People of the Book

Episode 138: Ruby Namdar on his newly translated novel, The Ruined House, and writer Taffy Brodesser-Akner on what Philip Roth taught her about being an American Jew

June 7, 2018

This week on Unorthodox, Liel’s still wearing his grand marshal sash from the Celebrate Israel parade. For our first book-club episode, we talk to Israeli-born writer Ruby Namdar about his ambitious second book, The Ruined House, which won Israel’s most prestigious literary award, the Sapir Prize, and was recently translated into English. The book is set in New York City, where he’s lived for the past 18 years, and follows a charming and successful professor named Andrew P. Cohen as he descends into a peculiar kind of madness. Ruby tells us why he made his protagonist such a specific male archetype, and explains the difference between American and Israeli literary culture (he didn’t discover Philip Roth until he moved to the United States). He also answers questions from listeners who read the book along with us, such as, “Why does the main character live near Columbia if he teaches downtown at NYU?”

Plus, New York Times writer Taffy Brodesser-Akner joins us to talk about her essay about what reading Philip Roth while growing up in an observant household taught her about being an American Jew.

Our next live show is July 18 at the JCC Manhattan, and it’s an episode devoted to the question “Is it OK to say ‘JAP’?” Jill Kargman of Odd Mom Out joins us to screen a new short film about the persistence of the Jewish American Princess stereotype. We’ll follow with a lively discussion with guests including Judith Rosenbaum of the Jewish Women’s Archive and Bat Sheva Marcus of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, and more. There will be loads of audience participation as well! Get your tickets here.

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Unorthodox is a smart, fresh, fun weekly take on Jewish news and culture hosted by Mark Oppenheimer, Stephanie Butnick, and Liel Leibovitz. You can listen to individual episodes here or subscribe on iTunes.

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