Diane Gensler couldn’t be more out of her element. She is Jewish and teaching in a Catholic school. The two worlds colliding around her are just the beginning of her experience educating the students of the parochial Baltimore school. Gensler finds herself facing anti-Semitism in addition to what can already be a challenging career path. While she has looked forward to being a teacher in her own classroom, she can only begin to guess what this particular position has in store for her. What Gensler finds out in her first days at the Catholic school is that even creating a welcoming atmosphere and being an eager teacher might not be enough to battle the preconceived notions of others.
Forgive Us Our Trespasses, by Diane Gensler, is the story of the author’s time spent teaching in a Catholic school in Baltimore. As a Jewish woman, she experienced biases and treatment to which her coworkers were immune. Her first year as a teacher should have been filled with joy and rewarding firsts, but she was subjected to prejudices–some veiled, others not so much.
As a teacher, I found so many truths in Gensler’s story. There is a seemingly endless number of things you are not told when you enter your first year, and she reveals them all plus more. I felt every one of her frustrations over losing instructional time to extra and unexpected duties. Nothing prepares you for all of the additional tasks, and Gensler explicitly lays out each and every one of them with all of the brutal honesty of a teacher eager to educate but overwhelmed by the magnitude of her job.
Gensler handles herself with a finesse not always known to first-year teachers. From dealing with attending Catholic church services to coping with parents who seem out to prove her incompetent, she persists and does so with much success. I was amazed at how well she dealt with coworkers who snubbed her without reason and the coldness of her principal. It takes a strong person to do this job and handle that kind of treatment.
I am giving Forgive Us Our Trespasses, by Diane Gensler, 5 out of 5 stars. If it were possible to give it more stars, I would do so enthusiastically. Gensler has put into writing what every teacher feels and given voice to some of the most challenging aspects of our jobs. Her words are not only relatable; they are filled with all the raw emotion of a woman experiencing the sting of prejudice while facing some of the most important work that can be done.
Pages: 188 | ASIN: B08BNPNP3J
Tags: author, biography, book, book recommendations, book review, book reviews, book shelf, bookblogger, books, books to read, Diane Gensler, ebook, education, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, goodreads, jewish, kindle, kobo, literature, memoir, nonfiction, nook, novel, read, reader, reading, school, story, teacher, writer, writing
Hidden Unknown Truth is a guide to consciousness, spiritual awakening, and helps readers discover the joy of living. Why was this an important book for you to write?
For most of my childhood and young adult life I struggled with fear. This fear caused anxiety which was at times quite overwhelming. It stopped me from living as my true self. I did whatever I could to fit in and gain approval and acceptance from others. I would compromise my integrity just to feel accepted. It stopped me from taking healthy risks and from many opportunities. This fear eventually brought me to a place of despair by the time I was 30. With a child on the way I decided that I needed to find a solution. I began seeking. I found that seeking a solution to my ever chatting and fearful mind was actually the solution itself. When I focused my attention on hope that there was a solution to my fear, I had already begun to set in motion the manifestation of the solution. The road that I found myself on was practicing Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to challenge my thoughts and help me with seeing the truth about any irrational fear.. This eventually brought me to meditation which has enabled me to contact something within me that is void of fear. A neutral state of being that brings relief and fresh perspective. From here I had questions, a lot of questions which lead me to seeking spiritual guidance. I experimented with contemplative and selfless prayer, gratitude journaling, and giving of myself to help other people. I found that when I focused on meeting the needs of other people, I was not focused on my own fear or unquenchable thirst to feel content. This was the turning point. This is when I realized that I only have a problem when I think I have a problem. To the degree that I try to contribute to life, are my own struggles taken care of, seemingly without my intervention.
The reason it was important for me to write this book is due to a decision I had made, that if I ever found out how to have peace of mind, that I would share it with anybody who was seeking it.
What do you feel is a common misconception people have about spiritual enlightenment?
It seems to me that society has the idea that spiritual enlightenment is reserved for the mystics. That we can only achieve enlightenment after we have solved our outer worldly problems or after years of intense spiritual teaching and practice. I believe wholeheartedly that spiritual awakening or enlightenment is available to us all now, if we seek it.
What were some ideas that were important for you to focus on in this book?
I hoped to produce a complete spiritual guide laid out in a step-by-step fashion using everyday language, so that anybody can make contact with their own conception of a higher power, that will solve any difficulty they face and give them purpose and direction.
