Author Archives: Yona Zeldis McDonough

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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The Lilith Blog

August 21, 2018 by

A Female Friendship From the Catskills to the Wider World

bess and frimaWhen Bess and Frima―both 19, best friends, and from the same Jewish background in the Bronx―get summer jobs in upstate hotels near Monticello, NY, in June 1940, they each have dreams of love, but love means something different to each of them. Frima seeks safety and finds it with Bess’s brother Jack. Rebellious Bess renames herself Beth and plunges into a new life with Vinny, an Italian American, former Catholic, left-wing labor leader from San Francisco. Her actions are totally unacceptable to her parents―which is fine with Beth, who is eager to reinvent herself outside the tight and suffocating bonds of family.

As Alice Rosenthal’s novel of friendship, Bess and Frima, unfolds, the menace of world war is growing, and Beth and Frima must grow up fast. Balancing love, ambition, religion, family, and politics, each young woman faces challenges she never imagined in her girlhood. Fiction Editor Yona Zeldis McDonough talks to author Alice Rosenthal about the personal history she mined to write this tender story.

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The Lilith Blog

August 15, 2018 by

The Book That Teaches Children About a Jewish Prima Ballerina

An Unlikely Ballerina

Young Lily Marks loves to stand on her tiptoes. When her parents notice there’s weakness in her legs, her doctor suggests dancing lessons to strengthen them, and Lily falls in love with ballet. But can this fragile girl ever become a serious dancer? When the famous ballerina Anna Pavlova comes to town, Lily just has to meet her. Maybe Pavlova—small, delicate, and Jewish like Lily—holds the key to Lily’s future. Fiction Editor (and lifelong balletomane) Yona Zeldis McDonough talks to author Krystyna Poray Goddu about her informative and charming new picture book.

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The Lilith Blog

July 26, 2018 by

An Ode to Iris Apfel

At age 84, Iris Apfel had the distinction of being the first living person whose clothing was exhibited by the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s renowned Costume Institute. Ever since I stumbled upon the show Rara Avis: Selections from the Iris Apfel Collection at the Met in 2005, I became an ardent fan of Apfel. Walking through the galleries, I was captivated by her highly original way of mixing  high-low fashion, as well as her knack for building an outfit with the depth, complexity and wit of an accomplished visual artist. 

Iris_Apfel_at_MIFFI bought the accompanying book and kept Apfel on my radar—and so did the media. There were the various sightings and snapshots by the late Bill Cunningham, a 2015  Emmy-nominated documentary by the late Albert Maysles, a costume jewelry line sold on the Home Shopping Network and a partnership with MAC Cosmetics. But it was the most recent addition to the Apfel canon, Iris Apfel: Accidental IconMusings of a Geriatric Starlet (HarperDesign) that made me understand her place in the tapestry (pun intended!) of Jewish history. 

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The Lilith Blog

June 19, 2018 by

Dispatches From an Anxious Life

Little Panic CoverThe world never made any sense to Amanda Stern–how could she trust time to keep flowing, the sun to rise, gravity to hold her feet to the ground, or even her own body to work the way it was supposed to?

In her memoir Little Panic: Dispatches from an Anxious Life, Amanda describes this feeling. Deep down, she knows that there’s something horribly wrong with her, some defect that her siblings and friends don’t have to cope with.

Growing up in the 1970s and 80s in New York, Amanda experiences the magic and madness of life through the filter of unrelenting panic. Plagued with fear that her friends and family will be taken from her if she’s not watching—that her mother will die, or forget she has children and just move away—Amanda treats every parting as her last. Shuttled between a barefoot bohemian life with her mother in Greenwich Village, and a sanitized, stricter world of affluence uptown with her father, Amanda has little she can depend on. And when Etan Patz, the six-year-old boy down the block from their MacDougal Street home disappears on the first day he walks to school alone, she can’t help but believe that all her worst fears are about to come true.

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