A Literary Afternoon Series

Tuesdays, 3:00 pm

Programs moderated by Myrna Lippman, chair of the Levis JCC Sandler Center Literary Programs.

FREE for virtual members, $45 for series for non-members, $10 for individual programs for non-members.
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November 17:

Rachel Beanland, Florence Adler Swims Forever

Atlantic City, 1934. Every summer, Esther and Joseph Adler rent their house out to vacationers escaping to “America’s Playground” and move into the small apartment above their bakery. Despite the cramped quarters, this is the apartment where they raised their two daughters, Fannie and Florence, and it always feels like home. Now Florence has returned from college, determined to spend the summer training to swim the English Channel, and Fannie, pregnant again after recently losing a baby, is on bed rest for the duration of her pregnancy. After Joseph insists, they take in a mysterious young woman whom he recently helped emigrate from Nazi Germany, the apartment is bursting at the seams. Esther only wants to keep her daughters close and safe, but some matters are beyond her control: there’s Fannie’s risky pregnancy—not to mention her always-scheming husband, Isaac—and the fact that the handsome heir of a hotel notorious for its anti-Semitic policies seems to be in love with Florence. When tragedy strikes, Esther makes the shocking decision to hide the truth—at least until Fannie’s baby is born—and pulls the family into an elaborate web of secret-keeping and lies bringing long-buried tensions to the surface that reveal how quickly the act of protecting those we love can turn into betrayal. Based on a true story and told in the vein of J. Courtney Sullivan’s Saints for All Occasions and Anita Diamant’s The Boston Girl, Beanland’s family saga is a breathtaking portrait of just how far we will go in order to protect our loved ones and an uplifting portrayal of how the human spirit can endure—and even thrive—after a tragedy.

Rachel Beanland is an MFA candidate in creative writing at Virginia Commonwealth University. She holds bachelor’s degrees in art history and journalism from the University of South Carolina and lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband and three children.


December 15:

Susan Jane Gillman, Donna Has Left the Building

45-year-old Donna Koczynski is a former “bad Jewish girl”— a failed punk rocker and recovering alcoholic. Now, she’s a wise-aleck wife and mother moldering in the Detroit suburbs. That is until she returns home one day to the surprise of a lifetime. As her world implodes, she sets off on an epic road trip to reclaim everything she believes she's sacrificed since her wild youth: great friendship, passionate love, and her art. Yet as she careens across America, nothing turns out as planned. Ultimately, she finds herself on a remote Greek island instead, embroiled in the Syrian refugee crisis. There she comes face to face with the legacy and responsibilities of her Jewish heritage. She becomes humbled — and part of a much greater team committed to “Tikkun Olam.” Irresistibly funny, whip-smart, and surprisingly powerful, Donna Has Left the Building is a novel that defies all expectations. It’s an unforgettable tale about spiritual awakening and what it really means to love in today’s big, broken, beautiful world.

Susan Jane Gilman is the bestselling author of Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress, Kiss My Tiara, Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven, and the novel The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street. She has provided commentary for NPR and written for The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Ms. Magazine, among others.


January 19:

Joanna Hershon, St. Ivo

Over the course of a weekend, two couples reckon with the long-hidden secrets that have shaped their families, in a charged, poignant novel of motherhood and friendship. Unwinding like a suspense novel, Joanna Hershon's St. Ivo is a powerful investigation into the meaning of choice and family, whether we ever know the people closest to us, and how, when someone goes missing from our lives, we can ever let them go.

Joanna Hershon is the author of the novels Swimming, The Outside of August, The German Bride, and A Dual Inheritance. Her writing has appeared in Granta, The New York Times, One Story, Virginia Quarterly Review, and two literary anthologies, Brooklyn Was Mine and Freud's Blind Spot. She is an adjunct assistant professor in the Creative Writing Department at Columbia University and lives in Brooklyn with her husband, the painter Derek Buckner, their twin sons, and their daughter.

Tuesday, February 16:

Heidi Pitlor, Impersonation

Allie Lang is a professional ghostwriter and a perpetually broke single mother to a young boy. Years of navigating her own and America's cultural definition of motherhood have left her a lapsed idealist. Lana Breban is a high-profile lawyer, economist, and advocate for women's rights with designs on elected office. She also has a son. Lana and her staff have decided she needs help softening her image in the eyes of the public, and that a memoir about her life as a mother will help. Allie struggles to write Lana's book as obstacles pile up: not enough childcare, looming deadlines, an unresponsive subject, an ill-defined romantic relationship on the verge of slipping away. Eventually, Lana comes to require far too much of Allie and even her son. Allie's ability to stand up for herself and ask for all that she deserves will ultimately determine the power that she can wield over her own life. With the satirical eye of Tom Perrotta's Mrs. Fletcher and the incisiveness of Meg Wolitzer's The Female Persuasion, acclaimed writer Heidi Pitlor tells a timely, bitingly funny, and insightful story of ambition, motherhood, and class.

Heidi Pitlor is the author of the novels The Birthdays and The Daylight Marriage. She has been the series editor of The Best American Short Stories since 2007 and the editorial director of Plympton, a literary studio. Her writing has been published in Ploughshares, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Huffington Post, and the anthologies It Occurs to Me That I Am America: New Stories and Art and Labor Day: True Birth Stories by Today's Best Women Writers. She lives outside of Boston.


March 16:

Ilana Masad, All My Mother’s Lovers

Maggie Krause has certainties: her queerness, her nine-to-five job, her love of smoking pot. But she has questions too: How will she make her budding relationship with Lucia stick? Will she resolve her conflicts with her mother Iris? What does it mean to be a millennial white Jewish American woman in a contemporary messy world? When Iris dies in a car crash, Maggie’s devastated. Iris never hid her discomfort with her daughter’s queerness but Maggie always thought they’d figure each other out eventually. Rushing home for the funeral, Maggie discovers alongside her mother’s will, five sealed envelopes addressed to mysterious men. Upon learning that her family is choosing to sit shiva, Maggie makes a break for it, deciding to hand-deliver the letters and find out what these men meant to Iris. The discoveries reveal a hidden life that changes everything Maggie thought she knew. A meditation on family grief and a tender portrait of complex identities, All My Mother’s Lovers challenges generational divides and acknowledges how difficult it is to know our parents.

Ilana Masad is a queer Israeli American writer and book critic whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, NPR, BuzzFeed, Catapult, Story Quarterly, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, as well as others. She is the founder and host of The Other Stories podcast and a doctoral student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she also serves as the assistant nonfiction editor for Prairie Schooner. All My Mother’s Lovers is her debut novel.

This series is generously underwritten by Gerald Golden (of blessed memory), Charna Larkin, Elsa Sheldon, The Myrna Lippman Literary Fund and Boca Raton Regional Hospital. The Levis JCC is a member of the Jewish Book Network sponsored by the Jewish Book Council.

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