Another important idea is that when we focus on a solution, it becomes bigger. When we focus on a problem, it becomes bigger. When we do what we think is good, we attract good. When we do what we think is bad, we attract bad. If we have any problem, the key is to stop thinking about it and focus on what you believe is good. Whenever the problem arises is your thinking, again, stop thinking about it and focus your attention on what is good, such as your higher power. Eventually, your problem will be taken care of if you are persistent with this powerful technique.
Our mind is the creator of our daily struggles. We create our own problems. When we live in fear, we react in fear and this sets us on a path of unconsciously creating our own self-fulfilling prophecy. When we live in faith, we respond in faith, and unconsciously create peace and emanate love.
What is one thing that you hope readers take away from your book?
The most important idea that I wanted to impart was to watch our thoughts. As soon as we become aware that we are thinking about something, we are no longer controlled by that thought pattern. We have a choice let it go or not. Our thoughts lose all power when we bring them into the light of awareness. They are just thoughts. This one practice will change how we think, feel, and act. We do not have to act on any thought that enters our mind, ever, provided we are aware of the thought.
Posted in Interviews
Tags: author, author interview, book, book review, bookblogger, ebook, edward scott, goodreads, Hidden Unknown Truth: A Guide to Consciousness, jewish, kindle, kobo, literature, meditation, nonfiction, nook, novel, prayer, read, reader, reading, spiritual, story, writer, writing
Judenrein follows a man with a checkered past who must stop a world changing conspiracy. What was the inspiration for setup to this dystopian thriller?
I got the idea for this book when I started to see white supremacists become more vocal and visible in American politics, and face remarkably little official pushback – at least from the current president. These groups make no secret of their goal of driving the Jews (and a lot of other non-white groups) either out of the country, into slavery or death. I became intrigued with the possibility of a secret white supremacist group seizing power behind the scenes. This would be the ultimate “suits not boots” strategy for them, as they might call it.
Zack is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some ideas that guided his character development?
I have been involved in helping recovering drug addicts throughout the last 20 years. It’s not my job, but the work has come into my life. Through this experience, I’ve seen the potential for greatness that often hides inside the addict, waiting to come out. I have also felt that a great injustice has been visited on a generation of young Americans who were recruited to serve the US, but lost to forever wars and forgotten when they returned to civilian life. I wanted to bring this experience to life in the character. As an observant Jew, I’ve also seen a lot of young people get kicked out of orthodox life for various infractions and attitude problems. I wanted the character to represent the ambivalence I see in many of these young people. They believe in God and Torah. They love being Jewish. They just can’t fit into the orthodox world. That’s Zack.
The idea of white supremacists taking over the country and setting up 21st century ghettos was striking. What were some themes you felt were important to focus on in this book?
I wanted to focus on the slippery slope to neo Nazism in the US, and the shocking thing has been to see so many predictions made int eh book come true even in the last few months – with armed men, carrying swastika flags, threatening elected officials with death in protest of COVID lockdowns – only to be called “good people” by the president. This is much closer to us than we realize.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I am working on a non-fiction book about cybersecurity, which I have written under a different name. I am also going to publish an earlier book, that never came out, that deals with some similar themes of inequality and injustice in the US, but told in the form of a thriller.
As a white supremacist movement stealthily takes the reins of power in America, it is again the Jews who are made out as scapegoats. Stripped of wealth and citizenship, they are made to live in 21st century ghettos that hark back to a sinister and murky past that many had thought would never return.
But things are about to get much worse. With the revealing of a planned terror attack that will place the blame firmly at Jewish feet and condemn millions to death, Zack is contacted by Jewish leaders in Detroit, begging for his help.
Reluctantly he agrees and before long he is mired in a conspiracy that will have far reaching consequences for his country, the Jewish population and even his own sanity.
As the clock ticks down, can Zack find a way to avert a looming disaster? Who is behind the conspiracy? And can he really trust anyone?
Posted in Interviews
Tags: author, author interview, book, book review, bookblogger, dystopia, dystopian, ebook, fantasy, fiction, goodreads, Harold Benjamin, jew, jewish, jewish literature, Judenrein, kindle, kobo, literature, mystery, nook, novel, read, reader, reading, science fiction, scifi, story, suspense, thriller, writer, writing
It’s 2020, many years after the Civil Rights Movement and racism is still an issue. In fact, people seem to be radicalizing: white nationalists and Neo-Nazi movements are springing up everywhere. Imagine what would happen if a White Nationalist group infiltrated the highest office in the country, the white house. It would go from building a wall at the Mexican border to coming up with creative ways of rounding up non-white Americans. With human rights protected by the constitution and the UN, it seems improbable that one race would annihilate the others. But we should not underestimate the drive of a “higher cause.”
