click here to sign up. We welcome artists working in a variety of mediums. To participate, an artist must be one of the following: a member of CBE, CBE staff, CBE teacher, Shir L’Shabbat participant, participant in Brooklyn Jews, a member of Altshul, CBE Kids parent, or ECC parent.
If you have any questions, please email Lead Administrator Nate Jaffe at email@example.com.
Hosted by member author Anna Solomon
At CBE, we count many acclaimed authors, journalists, and screenwriters among our membership. Join us for our quarterly series, The Schmutz: CBE Writers Get Real, where the writers in our midst will introduce us to the books, ideas, and authors they can’t stop thinking about.
February 8, 2023
Marjorie Ingall, co-author of Sorry, Sorry, Sorry: The Case for Good Apologies, in conversation with CBE member Ron Lieber
December 7, 2022
Stephen Mills, author of The Chosen, in conversation with CBE member Anna Solomon
Brooklyn By the Book
Brooklyn By the Book is a collaboration between the Community Bookstore of Park Slope and Congregation Beth Elohim (CBE). We host best-selling authors here at CBE to talk about their new works and engage in conversation with our community.
Community Bookstore of Park Slope is one of the oldest surviving—and thriving—independent bookstores in New York City. In 2010, Ezra Goldstein and Stephanie Valdez took over the management of the store, which they then purchased in December 2011. During the store’s 40 year history, it has hosted hundreds of readings, both in the store and off-site.
Stephanie Valdez, Community Bookstore and Terrace Books Co-Owner and Event Director
Jennifer Senior in conversation with Andrew Solomon
Thursday, April 20 at 7:00 PM in the CBE Sanctuary
CBE is excited to welcome eminent journalist Jennifer Senior, staff writer for The Atlantic, to discuss her new book, On Grief. Described as “Absolutely extraordinarily” by Cheryl Strayed, On Grief was originally published in The Atlantic under the title “What Bobby McIlvaine Left Behind” and was the winner of the 2022 Pulitzer Prize in Feature Writing. Senior will be in conversation with Andrew Solomon, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for nonfiction.
Information about registration will be added closer to the event.
Lucinda Williams in conversation with Steve Earle
Monday, April 24 at 7:00 PM in the CBE Sanctuary
CBE is proud to welcome iconic singer-songwriter and three-time Grammy winner Lucinda Williams for the launch of her new memoir, Don’t Tell Anybody the Secrets I Told You. The iconic singer-songwriter and three-time Grammy winner opens up about her traumatic childhood in the Deep South, her years of being overlooked in the music industry, and the stories that inspired her enduring songs.
Williams will be in conversation with Americana legend Steve Earle. Click here for tickets.
November 12, 2022
Walking Beauty and Orwell’s Roses, Rebecca Solnit with Sabrina Imbler
October 19, 2022
Liberation Day, George Saunders with Brandon Taylor
June 13, 2022
How to Raise An Antiracist, Ibram X. Kendi with Mira Jacobs
October 6, 2019:
She Said, Jodi Kantor & Megan Twohey
September 26, 2019:
Year of the Monkey, Patti Smith
August 13, 2019:
How to Be An Antiracist, Ibram X. Kendi
May 28, 2019:
How to Change Your Mind, Michael Pollan
November 18, 2018:
We Were Eight Years in Power, Ta-Nehisi Coates
October 23, 2018:
Ottolenghi Simple, Yotam Ottolenghi
September 12, 2017:
Forest Dark, Nicole Krauss
September 7, 2017:
The Golden House, Salman Rushdie
July 13, 2017:
A Stone of Hope, by Jim St. Germain
March 2, 2017:
4 3 2 1, by Paul Auster
February 15, 2017:
Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders
November 9, 2016:
Thus Bad Begins, Javier Marías
October 19, 2016:
A Gambler’s Anatomy, Jonathan Lethem
September 15, 2016:
M Train, Patti Smith