I’d like to take the opportunity of this wonderful Chanukah holiday to honor those authors who have written about Jewish Characters in leading roles. Because despite pressure, market or otherwise, these brave, trailblazing authors have demonstrated that diversity shouldn’t be just skin deep.
1. Kitty Katt-Martini from Gini Koch’s Alien series
Yep. Kitty’s strength and Jewishness come into play in a large way throughout the course of this series. Her innate understanding of a people’s consistent quest for religious freedom helps her to understand the situation that the book’s A-C’s, including central hero Jeff, find themselves in.
2. Delilah Gould from Chasing Stanley by Deirdre Martin
Delilah is a wonderful character, and one thing Deirdre Martin does in this book is demonstrate the problems of stereotyping and contemporary Anti-Semitism through the actions of various characters in this book to and towards Delilah. She is a strong heroine, and her fabulous hockey-playing hero stands by her, no matter what.
3. Denise from Jeaniene Frost’s First Drop of Crimson
I about fell over when I discovered this particular little piece of the puzzle in the opening pages of this spinoff book from Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress series. A Jewish heroine who could kick ass, and more importantly, who wasn’t defined by preconceived notions of what being Jewish meant. Excellent.
4. Daniel Lowenstein from L.A. Banks’s Vampire Huntress Series
One of the first discussions I had with the late L.A. Banks was about this character. I told her how much I appreciated how he was given the chance to grow and change through the course of the thirteen book series. His faith was explored beautifully, up to and including his wedding where he got to break a glass. I gave her kudos for him then, and my opinion still remains the same. Thank you.
5. Gareth Lloyd from Liz Carlyle’s Never Decieve a Duke
Yep. Here we go again. Anybody who knows me has heard me sing the praises of this book. And why shouldn’t I? It deals with the reality of anti-Semitism in Regency England, in a way that no other author I’d really ever seen has done: through the hero’s innate and personal understanding of how wrong it is. We have a Jewish hero, who in one of the book’s most touching moments, teaches the heroine that it’s all right to mourn as she feels she should.
6. Gilly Solomon from Megan Hart’s Precious and Fragile Things
I loved this book for many reasons, but one of them is the scene in which our heroine celebrates Shabbat in the midst of an extremely difficult situation. That she finds a touchstone in her Judaism during a time that would harrow the most hearty of people is a significant window into this character’s soul.
7. David Abijah from Maverick by Lora Leigh
People talk about whether authors should take the plunge and write a diverse character, risk of getting it wrong, or avoid the idea altogether. Lora Leigh took the plunge with an ex-Mossad member of an international black ops team and gets a major amount of kudos from me. This book remains my favorite of hers for this reason.
8. Mirka from Barry Deutsch’s Hereville
Mirka is adorable, strong, and …Orthodox. Yep. Little Mirka, the central character in a Norton award nominated graphic novel, is an Orthodox Jewish girl who lives in a small village and fights trolls. But my hope is that she will serve as inspiration to those who dare to dream about something more.
Bonus 9: Amy and Avi from Simone Elkeles’s How to Ruin series
This is a series of books I wished for when I was a teenager. Elkeles creates a character that a young, modern Jewish girl can relate to in an age where is so few of them. She guides Amy’s exploration of her own Jewish heritage, but also the state of Israel and a relationship with the father she has only peripherally known. She does not shy away from the hard relationship questions that get asked when Amy starts dating Avi as he goes off to his mandatory service in the Israeli Defense Forces. Thank you from the young Jewish teenagers who will read this series and say ‘this is about ME.’
Bonus 10 : Ellie from Amy Dominy’s “OyMG”
Faith, culture and identity are some of the themes that are explored in this amazing young adult book. On the surface, Ellie must choose between her faith and winning a scholarship at a prestigious private school. But she discovers that true understanding comes when you accept all of yourself, no matter what anybody else says. It’s a very important lesson to learn, especially during a time when it’s easier to conform than be true to who you are.
Enjoy the books, and may you all enjoy this season full of light and miracles. And this being a Chanukah column, I get to say Happy Chanukah to all.
Stacey aka @nystacey