Dallas Jewish BookFest resumes Jan. 14
Photo: Courtesy Holly Firfer
Holly Firfer, host of many of the JCC BookFest events, with audience members and (bottom left to right) authors Jodi Picoult and Judy Blume

Educate, inspire, entertain

By Deb Silverthorn

The JCC’s Margot Pulitzer Dallas Jewish BookFest begins the second half of the season’s offerings starting at 7 p.m. Thursday. 

“We are very excited to start the year with a lineup of incredible authors, introducing their books which are interesting and meaningful,” said Rachelle Weiss Crane, the JCC’s director of Israel Engagement and Jewish Living. “It’s been challenging but we are inspired as we look forward to providing our audiences with an incredible schedule.”

The JCC Margot Pulitzer Dallas Jewish BookFest has partnered, for most events, with the Jewish Book Council and the National JCC Literary Consortium of centers from around the country. In the past four months, more than 30 books were featured, many hosted by Holly Firfer of CNN Airport Network and CNN Headline News.

“I’ve read more books this year than ever and I’m loving every minute of it,” said Firfer. “The authors have been delightful and appreciative to promote their books however possible right now.

“I’m all in for the interviews,” said Firfer, a native of Glenview, Illinois, and now aw member of Temple Kol Emeth in Marietta, Georgia. “I want to talk enough about the books so the authors can share their masterpieces, but leave the audiences wanting to read. It’s a balancing act, but it’s been terrific.”

The 2021 series opener is Erica Katz’s “The Boys’ Club,” a page-turner about sex and power in corporate America.

Katz was a practicing attorney in Manhattan who’d always found herself sorting out life through the written word. In 2017, amid a hot political arena, the rise of the #MeToo movement and more that stirred her soul, Katz found she was writing, a lot, and the words kept flowing.

“My first attempt was just to write something to get people talking about the workplace. I sat down to write, with all the voices of the happenings around me that I didn’t agree with, and my first-person narrative came out as fiction,” said Katz, whose debut novel was published by Harper Collins and optioned by Netflix even before its first printing. “It started with an inter-office affair but became so much more: friendship, diversity and the system of corporate America.”

While Katz’s book is not set at her own firm, the writer chose not to share her writing project with anyone at work. She sent her manuscript to the agent of a writer she admired. The book moved down the office to an editor, who loved the book, and who as it turned out had interned at Katz’s firm 10 years earlier.  

“It’s a dream come true that I didn’t even know I had. Pre-pandemic, I had my ideas of what promoting the book would mean and of course the webinar route wasn’t even a thought,” said Katz, a pseudonym, who remains working at her New York law firm and who is working on her second book, already sold. “Still, I couldn’t be more excited to share ‘The Boys’ Club’ and to meet readers around the country.”

Upcoming titles scheduled include Lisa Lillien’s “Hungry Girl Fast & Easy” (Jan. 17); Esther Amini’s “Concealed” (Jan. 19, co-sponsored with Tycher Library); Gabrielle Glaser’s “American Baby” (Jan. 31); Philippe Sands’ “The Ratline: The Exalted Life and Mysterious Death of a Nazi Fugitive” (Feb. 7); Ruth Behar’s “Letters from Cuba” (Feb. 16, co-sponsored with Tycher Library); Bill Gates’ “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster” (Feb. 24); Mark Gerson’s “The Telling: How Judaism’s Essential Book Reveals the Meaning of Life” (March 7); Jan Eliasberg’s “Hannah’s War,” also the Spring Read of the Tycher Library of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas’ Center for Jewish Education (March 21); and Daniel Lee’s “The SS Officer’s Armchair” (April 11).

For more details, or to register, visit jccdallas.org/special-events/bookfest. Programs are recorded and made available to ticket holders upon request to rweisscrane@jccddallas.org for seven days after each event. Most BookFest titles can be purchased at Dallas’ Interabang Books and other retailers.

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