Posts Tagged #jewishauthors

WNDMG Wednesday – Debut Author Noa Nimrodi

We Need Diverse MG Logo hands holding reading globe with stars and spirals floating around
We Need Diverse MG Logo hands holding reading globe with stars and spirals floating around

Illustration by: Aixa Perez-Prado

 

WNDMG Wednesday – Debut Author Interview

Hello everyone, and happy WNDMG Wednesday to you. I’m so excited to be able to introduce you to debut author Noa Nimrodi today. Noa’s new book is NOT SO SHY (Kar-Ben/Lerner) and it launches on April 4, 2023. NOT SO SHY was a great read – I truly loved her well-realized characters and her gentle exploration of tough topics.

Full disclosure–Noa and I are in the same debut author cohort, and we also share a launch date for our books AND an editor, the fabulous Amy Fitzgerald!

About Not So Shy

Twelve-year-old Shai hates everything about moving to America from Israel. She’s determined to come up with a plan that will get her back home. Maybe she can go back with her grandparents when they come to visit. Or maybe she can win the drawing competition that’s offering a plane ticket to any destination in the world as a grand prize. Meanwhile, though, she’s stuck in seventh grade at an American school, where she has to communicate in English and get used to American ways of doing things. Worst of all, she faces antisemitism up close for the first time.

But she also finds support and friendship where she least expected it and starts to see her new life with different eyes. Maybe home doesn’t have to be the place she’s always lived. Maybe home is a place in the heart.

Interview with Noa Nimrodi

I loved getting to talk to Noa about her book, Not So Shy, and I think you will enjoy meeting her and Shai as well.

HMC: What is the origin story for Not So Shy?

NN: Not So Shy originated from personal experience (as you probably guessed…). The fictional Shai is loosely based on my middle child ,who was twelve-years old when we moved from Israel to the US. I also shamelessly stole her name for my main character (with her permission of course).

Although the story is fictional, it carries many emotional truths and a few based-on-a-true-story bits.Although the story is fictional, it carries many emotional truths and a few ‘based-on-a-true-story’ bits.

Drawing Courage

HMC: So many important and wonderful themes in your book – being Jewish in the United States, music, learning to live in a foreign country, making new friends, and an exploration of the issue of genetically modified food. Can you talk more about what it was like to write Shai’s experiences dealing with antisemitism?

NN: The main incident of blunt antisemitism that is described in the book is based on a true event that happened to my daughter. Shaping and incorporating that experience into a work of fiction helped me gain insight and in a way, like with other issues I tackled in the book, it was a cathartic process. In real life, Shai kept this incident from me and my husband for years. I hope young readers will draw courage to speak up when caught in similar unfortunate situations.

Tackling Misconceptions and Skewed Opinions

HMC: The subject of food and science is important to Shai—can you talk more about how you became inspired to write about food science?

NN: As writers, what we’re concerned/intrigued/passionate about, finds its way into our writing, and such was the case with GMOs in this book. I’ve always been intrigued with science, my husband has been in the biotech industry for many years and my dad is a scientist.

I worry when important issues, which are too nuanced to be summed into infographics, are shared and reposted carelessly on social media. The ease in which information (and misinformation) is spread these days allows for misconceptions and skewed opinions to be regarded as facts. This goes for how we view new inventions in science as much as it goes for how some perceive the state Israel, so it made sense to me to tie in the controversies of GMOs into the book.

Bridging the Gap Between People

HMC: One of my favorite lines in the book is, “Music is my favorite language now.” Do you play trumpet like your main character, Shai? Do you love the language of music as much as she?

NN: I do love the language of music! I believe it can bridge the gaps between people of all backgrounds. When we listen to music we tap into universal emotions. Music has the power to connect people in a magical way.

(and it’s pretty cool that music notes are the same all over the world).

I myself never played an instrument (I wish I did…), but my daughter Shai played the saxophone in the school band, and she still remembers how in her first tough months when English didn’t come easy, she eagerly waited for seventh period Band, where she felt less of an outsider when immersed in the language of music.

The fictional Shai plays the trumpet since (research has taught me) it’s the easiest instrument to play with a broken arm. (For those who haven’t read the book yet, Shai breaks her arm before the beginning of the school year).

HMC: Each of your chapters has three words. Is there a thematic or symbolic reason for that choice?