Judenrein, by Harold Benjamin, is a story about an elaborate plan for a fourth Reich called Reichsadler; only this time, it is not happening in Nazi Germany but the US. The conservative president has affiliations with a powerful and wealthy white nationalist group. The rounding up of Jews is already done. Now, the protagonist, a homeless American-Jew war veteran, has to stop this group before it finds a way to end all other races.
Harold Benjamin presents the story in simple, straightforward language. The way he describes the action-packed scenes helps create vivid imagery in your mind. To make it all so authentic, he throws in Jewish terminologies such as Yeshiva and Yarmulke. The direct speech by the members of the white nationalist group is as backward, gross, and infuriating as you would expect from a racist skinhead.
Perhaps the best thing about this book is the unconventional protagonist: A recovering junkie who got hooked after getting injured in service of his country. His country has now labeled him a terrorist due to his origins. From the very beginning, he is set up to fail. With so many obstacles and too few people to trust, his success seems far-fetched.
The story development is excellent. The first few chapters seem to talk about random people and scenes. But soon, the pieces start falling into place, and I couldn’t help but admire the creativity that went into making that possible.
Judenrein is a page-turner, full of action scenes and unexpected twists of events. Combine all that with simple language and short chapters, and you get a book you won’t put down until you reach the back cover. It is probably the most inspiring action-thriller I have read this year. It is an entertaining book with a thought-provoking message about racism, and shows how easy it would be to find ourselves back in a world where the color of your skin is a crime.
Pages: 260 | ASIN: B086BRZDPF
In the year 1630, in Hangzhou, China, two families were getting set to join with the marriage of Li Bing and Xiaoyun Wang. Marriage is taken very seriously and there are many traditions that must be observed in order to ensure a prosperous marriage to the couple. Li Bing is the city’s celebrity of sorts as he prepares to take the exams to become an important civil servant for the city. This causes his father to receive many gifts and accolades, as well as resentment. Vice-perfect Wang Zhengqian, father of Xiaoyun, plots to ruin Li Bing’s father, the other vice-perfect Li Gao. Wang is power hungry and wants nothing more than to gain all he can, and cares little who he hurts in the process, his own family included.
Mandarin Ducks is the second book in a trilogy by Robert Campbell. The first novel gives you more background of this community and some the characters so I recommend reading that first, but it’s not required as this book can stand on it’s own. Taking place in the 1600’s of China, it talks about how some of the inhabitants have roots in Jewish culture, and how they have to keep that hidden away. Li Bing has a deep interest in discovering his heritage and Jewish roots but must go in secret to learn more about his past. His grandfather helps him some but is growing old quickly and Li Bing is worried all the past knowledge will be lost. There is a lot of focus on class and the nuances that each rung of society has to observe. I enjoyed reading about how the different classes interacted, and as the story line developed I grew more invested as things become more intricate and layered. The novel has a slow start and builds at a steady pace that never feels rushed and allows you to grow attached to the main characters involved in the plot. The side story of Li Bing learning about his Jewish roots mixed into the scandal between the vice-perfects was well placed and fit seamlessly into things, nothing felt like added filler, everything seemed important to the progression of the story.
I really enjoyed Robert Campbell’s style of writing. The prose is clean and the story is focused. The story expertly builds suspense and develops the characters in a way that you either love or hate them. There is real history encased in the story, making things more believable, and adding extra depth to the plot. I look forward to reading the next installment of this series.
Pages: 133 | ASIN: B07G7GV256
Tags: alibris, asia, asian, author, author life, authors, barnes and noble, book, book club, book geek, book lover, bookaholic, bookbaby, bookblogger, bookbub, bookhaul, bookhub, bookish, bookreads, books of instagram, booksbooksbooks, bookshelf, bookstagram, bookstagramer, bookwitty, bookworks, bookworm, china, culture, ebook, fantasy, fiction, goodreads, heritage, history, ilovebooks, indiebooks, jew, jewish, kindle, kobo, literature, madarin ducks, nook, novel, publishing, read, reader, reading, robert campbell, shelfari, smashwords, society, story, writer, writer community, writing
The Bookbinder is a memoir about your life and includes details about Rabbi Yitzhak Kaduri. What was the inspiration that made you want to write a memoir?
