Pick up Morris’ ‘Gateway to the Moon’
By Deb Silverthorn
The pages continue to turn for the Tycher Library Spring Read and the JCC’s Margot Rosenberg Pulitzer Dallas BookFest with author Mary Morris sharing her “Gateway to the Moon.” The Tycher Book Club will discuss the novel at its monthly meeting at 10 a.m. Monday, March 2, at the Tycher Library. The author will be featured at the Spring Read at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 5, in Zale Auditorium of the Aaron Family JCC. Partnered with the Jewish Book Council, attendance is free with RSVP.
“This is a fascinating story that is well researched and well written,” said Rachel Bortnick, a native of Izmir, Turkey, and well-regarded expert in Sephardic Jewish culture and the Ladino language, who will lead the book club discussion and introduce the author March 5. “A fictional book with such wonderful research, it’s about history and Columbus, about food and astronomy, and it’s the amazing connection between the Catholic and Jewish life in Spain hundreds of years ago and how that moved here, and through the generations.”
In 1492, the Jews and Muslims of Spain were expelled and Christopher Columbus came to the New World. These historical events are the backdrop of Morris’ book, which has readers traveling throughout time. The book’s Luis de Torres, an interpreter for Columbus, is one of many who became Christian, in name only, while secretly maintaining religious traditions.
De Torres’ descendants traveled across North America, settling in New Mexico and, more than 500 years later, it is there that Miguel Torres, a young amateur astronomer, tries understanding the mystery surrounding him. The family for whom Miguel babysits are Jewish and he’s surprised to find many of their customs match those of his family.
“‘Gateway’ came 30 years after I lived in New Mexico, where I’d hired a babysitter named Miguel who asked lots of questions about our Jewish traditions,” said Morris. “The thought of ‘what if he were Jewish’ percolated for a long time, ‘what is the price of history?’ This book is that, played out.”
Morris’ 15 books include “Vanishing Animals and Other Stories,” winner of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters’ Rome Prize in Literature, and “The Jazz Palace,” which earned the 2016 Anisfield-Wolf Award for its important contributions to the understanding of racism and appreciation of the rich diversity of human cultures.
“I loved reading as a child. I love stories and I love telling them,” said the author, a professor at Sarah Lawrence College, encouraging the next generation. “I write in pieces, one detail pushing me, and then I quilt it together.”
The daughter of Rosalie and Sol Morris and sister of John, Morris says she was bound to become a writer. As a child in Chicago she made up stories, often embellishing on reality. Her father a storyteller and musician, her mother an artist, her creative sense was always inspired. She is married to Larry O’Connor and the mother of Kate (Chris).
The Tycher Library of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas’ Center for Jewish Education is housed at the JCC and hosts the bi-annual community read. It has 7,000-plus books and periodicals and more than 700 DVDs.
“‘Gateway to the Moon’ focuses on the converso community and it’s intriguing,” said the Tycher Library’s Karen Schlosberg, who is working with the JCC’s Rachelle Weiss Crane and Adina Weinberg to host the Spring Read. “It shares the core of how some Jewish elements and traditions remained intact while many assimilated over hundreds of years.”
Judy Borejdo of blessed memory, a Tycher librarian for many years, was known to say Tycher events “are the embodiment of unifying all the Jewish entities within our community through the vehicle that is the written word. How fitting for us, the People of the Book.”
For more details or to RSVP, visit jccdallas.org/event/mary-morris.