NN: Hmmmm. Thematic or symbolic reasoning would have been clever of me… but admittedly, it was a happy accident. I first used the words for myself, just to sum up what happens in each chapter as I wrote it, later deciding (with the support of my critique group) that it does a good job at hooking the reader and hinting what’s to come in each chapter. I suspected this might be cut out at the editing stages, but it remained as an integral part of the book.

Including Easter Eggs

HMC: Authors often include so-called “Easter eggs” in their books—do you have any in Not So Shy?

NN: I love this question! There are some “Easter eggs” in the book. Very few are consciously intentional (the name of the middle school Shai attends, for example, is a nod to the middle school my kids attended, I deliberately slightly distorted the name). Other surprise eggs (which my kids claim to have found) were woven in unintentionally, and so far I have yet to admit otherwise… 😉

((Enjoying this interview on WNDMG? Read this one from our vault, with contributors Jonathan Rosen and Melissa Roske))

Finding Personal Resonance

HMC: What part of writing this book was for you personally, for Noa Nimrodi?

NN: A pretty big part… When I began writing this book from the perspective of my daughter Shai, I believed I was drawing from the experiences of my three kids (we moved from Israel to the US when they were seven, twelve and fourteen). But as I tapped deeper into the emotions of my main character, It dawned on me that I was also writing about myself (by the age of twelve I’ve moved from Israel to the US and back, twice). I realized in hindsight that subconsciously I was uncovering layers of feelings and emotions that were tucked away for decades. (Maybe I was writing for twelve-year-old-me…)

Writing the Next Book

HMC: Can you tell us anything about your next project?

NN: I’m working on a middle grade novel which is pretty different than Not So Shy, but in a way also reflects my concern with misconceptions. I’ll vaguely say it has elements of mystery, bits of magic, a pet pig, a sassy parrot, twin sisters who’s older sister mysteriously disappears and a misunderstood elderly Holocaust-survivor neighbor facing Holocaust denial in the gossip-driven town they live in.

I’m a slow writer, and my agent hasn’t even seen any part of this one yet, so you probably won’t see it on shelves anytime soon.

Bonus!

HMC: Bonus question! Is there anything I haven’t asked that you’d like to share with us?

NN: I’d love to share how much it means to me to belong to the 2023Debut group. There is such a great sense of comradery in this group, and such heartwarming interactions of likeminded people all rooting for each other. I’m so glad I got to meet you through this group, Heather, and I want to take this opportunity to recommend your fantastic debut Indigo and Ida to everyone reading this interview— I loved it. I’m thrilled that our books are coming out on the same day! (along with another excellent debut— Good Different, by the talented Meg Eden Kuyatt! Looking forward to the triple book-birthday on 4/4/23 !!)

Visiting Israel

HMC: For those of us who plan to visit Israel one day (HMC raises hand) what is one thing you (or Shai) would tell us we MUST do?

NN: Oooo! This is a tough one! Just one thing? Ok, besides the obvious touristy musts (you don’t need me for those), I’d say take a walk on the beach in Tel Aviv and have an Israeli breakfast in one of the restaurants located on the waterline with your bare feet in the sand. Continue to Shuk Ha’Carmel and take in the sounds, the colors, and the flavors of this one of a kind market. Get a freshly squeezed cup of juice (orange, carrot, pomegranate, or a mix!), and if you’re not too full from breakfast have some falafel, or shwarma. Ok, I’ll stop here, I can go on and on, especially about the food, because food in Israel is seriously the best in the world (and Shai would say the same).

Thank you so much, Noa! Best of luck to you with your debut … and I look forward to reading more titles by you one day soon.

About Noa Nimrodi

Noa Nimrodi is an Israeli-American author/illustrator living near the ocean in Southern California. As a designer, oa worked on displays in bookshops and gravitated most to children’s books, sparking her passion to create her own. Two of her Hebrew-language books, one which she also illustrated, have been published in Israel. When not writing, Noa can be found reading a variety of genres, creating all sorts of art, and running on the beach in Carlsbad (with or without her two dogs).

author headshot woman with blue eyes and brown hair smiling at cameraPreorder Not So Shy:

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B’nai Mitzvah books + a giveaway!

My bat mitzvah reception was held at Roma di Notte, an Italian nightclub in Midtown Manhattan. Described by New York magazine as the perfect spot for an “after-hours rendezvous,” the club boasted an impressive collection of Roman statues, medallions, and urns. Hidden caves, or “grottos,” insured ultimate privacy for lovers indulging in “a romantic nightcap.”

