Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Because of A Book with Maggie Anton

I am so pleased to bring  you Maggie Anton this week as Because of A Book's featured author!  I had an overwhelming response to my post last week looking for new people to feature.  Please continue to spread the word about this feature so that we can learn about authors, bloggers, and even publishers.


Let me start by introducing you to our featured author.

Maggie Anton, award-winning author of the historical trilogy RASHI’S DAUGHTERS, was raised in a secular, socialist household and reached adulthood with little knowledge of her Jewish religion. In 1992, she began studying Talmud and became intrigued that the great medieval scholar Rashi had no sons, only three learned daughters. These forgotten women seemed ripe for rediscovery, and the idea of a book about them was born. Before becoming an author, Maggie worked for over 30 years as a clinical chemist for Kaiser Permanente.

I didn't have to think twice when I heard that Shelly was looking for authors to write a guest blog post about books we read as children that had an impact on our lives. As those who have heard me speak know, I credit Sydney Taylor's ALL OF A KIND FAMILY series with the inspiration to write my RASHI'S DAUGHTERS historical trilogy. Interestingly, I recently leaned that Taylor originally wrote only a trilogy of children's novels about the Jewish immigrant experience in the Lower Eastside of New York City in the early 1900's. The latter two volume were written towards the end of her life. According to the Association of Jewish Libraries, "During the second half of the twentieth century [the series] were the most widely known books about American Jewish children."

As a child growing up in Los Angeles in the 1950's [Taylor's first volume came out in 1951], I discovered these books just as her fictional heroines discovered books – at a weekly visit to the local library. My home was secular, celebrating only Hanukah and Passover, so it was the ALL OF A KIND FAMILY who taught me how to observe the myriad other Jewish holidays. It was with her characters that I attended my first Jewish wedding [and my only Pidyon haBen]. Through the ALL OF A KIND FAMILY, I learned the rituals of Shabbat. I read and reread these books, and when I had children, read the stories to them. Copies sit on my bookshelves today.

When I decided to write my RASHI'S DAUGHTERS trilogy, in many ways I used ALL OF A KIND FAMILY as a template. With a minimal plot, involving romance as the basic structure, I wanted to do for Rashi's family, with no sons, just daughters, what Sydney Taylor did for her immigrant family of five girls. The reader would be embedded in their daily lives – experiencing their homes, clothes, food, medicine, education. I would detail all the Jewish holidays and lifecycle events, as observed by a pious 11th-century French scholar's family. Most important, my readers would work and study with them; especially the latter since legends held that Rashi's daughters were learned in Talmud in a time when most women were forbidden to study the holy text.

But I knew my novels would be for adults. Unlike ALL OF A KIND FAMILY readers, mine would attend funerals and observe the black fast of Tisha B'Av. My readers would accompany the daughters when they went to the privy, when they had their menses, and when they 'used the bed' with their husbands. And of course, when they studied Talmud. Since the first volume, JOHEVED, begins when she and sister Miriam are children [and Rachel is merely a baby], many Jewish educators thought they had a new book for their curriculum – until they got to the wedding night. So after some pressure, I agreed to adapt it for young readers, resulting in RASHI'S DAUGHTER: SECRET SCHOLAR coming out in 2008. So it seems have I followed in Sydney Taylor's footsteps more closely than I originally intended.

(A Novel of Love and the Talmud in Medieval France)
And from JPS for young adults! Rashi's Daughter: Secret Scholar. www.rashisdaughters.com

About All of a Kind Family:  Meet the All-of-a-Kind  Family — Ella, Henny, Sarah, Charlotte, and Gertie — who live with their parents in New York City at the turn of the century.
Together they share adventures that find them searching for hidden buttons while dusting Mama's front parlor and visiting with the peddlers in Papa's shop on rainy days. The girls enjoy doing everything together, especially when it involves holidays and surprises.
But no one could have prepared them for the biggest surprise of all!

Buy it at Amazon
Buy it at Powell's
Buy it at IndieBound

About Rashi's Daughters: Book III-Rachel:  The dramatic final book in the epic historical trilogy about the lives and loves of the three daughters of the great Talmud scholar Rashi

Rachel is the youngest and most beautiful daughter of medieval Jewish scholar Salomon ben Isaac, or "Rashi." Her father's favorite and adored by her new husband, Eliezer, Rachel's life looks to be one of peaceful scholarship, laughter, and love. But events beyond her control will soon threaten everything she holds dear. Marauders of the First Crusade massacre nearly the entire Jewish population of Germany, and her beloved father suffers a stroke. Eliezer wants their family to move to the safety of Spain, but Rachel is determined to stay in France and help her family save the Troyes yeshiva, the only remnant of the great centers of Jewish learning in Europe.

Buy it at Amazon
Buy it at Powell's


1 comment:

Anne Gilbert said...

Hmmmmm. . . . .I can't think, offhand, of any fiction books that influenced me as a child, though I read a lot. The closest I can come to anything that "influenced" in my writing was getting into my older brother's science fiction magazines, and discovering that I liked them. That's why I'm writing "romantic historical science fiction" today. A bit later, when I was about fifteen, I read Anya Seton's Katherine, which,upon reading, made me want to write something set in medieval England. It was years before I did, and what I'm writing now is science fiction and set in medieval England'

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