Ten well-written tales that provide subtle insights into the Jewish experience.

BEGINNERS' MINYAN

A COLLECTION OF SHORT STORIES

Gadol’s debut collection comprises 10 stories on various aspects of Jewish life.

“Minyan” is the Hebrew word for a quorum of 10 Jewish adults, which is required for some religious obligations and ceremonies, the most common being public prayer. These 10 stories are the author’s attempt to come to terms with his heritage. In “Treyf Day,” a daughter’s relationship with her mother is laden with religion, guilt and the weight of Jewish law, which (her mother tells her) forbids sleepovers and the wearing of rhinestones. “Villa Puesta Del Sol” examines life in a Florida retirement community, where a woman who eats paper also jockeys for position in a mahjong circle and uncovers the secret to the brisket recipe of a deceased acquaintance. “What’s Up, Kike?” features a young lawyer who uses derogatory terms to refer to Jews; he eventually comes to realize that he’s not mature enough for parenthood. In “The Coup,” a Jewish boy ensures that his father’s place in a congregation is secure from the threat of an interloper. In each of Gadol’s stories, the writing is clear, crisp and concise. The collection’s unifying theme is reflecting upon life as a Jew: the importance of story, tradition, law, family, ceremony and guilt. Stories range from inventive (“the story ends...with four knives stuck in a ficus, and me forbidden to wear mohair”) to humorous (“The only difference between Rice-A-Roni with fried beef in America and in Africa is that we don’t have flies crawling on our faces here”). Some passages are exquisitely beautiful, particularly the story “M’Dor L’Dor,” in which a father reflects upon the meaning of his daughter’s Bat Mitzvah by recalling his boyhood chrysalis. At times, however, this beauty is achieved at the expense of the stories’ pacing.

Ten well-written tales that provide subtle insights into the Jewish experience.

Pub Date: May 12, 2011

ISBN: 978-0983759300

Page Count: 188

Publisher: Clothesline Books

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

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A short, simple, and sweet tale about two friends and a horse.

Mary's Song

From the Dream Horse Adventure Series series , Vol. 1

A novel tells the story of two spirited girls who set out to save a lame foal in 1952.

Mary, age 12, lacks muscle control of her legs and must use a wheelchair. Her life is constantly interrupted by trips with her widower father to assorted doctors, all of whom have failed to help her. Mary tolerates the treatments, hoping to one day walk unassisted, but her true passion involves horses. Possessing a library filled with horse books, she loves watching and drawing the animals at a neighboring farm. She longs to own one herself. But her father, overprotective due to her disability and his own lingering grief over Mary’s dead mother, makes her keep her distance. Mary befriends Laura, the emotionally neglected daughter of the wealthy neighboring farm owners, and the two share secret buggy rides. Both girls are attracted to Illusion, a beautiful red bay filly on the farm. Mary learns that Illusion is to be put down by a veterinarian because of a lame leg. Horrified, she decides to talk to the barn manager about the horse (“Isn’t it okay for her to live even if she’s not perfect? I think she deserves a chance”). Soon, Mary and Laura attempt to raise money to save Illusion. At the same time, Mary begins to gain control of her legs thanks to water therapy and secret therapeutic riding with Laura. There is indeed a great deal of poignancy in a story of a girl with a disability fighting to defend the intrinsic value of a lame animal. But this book, the first installment of the Dream Horse Adventure Series, would be twice as touching if Mary interacted with Illusion more. In the tale’s opening, she watches the foal from afar, but she actually spends very little time with the filly she tries so hard to protect. This turns out to be a strange development given the degree to which the narrative relies on her devotion. Count (Selah’s Sweet Dream, 2015) draws Mary and Laura in broad but believable strokes, defined mainly by their unrelenting pluckiness in the face of adversity. While the work tackles disability, death, and grief, Mary’s and Laura’s environments are so idyllic and their optimism and perseverance so remarkable that the story retains an aura of uncomplicated gentleness throughout.

A short, simple, and sweet tale about two friends and a horse.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Hastings Creations Group

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2016

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A persuasive, valuable addition to the ongoing immigration reform debate.

SHOW TRIALS

HOW PROPERTY GETS MORE LEGAL PROTECTION THAN PEOPLE IN OUR FAILED IMMIGRATION SYSTEM

A highly organized, informative discussion of the immigration system in the United States.

In this politically charged environment, Afrasiabi manages to broach the volatile issue of immigration in a well-rounded, surprisingly effective framework that combines case studies, historical research, statistical analysis and personal anecdotes to detail the current issues and propose solutions. Invocations of Kafka, “The Twilight Zone” and “Alice in Wonderland” prove warranted as illustrations of the often surreal circumstances that confront immigrants facing deportation. Immigrants usually lack access to quality legal representation, while their situation can be made doubly difficult due to language barriers and significant cultural differences. Afrasiabi incorporates his work with colleagues and students at the Chapman University School of Law to deftly weave together the facts of several compelling cases and their underlying legal issues, with a genuine sense of suspense as readers wonder if justice will be truly be served. Occasionally, though, the narrative becomes overwrought—two federal laws passed in 1996 are “dark storm clouds depositing their sleet”—although, considering the life-changing effects of court decisions, it’s difficult to overstate the ramifications: extralegal rendition of individuals with pending cases and the de facto deportation of native-born children whose parents are deported. Afrasiabi also addresses the legacy of various anti-alien laws in California, as well as marriage equality for same-sex couples when one partner is a noncitizen. As the subtitle asserts, Afrasiabi employs his additional experience in the field of property law to contrast the stark differences between immigration judges and constitutional judges, like their qualifications, vetting processes and even the oaths they take. His arguments culminate in seven concrete reforms proposed in the conclusion. In order to make the immigration system more just and effective, Afrasiabi claims the solutions are closer than we may think; we can implement procedures and safeguards already in place within the constitutional courts.

A persuasive, valuable addition to the ongoing immigration reform debate.

Pub Date: May 1, 2012

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 249

Publisher: Kurti Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 7, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2012

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