Mystery of the White Gym Socks

Why my parents chose this particular venue to fête my coming of age as a Jew is beyond me. Another mystery is why I wore a pink floor-length dress best suited for a five-year-old flower girl at a fancy wedding. Or why my mom allowed me to wear white gym socks with my patent-leather T-straps.

Turning the Tables

Another thing I don’t get? Why I didn’t claim my rightful place at the head of the kids’ table instead of way down at the end, next to my dorky cousin Jordan. (I dare you to find me in the picture, below.)

A Picture Speaks a Thousand Words

These details aren’t important, of course. I’m telling you this because, to be brutally honest, it’s all I can remember about my mitzvah. The day went by in a blur.

Sure, I have photographic evidence of the event, courtesy of my shutterbug cousin Keith, and I know I read from the Book of Leviticus, which details how and when religious offerings should be made to God. (I won’t go into specifics, but let’s just say I learned more about animal sacrifice than a 13-year-old old should ever know.) Other than that…? Nada.

That’s why, when I was asked to write a short story for the upcoming Jewish MG anthology, Coming of Age: 13 B’nai Mitzvah Stories, out from Albert Whitman & Company on April 19, I chose not to borrow from my own bat-mitzvah experience. I had too many unanswered questions, and no one to answer them for me. Fiction felt more real—and more immediate—than anything my memory could provide.

With that in mind, here’s a collection of middle-grade novels that feature characters preparing for a b’nai mitzvah. Their fictional memories are way more reliable than mine. 🙂

PLUS don’t miss a chance to win a copy of Coming of Age: 13 B’nai Mitzvah Stories if you enter the giveaway. Scroll down for details! 👇👇👇

B’nai Mitzvah Books

Beyond Lucky by Sarah Aronson

Ari Fish, who’s in the throes of studying for his bar mitzvah, believes in two things: his hero-Wayne Timcoe, the greatest soccer goalie to ever come out of Somerset Valley—and luck. So, when Ari finds a rare and valuable Wayne Timcoe trading card, he’s sure his luck has changed for the better. Especially when he’s picked to be the starting goalie on his team. But when the card is stolen—and his best friend and the new girl on the team accuse each other of taking it—suddenly Ari can’t save a goal, everyone is fighting, and he doesn’t know who, or what, to believe in. Before the team falls apart, Ari must learn how to make his own luck—and figure out what it truly means to be a hero.

The Truth About My Bat Mitzvah by Nora Raleigh Baskin

Seventh-grader Caroline Weeks has a Jewish mom and a non-Jewish dad. When Caroline’s nana dies around the same time that Caroline’s best friend, Rachel, is having her bat mitzvah, Caroline starts to become more interested in her Jewish identity.

The Long Trail Home by Kiersi Burkhardt and Amber J. Keyser

Rivka can’t wait to get away from her family for the summer. Since that terrible day last year, she wants no part in their Jewish community. At least at Quartz Creek Ranch, she feels worlds away from home among the Colorado scenery, goofy ranch owners, and baby animals. Other parts of Quartz Creek, however, are too familiar, including the unsettling wave of anti-immigrant threats to ranch workers. On a trip to the country, Rivka is also surprised to learn the history of Jewish pioneers in the area. When she and her defiant cabinmate, Cat, face disaster in the wild, Rivka will need to find strength deep within her to help them both get home safely.

The Queen of Likes by Hillary Homzie

Karma Cooper is a seventh grader with thousands of followers on SnappyPic. Before Karma became a social-media celebrity, she wasn’t part of the in-crowd at Merton Middle School. But thanks to one serendipitous photo, Karma has become a popular poster on SnappyPic. Like most kids at MMS, her smartphone—a bejeweled pink number Karma nicknamed Floyd—is like a body part she could never live without. But after breaking some basic phone rules, Karma’s parents take Floyd away, and for Karma, her world comes to a screeching halt. Can Karma learn to go cold turkey and live her life fully unplugged?

My Basmati Bar Mitzvah by Paula J. Freedman

During the fall leading up to her bat mitzvah, Tara (Hindi for “star”) Feinstein has a lot more than her Torah portion on her mind. Between Hebrew school and study sessions with the rabbi, there doesn’t seem to be enough time to hang out with her best friend, Ben-O―who might also be her boyfriend―and her other best friend, Rebecca, who’s getting a little too cozy with the snotty Sheila Rosenberg. Not to mention working on her robotics project with the class clown, Ryan Berger, or figuring out what to do with a priceless heirloom sari that she accidentally ruined. Amid all this drama, Tara considers how to balance her Indian and Jewish identities and what it means to have a bat mitzvah while questioning her faith.

