Michael Chabon
Michael Chabon

Three local authors win Jewish Book Council awards

Berkeley writer Michael Chabon has won the Jewish Book Council’s 2016 Modern Literary Achievement Award for his general contribution to modern Jewish literature. The award includes Chabon’s most recent novel, “Moonglow” (Harper), described by the council as “a moving panorama of Jewish experience.”

“Chabon serves up his colossal tale of darkness and light in fabulous language, as befits this modern fable,” the JBC’s awards committee said.

Chabon, author of “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay,” “Telegraph Avenue” and other books, was among many 2016 National Jewish Book Awards winners announced Jan. 11 by the nonprofit JBC.

The Everett Family Foundation Book of the Year Award went to Daniel Gordis for “Israel: A Concise History of a Nation Reborn” (Ecco), described by a Jewish Book Council reviewer as “a new history of Israel [that] should become a standard for years to come, perhaps even a classic.” Gordis is the founding dean of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles and vice president of Shalem College in Jerusalem.

Novels taking top fiction honors include: Rose Tremain’s “The Gustav Sonata” (W.W. Norton & Company), recently listed by Lit Hub as one of “10 Overlooked Books by Women in 2016;” Lauren Belfer’s “And After the Fire” (Harper), which took the book club award, and Gavriel Savit’s debut novel “Anna and the Swallow Man” (Knopf Books for Young Readers).

The award in women’s studies went to “The Sacred Calling: Four Decades of Women in the Rabbinate” (CCAR Press), co-edited by Rabbi Rebecca Einstein Schorr and Rabbi Alysa Mendelson Graf. The collection of essays includes one by Rabbi Rebecca Gutterman, senior rabbi at Congregation B’nai Tikvah in Walnut Creek, and one by Rabbi Sara Mason-Barkin, associate rabbi and educator at Peninsula Temple Beth El in San Mateo.

Two Bay Area authors were finalists. For children’s literature, Berkeley storyteller Joel ben Izzy was honored for “Dreidels on the Brain” (Dial Books). For education and Jewish identity, Aaron J. Hahn Tapper was cited for “Judaisms: A Twenty-First-Century Introduction to Jews and Jewish Identities” (University of California Press). Tapper is an associate professor in Jewish Studies at the University of San Francisco.

Book award winners will be honored at a March 7 awards dinner and ceremony at the Center for Jewish History in New York City.

For a complete list of winners and finalists, click here.