CBE Book Group
: "Little Failure: A Memoir" by Gary Shteyngart
Shteyngart shares his American immigrant experience. Born Igor Shteyngart in Leningrad during the twilight of the Soviet Union. In the late 1970s, world events changed Igor’s life. Jimmy Carter and Leonid Brezhnev made a deal: exchange grain for the safe passage of Soviet Jews to America—a country Igor viewed as the enemy. Igor became Gary so that he would suffer one or two fewer beatings from other kids. Fusing English and Russian, his mother created the term Failurchka—LittleFailure—
: "The Aleppo Codex: In Pursuit of One of the World's Most Coveted, Sacred, and Mysterious Books" by Matti Friedman
A thousand years ago, the most perfect copy of the Hebrew Bible was written. It was kept safe through one upheaval after another in the Middle East, and by the 1940s it was housed in a dark grotto in Aleppo, Syria, and had become known around the world as the Aleppo Codex. Journalist Matti Friedman’s true-life detective story traces how this precious manuscript was smuggled from its hiding place in Syria into the newly founded state of Israel and how and why many of its most sacred and valuable pages went missing. It’s a tale that involves grizzled secret agents, pious clergymen, shrewd antiquities collectors, and highly placed national figures who, as it turns out, would do anything to get their hands on an ancient, decaying book. What it reveals are uncomfortable truths about greed, state cover-ups, and the fascinating role of historical treasures in creating a national identity.
: "There Are Jews in My House" by Lara Vapnyar
One of the most striking debuts of recent years, tracing the lives and aspirations of Russians living in Moscow and Brooklyn, these poignant, sad and funny stories create a luminous new literary world. In the title story, set during the Second World War, Galina, a gentile, offers refuge to a Jewish friend and her daughter, only to find herself increasingly resentful of their presence in her home. In “Mistress,” a nine-year-old boy, new to America, escorts his grandmother to her weekly doctors’ appointments to interpret her myriad complaints. At the same time, he becomes aware that his grandfather may be involved with another woman. And in “Love Lessons–Mondays, ” a young math teacher assigned to teach a sex education class becomes all too aware that her students are more experienced than she is. Whether set in Vapnyar's native Russia or in her adopted New York, the six understated stories in this debut collection are beautifully crafted and unswerving in their exploration of human frailty.
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