Recipe for Disaster by Aimee Lucido

Hannah Malfa-Adler is Jew . . . ish. Not that she really thinks about it. She’d prefer to focus on her favorite pastime: baking delicious food. But when her best friend has a beyond-awesome Bat Mitzvah, Hannah starts to feel a little envious …and a little left out. Despite her parents’ firm no, Hannah knows that if she can learn enough about her own faith, she can convince her friends that the party is still in motion. As the secrets mount, a few are bound to explode. When they do, Hannah learns that being Jewish isn’t about having a big party and a fancy dress and a first kiss—it’s about actually being Jewish. Most importantly, Hannah realizes that the only person’s permission she needs to be Jewish is her own.

This Is Just a Test by Madelyn Rosenberg and Wendy Wan Long Shang

Twelve-year-old David Da-Wei Horowitz has a lot on his plate. Preparing for his upcoming bar mitzvah would be enough work even if it didn’t involve trying to please his Jewish and Chinese grandmothers, who argue about everything. But David just wants everyone to be happy. That includes his friend, Scott, who is determined to win their upcoming trivia tournament but doesn’t like their teammate: David’s best friend, Hector. Scott and David begin digging a fallout shelter just in case this Cold War stuff with the Soviets turns south… but David’s not so convinced he wants to spend forever in an underground bunker with Scott. Maybe it would be better if Hector and Kelli Ann came with them. But that would mean David has to figure out how to stand up for Hector and talk to Kelli Ann. Some days, surviving nuclear war feels like the least of David’s problems.

Echo Still by Tim Tibbitts

Twelve-year-old Fig’s life at school is perfectly normal: He’s sure his science teacher hates him, his dad is forcing him to attend Bar Mitzvah classes because his mom would have wanted it, and he’s just been passed over for the football team in favor of Gus Starks, a ball hog and a bully. And, as if Fig’s life needed one more complication, his grandmother Gigi is unexpectedly coming to stay with him and his dad for a while. As Gigi helps Fig navigate the obstacles of school and a tough football season, Fig comes to understand some important things: about his religion, about his family, and about Fig himself.

Pink Slippers, Bat Mitzvah Blues by Ferida Wolff

After her Bat Mitzvah, all Alyssa wanted to do was dance. She loved the practice sessions at the studio. And she loved performing. But suddenly there were so many other pressures. The persistent but sympathetic rabbi wanted her to join the confirmation class. Alyssa’s best friend was very sick and needed her badly. And if Alyssa missed another dance rehearsal, she would be thrown out of the Nutcracker. If only she could decide what to do.

And last but not least…

Coming of Age: 13 B’nai Mitzvah Stories edited by Jonathan Rosen and Henry Herz

What does it mean to become an adult in your faith? Join thirteen diverse characters as they experience anxiety, doubt, and self-discovery while preparing for their b’nai mitzvah. And whether celebrating with a lavish party or in reception room A with an accordion player, the Jewish rite of passage remains the same. Filled with humor, hope, and history, there’s something in this anthology for every reader, regardless of their faith.

Giveaway!

For a chance to win a copy of COMING OF AGE: 13 B’NAI MITZVAH STORIEScomment on the blog–and, if you’re on Twitter, on the Mixed-Up Files Twitter account, for an extra chance to win! (Giveaway ends 3/25/22; U.S. only, please.)

Melissa Roske is a writer of middle-grade fiction. Before spending her days with imaginary people, she interviewed real ones as a journalist in Europe. In London she landed a job as an advice columnist for Just Seventeen magazine, where she answered hundreds of letters from readers each week. Upon returning to her native New York, Melissa contributed to several books and magazines, selected jokes for Reader’s Digest (just the funny ones), and received certification as a life coach from NYU. In addition to her debut novel Kat Greene Comes Clean (Charlesbridge, 2017), Melissa’s short story “Grandma Merle’s Last Wish” appears in the Jewish middle-grade anthology, Coming of Age: 13 B’Nai Mitzvah Stories (Albert Whitman & Company). An active blogger for the popular MG website, From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle-grade AuthorsMelissa lives in Manhattan with her husband, daughter, and the occasional dust bunny. Learn more about Melissa on her Website and follow her on  TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.