Well, Rabbi Yitzhak Kaduri passed away in 2006 and since then there had only been one book written in English on the rabbi from the non-Jewish perspective. However, it did not go in-depth into the specific culture of the rabbi’s inside court, the kabbalistic traditions as well as the respect that the “tzaddik” commanded from the different orthodox groups in Israel and abroad. I felt that it was important to portray the rabbi’s more human side, his compassion, his unconditional love for one and all, particularly during their times of distress and need. What better way to do so than to share our personal journey?
Rabbi Yitzhak Kaduri features prominently in this book. What were some aspects you felt were important to capture in this book?
Rabbi Kaduri, ztl, had a humble soul. Despite his remarkable memory, wisdom and knowledge he did not proselytize nor did he recruit anyone to his principles or belief. I tried to convey that message as best I could through our personal interactions with him, and those close to him. The rabbi’s ruling on any halachic impasse was not questioned as he was skilled in illuminating difficult passages for other rabbis and leaders to understand. What was important to grasp is that he led a simple life devoid of pomp and glamour. The rabbi’s signature was his peaceful silence during the many religious celebrations around the country. He only spoke to pray and bless – he never made small talk.
This is a very emotional and thought provoking book. What do you hope readers take away from this book?
Well, I think that this personal tale was meant to be shared so that others would understand that miracles occur everyday when there is the smallest seed of faith. Whenever one meets a great mystic of this degree, of course, those miracles become more obvious. The Jewish faith and its traditions are replete with miracle stories of simple people that prayed with nothing more than devotion and hope. One could come away understanding that all faiths and traditions are important insofar as they give man hope in goodness. This is just one story. It just happens to be one that concerned one of the oldest living and renowned kabbalists in the history of modern Israel.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
As briefly mentioned in this book, I am a spiritual counselor and holistic therapist. My fascination with natural healing has led me to study many modalities from various countries for more than twenty years. Yet, I still return to our Jewish traditions. My next book will be about Jewish healing and herbalism.
“Ha Rav”, Rabbi Yitzhak Kaduri, OBM (1898-2006) was the most senior kabbalist of the 21st century in Israel. While many believe that his life and work: studying, praying, and counseling the masses was far removed from the everyday man, this perception could not be further from the truth. The Rav was a humble but great sage whose glance commanded the respect and ear of the leading rabbis of his generation. He experienced exile from the country of his birth, Iraq, and witnessed the destruction of holy places of study in Jerusalem. Yet, to anyone privileged to have been in his presence, the tsaddik showed only joy, humility, kindness (chesed) and a deep wisdom unique to his character. The Rav’s contemporaries respected his decisions on questions of the Torah and Talmud and above all, they cherished the Rav’s blessings.This is an intimate portrait of one family’s journey of ten years standing in the shadows of this sage. There have been many righteous (tsaddikim) throughout the ages whose lives were dedicated to teach, guide and console the Jewish nation. Yet, in the memory of the Jewish people, there will only be one Rabbi Yitzhak Kaduri.
Beguiled follows young Miriam as she struggles to follow her dreams through a turbulent time in history. What was the initial idea behind this story and how did that transform as you were writing the novel?
Initially, I had the idea to write a story of the kind of life my mother, born in 1910, might have had, if she’d had the gumption. Which she did not, so the story of Miriam Levine, 1st generation Russian-Jewish girl, is entirely fictional. There are a few biographical markers, e.g., Miriam’s Pop was active in the leftist-unionist organization called the Workmen’s Circle. My maternal grandfather was as well. Similarly, he was a cultured fellow, albeit not formally educated, and introduced my mother to cultural events from a young age. The character Miriam developed her aspirations to go on stage from the experiences her Pop exposed her to from a young age.
The story transformed itself immediately from anything biographical to an exciting adventure of Miriam and her girlfriends as they make their way through a difficult time in history punctuated by WWI, the “Spanish” flu, women’s getting the vote, the Roaring 20s, the relationship between young people and their immigrant parents, and the status of women.
Miriam is a well developed character that I grew attached to. How did you capture the thoughts and emotions of a young woman in the 1900’s?
Research, research, and more research helped me to describe a girl of the early 1900s. I read many books about the times, including novels of women of that period.
Perhaps more importantly, I’ve been a psychotherapist and life coach all my adult life, so am accustomed to hearing people’s stories and helping them to make sense of their lives. So, the emotions of a woman of this period seemed little different to me from my clients’ stories. Yes, women have approached the glass ceiling and many are in marriages that are fundamentally equal or mutually enhancing, but with the outing of many in the MeToo movement, it’s clear that women’s place has not appreciably changed vis a vis powerful men.
