As the summer sun blazes high, it’s the perfect season to lose yourself in the pages of a good book. This year, why not take your reading list on a journey through the vibrant and diverse worlds of Jewish characters? From tales of identity and heritage to contemporary stories of love and adventure, these summer reading picks celebrate the rich tapestry of Jewish experiences across different backgrounds and genres. Whether you’re lounging by the pool or seeking a quiet moment in the shade, these books promise to entertain, enlighten, and inspire. So grab your sunglasses, find a cozy spot, and dive into these captivating stories that honor and explore the diverse facets of Jewish life.

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Color Me In book coverColor Me In – by Natasha Diaz

A compelling coming-of-age novel that explores the complexities of identity through the eyes of Nevaeh Levitz, a biracial teen caught between her Black mother’s Harlem roots and her white Jewish father’s privileged lifestyle. As her parents’ divorce upends her life, Nevaeh grapples with societal pressures and the demands of her diverse heritage, feeling the weight of needing to fit into predefined categories. Amidst the turmoil of her summer, she embarks on a journey of self-discovery, confronting her own prejudices and the world’s expectations. Through navigating her cultural identity and seeking her place in both worlds, Nevaeh learns to embrace her mixed-race identity with strength and authenticity. “Color Me In” beautifully captures the struggles and triumphs of finding one’s true self in a world often divided by labels.

The Art of Leaving book coverThe Art of Leaving – by Ayelet Tsabari

A captivating memoir that weaves together the intricate threads of identity, belonging, and self-discovery. Tsabari, an Israeli of Yemeni descent, navigates the complexities of her heritage and the sense of displacement that permeates her life. Through a series of evocative essays, she recounts her experiences of leaving home, traveling across continents, and seeking solace in various places and relationships. Each story reflects her struggle to reconcile the diverse facets of her identity while grappling with themes of love, loss, and the yearning for a place to call home. “The Art of Leaving” is a poignant exploration of the universal quest for belonging and the resilience found in the face of perpetual departures.

The Ghost of Hannah Mendes book coverThe Ghost of Hannah Mendes – by Naomi Ragen

This novel intertwines past and present in a captivating tale of family, legacy, and self-discovery through the story of Catherine da Costa, an elderly Jewish woman desperate to secure her family’s heritage. Learning of her terminal illness, she is visited by the ghost of her ancestor, Hannah Mendes, a wealthy 16th-century Portuguese Jew who defied the Inquisition. To honor Hannah’s legacy and reconnect with her Jewish roots, Catherine embarks on a journey with her two estranged granddaughters, who are unaware of their rich heritage. As they delve into their ancestor’s remarkable life, the women discover strength and resilience within themselves, drawing parallels between their struggles and Hannah’s fight for survival and identity. Ragen’s storytelling beautifully weaves historical fiction with contemporary themes of family, faith, and the enduring power of heritage.

Tenants and Cobwebs book coverTenants & Cobwebs by Samir Naqqash

A vivid and richly textured novel that delves into the lives of Jewish families in Baghdad during the 1940s. Set against the backdrop of a vibrant yet tumultuous era, the story unfolds in a crumbling apartment building, where tenants from diverse backgrounds grapple with their intertwined fates and the lingering shadows of history. Naqqash intricately portrays the daily struggles, cultural tensions, and deep-rooted bonds within this close-knit community as they navigate the complexities of identity and survival amidst the shifting sands of political change. Through his evocative storytelling, Naqqash brings to life a forgotten chapter of Jewish history in the Middle East, capturing the resilience and spirit of a people on the brink of dramatic transformation.

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The Flying Camel: Essays on Identity by Women of North African and Middle Eastern Jewish Heritage book coverThe Flying Camel: Essays on Identity by Women of North African and Middle Eastern Jewish Heritage edited by Loolwa Khazzoom

A groundbreaking anthology that gives voice to the often-overlooked experiences of Jewish women from North Africa and the Middle East. Edited by Loolwa Khazzoom, this collection of personal essays explores themes of identity, culture, and diaspora. Each essay offers a unique perspective on navigating the intersection of gender, ethnicity, and Jewish heritage in a world that frequently marginalizes these identities. Through their powerful narratives, the contributors reveal the rich tapestry of their backgrounds and challenge the mainstream narratives about Jewish and Middle Eastern experiences. “The Flying Camel” is an evocative and enlightening read that celebrates the diversity and resilience of Mizrahi and Sephardic Jewish women.

Pomogranate Seeds Book CoverPomegranate Seeds: Latin American Jewish Tales by Nadia Grosser Nagarajan

A vibrant collection of short stories that weaves together the rich cultural tapestries of Jewish and Latin American traditions. Through evocative narratives, Nagarajan brings to life the experiences of Jewish communities across Latin America, blending folklore, history, and contemporary themes. Each tale is a window into a unique world where the old and the new intersect, and where diverse backgrounds converge to form compelling and colorful tales. From mystical legends to modern-day struggles, “Pomegranate Seeds” offers readers a glimpse into the multifaceted identities and enduring spirit of Latin American Jews, celebrating their resilience and heritage with warmth and insight.

Stealing Home book coverStealing Home by Ellen Schwartz

A heartwarming historical novel set against the backdrop of 1947 Brooklyn, where 12-year-old Jake “Golden Arm” dreams of becoming a baseball star. As Jake’s neighborhood buzzes with excitement over Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball, Jake faces his own challenges. With his family’s Jewish bakery struggling and his father recovering from tuberculosis, Jake must balance his love for baseball with his responsibilities at home. The story delves into themes of perseverance, family, and the impact of historical change, showing how Jake draws inspiration from Robinson’s courage to overcome obstacles and pursue his dreams. “Stealing Home” beautifully captures the spirit of hope and determination during a pivotal moment in American history.

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