Politics, playwrights, and powerful personal stories at 43rd annual St. Louis Jewish Book Festival

It’s the best of both worlds for the 43rd annual St. Louis Jewish Book Festival: live author events are returning to The J’s Staenberg Family Complex (2 Milstone Campus Dr., Creve Coeur), but virtually the entire lineup is also available, well, virtually.

The festival kicks off with the keynote event featuring Israeli activist, politician, and author Natan Sharansky. In his new memoir Never Alone, Sharansky recalls his years as a refusenik (a Soviet Jew whom the communist government would not allow to emigrate to Israel) and political prisoner and how they influenced his later activism and political career, which saw him rise to the rank of Deputy Prime Minster of Israel. Sharansky is joined at the event by his coauthor Gil Troy, a Distinguished Scholar of North American History at McGill University and author of a litany of books, mostly covering the topics of Zionism or American presidential history. The pair appear Sunday, November 7th, at 7:00pm at the Edison Gymnasium.

Kristallnacht Remembrance Day is commemorated with a pair of free events at the J’s Performing Arts Center on Wednesday, November 10th. At 10:00am, Liza Wiemer will appear to discuss her novel The Assignment, the story of a group of teens who stand up against their high school when forced to complete an assignment to argue in favor of the Final Solution, a premise that would be absurd if it didn’t really happen just four years ago in Oswego County, New York. Then at 7:00pm, Menachem Kaiser presents Plunder, a memoir recounting his adventures attempting to reclaim the apartment building in Sosnowiec, Poland, that his family had owned before the Nazi invasion.

A rarely explored chapter of St. Louis history is revealed by Washington University drama and literature professor Henry Schvey, whose new book, Blue Song, delves into Tennessee Williams’ fractious relationship with his one-time home and how the Gateway City haunted the exalted playwright’s later works. The multimedia presentation, which includes recordings of Williams himself, runs Sunday, November 14th at 7:00pm.

Graphic novels take center stage on Tuesday, November 16th with a 10:30am event in the Performing Arts Center. New York Times bestselling novelist and National Book Award finalist E. Lockhart (We Were Liars) discusses her debut graphic novel with artist Manuel Preitano. Titled Whistle, the YA-ish twist on superheroes features a young girl trying to care for her ill mother and running afoul of villains with ties to Batman’s classic rogues gallery. Lockhart is joined by Ken Krimstein, whose latest graphic novel When I Grow Up resurrects history by adapting a series of autobiographical essays into comics, essays written by Jewish teens for an essay contest in the days leading up to World War II and thought to have been destroyed before their remarkable recent rediscovery.

This is just a small sampling of the wide-ranging topics on display at this year’s St. Louis Jewish Book Festival, which runs November 7th-18th. All-access passes are available, as well as tickets for individual author events (individual ticket prices vary). All in-person events take place at The J’s Staenberg Family Complex (2 Milstone Campus Drive, Creve Coeur). The full schedule of events can be found at www.stljewishbookfestival.org| Jason Green

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