Author Archives: Yona Zeldis McDonough

The Lilith Blog

February 13, 2019 by

A Novel Satirizes Jews and India

mother indiaMother India is a novel that offers a rich, kaleidoscopic view of both the titular country and its multi-faceted culture. The religious Jews who populate the novel add yet another layer of complexity. Fiction Editor Yona Zeldis McDonough talks to author Tova Reich about how the India-Jewish connection has shaped her thinking and her work. 

YZM: Tell us something about your own relationship to India.

TR: One of my major preoccupations, I’ve always felt, is religion (and not only Judaism), its ultimately tragic human quest for meaning, and what seems to be its inevitable apocalyptic thrust toward extremism and zealotry. I’ve written about seekers in Israel in my novel Master of the Return, about political fanaticism in my novel The Jewish War, and what might perhaps be called social extremism played out in the marginalization/suppression of women in my novel One Hundred Philistine Foreskins

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The Lilith Blog

February 6, 2019 by

The German Girl Who Was Executed for Resisting the Nazis

German teenager Sophie Scholl went from student to resistance martyr after the Nazis took over her country. As member of the White Rose resistance group, Sophie and two other students distributed anti-Nazi pamphlets. They were arrested, and less than a year later, all three were condemned to beheading by guillotine. 

Scholl is the subject of a new historical novel, told in verse— White Rose, by Kip Wilson. Fiction Editor Yona Zeldis McDonough spoke with Wilson about her quest to find out what made the exceptional young woman tick and fictionalize her life.

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The Lilith Blog

January 29, 2019 by

Hedy Lamarr: The Only Woman in the Room

 Most people know Hedy Lamarr as an uncommonly beautiful actress with a vaguely European background and a lot of ex-husbands scattered in her wake. More recently, we’ve begun to learn about her keen interest in science and the impressive invention she masterminded in an effort to help her adopted country defeat the Nazis.  

Fiction Editor Yona Zeldis McDonough talks to author Marie Benedict about how and why she decided to research and fictionalize the other life of this alluring Hollywood star. 

YZM:  What drew you to the subject of Hedy Lamarr?

MB: Since childhood, I’ve been intrigued by the hidden voices in history, particularly the otherwise invisible narratives of women. Over time, I feel as if I’ve developed an antennae of sorts for the unknown stories of historical women. So when an anthropologist friend of mine mentioned to me that there was a famous Golden Age of Hollywood star who was also an incredible inventor, I added her name to the list of women about whom I might write. Bit by bit, I accumulated information about her while writing other women’s stories, and when I learned that aspects of her “secret communication system” — which she hoped would help the Allies in the war effort — led to the creation of wi-fi, I knew Hedy Lamarr’s story needed to be told, particularly since her background and the reason behind her invention are so important.

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The Lilith Blog

January 9, 2019 by

New York’s Forgotten Subway Beauty Pageant

Beginning in 1941, a local New York City beauty pageant known as “Miss Subways” posted placards of winners, chosen each month, in the city’s subway cars. 

When the pageant ended in 1976, so did a bit of NYC history. But author Susie Schnall has resurrected those bygone years in her lively and delightful novel, The Subway Girls, which alternates back and forth between plotlines set today and the 1940s in New York, exploring female ambition and the limitations placed on it.

Schnall talks to Fiction Editor Yona Zeldis McDonough about the dreams and drives that animated the young women of the pageant, and how the contest shaped their lives in unexpected ways.

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The Lilith Blog

November 30, 2018 by

From a Doomsday Church to Judaism

91TgDolbheLAngela Himsel grew up as one of eleven children in an evangelical family that lived in rural Indiana. The Worldwide Church of God informed her thinking and fulfilled her spiritual needs. Yet she eventually went to Israel, married a Jewish man and is now a practicing Jewish woman. She talks to Lilith Fiction Editor Yona Zeldis McDonough about her unusual journey.

YZM: Did you know many Jewish people when you were growing up? 

AH: There was one Jewish family in my town. I was acquainted with them and knew they were Jewish but didn’t fully understand what it was to “be Jewish.” They could have been Albanian. Being Jewish didn’t imply anything to me, neither positive nor negative.