I liked how the politics and drama of the time was not front and center, but served as a backdrop to Miriam’s story. Did you do any research for this story to keep things accurate?
As stated above, I pored over many historical books of this period, as well as historical novels about the early 1900s. Having been in graduate school for a PhD back in the 1980s, I learned how to do research and to enjoy it. I was not, however, a big history buff, so my becoming absorbed in this research was a surprise to me. One funny thing: in one of my last drafts, I realized that NO character ever was described as smoking. So, I had to go back and add smoking Lucky Strikes, Camels, pipes, and cigars to many scenes.
WWI was certainly in the background only in Beguiled. Miriam and her friends barely seemed to register that there was a world war going on in Europe, until Miriam arrives home and discovers that her father’s Workmen’s Circle is having an important emergency meeting to discuss US entry into the War. Then a young German boy barges in to say that his family was beaten bloody right in their neighborhood, an unthinkable thing in their multi-ethnic close community.
Many people have suggested I write a sequel to Beguiled, but that would take me into the Depression of the 1930s and I don’t know if I want to go there, particularly since our country seems liable to get there itself.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
Beguiled was just released on May 1st 2018, so I’m devoting some time to publicizing it before embarking on my next story. But, I’ve had the idea of locating an appealing news story of a woman who lived in another era. I enjoy researching historical fiction and being an archaeologist in searching out details of a bygone period. In order to find this appealing person, I’ll need to immerse myself in the Boston Public Library’s newspapers from the last century or even before. There are also archives of women’s letters housed at the Schlesinger Library at Harvard, where I’ve done research before. I look forward to being able to do this, once my initial marketing campaign is over.
Beguiled is about every person who ever had dreams that were interrupted by cultural mores, by discrimination, or by their own shortcomings. Miriam Levine, born in 1900, dreamed of going on stage, until an almost fatal mis-step forced her to postpone her “real life.” A serendipitous offer compelled her to confront her inner demons and society’s expectations. As Glinda, the Good Witch of the South in the Wizard of Oz, she recites at age 16: “You’ve always had the power, my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.”
The story is inspirational for young people and their parents who dearly wish to access the American dream. The historical context of the decades before the Great Depression, the role of immigrants and women’s suffrage parallels tough political dilemmas that the US faces today.
Will Miriam have the gumption to follow her dreams? Will those dreams yield her the happiness she seeks? Or will she find that her childhood fantasies “beguile” her to seek ‘fool’s gold?’
Posted in Interviews
Tags: adventure, alibris, archaeologist, author, author life, authors, barnes and noble, beguiled, book, book club, book geek, book lover, bookaholic, bookbaby, bookblogger, bookbub, bookhaul, bookhub, bookish, bookreads, books of instagram, booksbooksbooks, bookshelf, bookstagram, bookstagramer, bookwitty, bookworks, bookworm, boston, camel, ebook, facebook, family, fantasy, fiction, german, goodreads, great depression, historical, history, ilovebooks, immigrant, indiebooks, inspirational, jewish, karma kitaj, kindle, kobo, life, literature, lucky strikes, metoo, nook, novel, psychotherapist, publishing, read, reader, reading, religious, shelfari, smashwords, spanish flu, story, twitter, wizard of oz, womens fiction, world war, writer, writer community, writing
The Literary Titan Book Awards are awarded to books that have astounded and amazed us with unique writing styles, vivid worlds, complex characters, and original ideas. These books deserve extraordinary praise and we are proud to acknowledge the hard work, dedication, and imagination of these talented authors.
Gold Award Winners
Silver Award Winners
Posted in Literary Titan Book Award
Tags: alibris, anthology, author, author award, author life, authors, award, barnes and noble, book, book award, book club, book geek, book lover, bookaholic, bookbaby, bookblogger, bookbub, bookhaul, bookhub, bookish, bookreads, books of instagram, booksbooksbooks, bookshelf, bookstagram, bookstagramer, bookwitty, bookworks, bookworm, civil war, collection, dragon, ebook, fantasy, goodreads, history, horror, ilovebooks, indian, indiebooks, jew, jewish, kindle, kobo, literary titan, literature, love, murder, mystery, nook, novel, paranormal, pirate, poem, poetry, psychology, publishing, read, reader, reading, romance, science fiction, shelfari, short story, smashwords, spiritual, story, supernatural, suspense, thriller, writer, writer community, writing