Books

Readers Have Some Thoughts About Recent Reviews and Essays

To the Editor:

In her essay about the profusion of Holocaust-themed children’s books (July 11), Marjorie Ingall makes a valid point: There are other stories to tell about being Jewish. But the Holocaust is not “the cornerstone of our collective identity” so much as a collective memory rooted in trauma and demanding of attention. Holocaust-themed books for children are not about scaring “Jewish kids into loving their Jewishness” or “trying to guilt non-Jews,” but about providing young, impressionable human beings with well-told stories that encourage strength and resilience at a time of intense hate and prejudice. While Ingall is also right that the Holocaust should not simply be used as a convenient backdrop to provide gravitas, increasing ignorance regarding the Auschwitz concentration camps makes thoughtful, imaginative books on this powerful subject more essential than ever.

Gary Golio
Briarcliff Manor, N.Y.

To the Editor:

Marjorie Ingall is right on point with her essay; making the Holocaust a cornerstone of Jewish identity is definitely not going to be successful. This is particularly true as the number of surviving witnesses to this horror dwindles every day. The issue is what will make younger generations maintain their links to our tradition from now on?

Henry Rieser
New York

To the Editor:

Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s review of Joshua Cohen’s novel “The Netanyahus” (July 11) is shocking in its insularity, especially in light of Israel’s most recent assaults on Palestinians. My one consolation is that it may jar more Jews into recognizing where Zionism has led us. I hope, too, that it is not an accurate reflection of the novel, though I am almost afraid to see for myself.

Doug Neiss
Brick, N.J.

To the Editor:

Hats off to Taffy Brodesser-Akner for the most enjoyable and enlightening review. The review supports my thesis that to understand what is happening at any particular moment in history, one must read the fiction that is written around that time. In America, post-World War II writings like “The Caine Mutiny” and “Catch-22” give us a much truer and more complete picture of the war than any history book. Albert Camus’s “The Stranger” does the same for life in Algeria before its independence.

Brodesser-Akner writes that Joshua Cohen uses the sharp wit of satire to disclose the underlying fear of the Jewish people that they are always the outsider no matter how successful they become. As with any good book, there are many layers within it and they are brought out in this review.

Jay Stonehill
Chicago

To the Editor:

Seth Mnookin’s claim in his review of Sam Apple’s “Ravenous: Otto Warburg, the Nazis, and the Search for the Cancer-Diet Connection” (July 11) that the first Nazi concentration camps were “roughly akin to the camps the United States used to forcibly relocate Japanese Americans during World War II” dishonors the poor souls who died in those camps early on and the United States alike. As Timothy W. Ryback details in “Hitler’s First Victims: The Quest for Justice,” unspeakable brutality and murder took place at Dachau from the moment it opened; on one night in April 1933, four Jews were murdered, ostensibly while trying to escape. As indelible a stain on this country as the internment of the Japanese Americans is, Manzanar and Tule Lake were never Dachau.

David Margolick
New York

The writer is a former New York Times reporter and author of “Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday and the Biography of a Song.”

To the Editor:

What an incredible surprise to see Yuval Taylor’s review of “Republic of Detours,” by Scott Borchert (July 4), with a photo of my grandmother Katharine Kellock!

Taylor’s review suggests that the author might have “devoted more space to Kellock.” Her work with the Federal Writers’ Project is part of my family’s history; she was an incredible woman for her time in more ways than one. My cousin Alan Kellock relayed to me this quote from her former boss, the economic historian Walt Rostow: “Katharine Kellock was the smartest woman I ever met. I was scared to death of her.” According to Alan, Katy “was in perpetual defiance of the glass ceiling.” He also reported that she “wrote the first draft of the Marshall Plan,” and, “as was customary at the time, the men took full credit for [it].”

Kate O’Brien
Orange, Conn.

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