For many years, the St. Paul JCC has celebrated Jewish literature through the Twin Cities Jewish Book Series. This year they are trying something new -as the Twin Cities JCCs are combining to host Books and Brews at Bad Weather Brewery in St. Paul. The event is Nov. 16 from 7-9 p.m.
The event will feature four local authors in a speed-dating style event; each author will speak for a short time and then will be seated at tables around the room where attendees can go speak more with the authors that interest them.
“Books have changed, whether it’s the demographics of readers or how people are getting their books,” said Alyssa Golob, Program Director at the St. Paul JCC. The four authors at the event are Miriam Karmel, Harley Drezner, Susan Weinberg, and SJ Schwaidelson.
Drezner, whose day job is a physician, wrote the book Michegas, a memoir of growing up with parents that he calls a cross between Jerry Seinfeld’s and George Costanza’s on Seinfeld.
“My dad got sick and I wanted my kids to remember him and how off his rocker he was,” Drezner said. “You hear of cherished recipes that never get written down or war stories that don’t get passed on; I wanted my kids to remember all the crazy.”
Drezner, who calls his sense of humor sarcastic-bordering-on-caustic, said his parents are stereotypical New York Jews.
“They get worked up and scream over nothing,” he said. “My father would use the horn more frequently than the turn signal. And my mother just brings the drama. It’s intrinsically relatable to Jewish population at-large, but non-Jews find it equally funny.”
Karmel’s book, Subtle Variations and Other Stories, is her second published work – but first of short stories. It was published after she won a contest by publisher Holy Cow! Press. Short stories are more in her wheelhouse than a novel, she said.
“I’ve always written short stories; my novel I sort of backed into,” she said. “The stories in the current collection are fairly linked. This is a form that I love writing in.”
Karmel said that she wrote this collection over a number of years.
“I didn’t sit down and say I would write a book of stories,” she said. “The title story was the newest story in the book the oldest stories are from the early [2000s]. I just write.”
Schwaidelson ‘s second book, Lingua Galactica, comes out next month. She spent 30 years as a children’s playwright before penning her first book, Dream Dancer. This new book is science fiction, which she wrote on a dare.
“My late husband was a huge sci-fi reader and I read a book he gave me. My response was ‘who writes this crap?'” she said. “He challenged me to write something better, so I did. Ten days later, I gave him the rough draft.”
No matter the type of book, Schwaidelson said, she focuses on the same thing: people.
“I write about characters and the circumstances they’re in,” she said. “Like any writing project, I had a story to tell. This was written in space. I’m character driven.”
Weinberg’s book is also character-driven. She is the writer and artist behind We Spoke Jewish: A Legacy in Stories. The book explores the three waves of Jewish immigrants to the United States in the 20th century. Through artwork and oral history, it tells the stories of the Jews of early immigrant communities, the Holocaust survivors who came post-war, and the immigrants from the former Soviet Union who came in the latter part of the century.
“What struck me the most was that even though the stories were sometimes familiar, there were also some surprises along the way,” she said. “I don’t think I fully understood what it was like to live in the former Soviet Union if you were Jewish. I felt a real connection.”
Weinberg said the book changed how she looked at how she fits within the community.
“I don’t know if my beliefs changed, but my appreciation of the community and values deepened,” she said. ”
Golob said that this event is very deliberately targeted at the younger generation. In addition to a wonderful food truck, the JCC will be bringing in kosher food.
“We hope this event will appeal to a wide audience,” she said. “It’s a celebration of Jewish authors with a beer in people’s hands.”
Registration is available online for the event. Prices are $20 for members, $30 for non-members. There is a special at-the-door price for 21-35 year olds.