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The Lilith Blog

November 19, 2018 by

The Modest Fashionista Who Became Cutting Edge

As a fashion maven, I’ve noticed that in New York, many Orthodox Jewish women  favor modest, well-made clothing that just falls short of—or maybe intentionally steps aside from—chic or cutting edge.

Enter Batsheva Hay, nee Rosenberg, a self-styled fashionista who cultivated her penchant for mixing vintage with contemporary pieces to create her own unique look. Recent profiles in the New Yorker and the New York Times reveal a fascinating story: When she was in her twenties, and working as a lawyer in New York City, she met a photographer named Alexi Hay, a well known fashion photographer. Hay had recently become an Orthodox Jew, and he nurtured a growing interest in Orthodox clothing. Batsheva shared his interest and he even began photographing her wearing the covered up styles favored by the frum. 

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The Lilith Blog

November 15, 2018 by

Female Friendship and Competition in a Novel of the 90s

Lilith’s Fiction Editor Yona Zeldis McDonough talks with author Catherine Hiller about her sharp, smartly observed period novel that deals with female friendship, office edition.

feud_cover_2-x_smallYZM: Why did you choose to set the novel in the 1990s?

 CH: It was a pivotal time in American life, when email, digital cameras, and cell phones were coming into common use. I wanted to dramatize the impact of these digital technologies. For instance, the book opens with Nikki opening her email at work (she doesn’t have email at home) and seeing a message and an attachment from an unfamiliar address. She idly opens the attachment to find it is a photograph of herself and two men, naked. She’d been drugged and raped on a business trip but hadn’t known she’d been photographed. 

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The Lilith Blog

October 15, 2018 by

The Depth of Grandparents’ Love

51NaQ24Gg0L._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Lilith’s Fiction Editor Yona Zeldis McDonough spoke to memoirist and novelist Kathryn Harrison about her latest foray into family history, On Sunset.

“Blending family history and mythology, anecdotes and photographs, this book is not simply one woman’s open love letter to two magnificently eccentric grandparents; it is also a testament to the enduring power of memory,” writes Kirkus.

YZM: You have written extensively—and well as memorably and beautifully—about your family, including your grandparents, in other essays. Why did you decide to focus exclusively on them now? 

KH: I don’t so much decide to write a book as arrive at it. In the case of On Sunset, it’s only now, in my late fifties, with three adult children, that I am beginning to understand what it means to take on the care of a child—a newborn—at 71 and 62—the magnitude of my grandparents’ love. I never felt myself a burden shouldered for my irresponsible teenage mother. 

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The Lilith Blog

October 11, 2018 by

Nazi-Occupied Normandy and a Family’s Wartime Secrets

news ofFiction Editor Yona Zeldis McDonough talks to Abigail Dewitt about her lyrical and haunting novel, which tells the multi-generational story of a French family and the way the Nazi occupation—and the Allied invasion—have shaped their lives.

YZM:  You write so beautifully and intimately about France—what is your connection to the country? 

AD: Thank you! I’m a dual citizen of France and the U.S. My mother was a young, French, theoretical physicist when she came to the States in the late 1940s to study at the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study. She’d lost half her family in the D-day bombings and intended to go home after two years to re-join her three surviving siblings, but instead, she met my father and married him. Still, she was deeply committed to helping r-build France after the war, so, to make up for marrying an American, she founded the École de Physique des Houches in the French Alps. She and my father taught at the University of North Carolina, but we spent every summer in France so she could run the institute and we could know our relatives.

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The Lilith Blog

September 26, 2018 by

The Mysterious Doctor Who Put Preemies on Display — and Saved Their Lives

51BSdpH-LGL“What kind of doctor puts his patients on display?”

Fiction Editor Yona Zeldis McDonough recently spoke to novelist Dawn Raffel about her new work of nonfiction, “The Strange Case of Dr. Couney: How a Mysterious European Showman Saved Thousands of American Babies”  which tells the real story of a doctor who revolutionized neonatal care, “a marvelously eccentric man, his mysterious carnival career, his larger-than-life personality, and his unprecedented success as the savior of the fragile wonders that are tiny, tiny babies.”

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