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Books for the 90s

These books tackle issues which are only now the topics of public discussion with children: senility, body image, divorce. Many of them also portray Judaism infused with feminism, with mothers as rabbis and women taking major roles in the classic biblical tales. An idiosyncratic sampler:

Belinda’s Bouquet (Alyson Publications, 1991), by Leslea Newman, handles the self-image problems girls face from our culture’s pervasive pressures to starve themselves. Newman also wrote Heather Has Two Mommies (Alyson Publications. 1989), a story of one girl’s acceptance of her lesbian parents.

Grandma’s Soup (Kar-Ben, 1989), by Nancy Karkowsky, poignantly shows how one girl copes with the slow onset of her beloved grandmother’s mental deterioration, while emphasizing the family’s continued love.

Once I Was a Plum Tree (Morrow, 1980), by Johanna Hurwitz, is the story of a girl who has to teach herself about her Jewish identity because her family is so assimilated.

Ima On the Bima (Kar-Ben, 1986), by Mindy Avra Portnoy, shows how some mommies are rabbis too (and some rabbis mommies), in a natural and comfortable depiction of a girl and her mother’s Jewish rituals. Another of Portnoy’s books. Mommy Never Went To Hebrew School (Kar-Ben, 1989), tells how one child learns to understand that his mommy didn’t grow up Jewish.

Who Will Make Kiddush? (UAHC Press, 1985), by Barbara Pomerantz, shows how a family doesn’t need to lose stability after the parents divorce. The family’s Judaism and daughter’s special relationship with each parent continue.

Esther’s Story (Morrow Junior Books, 1996), by Dianne Wolkstein, is one of many new books of feminist midrash, with its 14- year-old Purim heroine going from orphan to queen. Similar is But God Remembered (Jewish Lights, 1995), by Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso; she creates four new tales about oft-forgotten biblical women, including our own Lilith.