THE BOOK OF LIFE - Beyond the Ghetto Gates
6:11PM Apr 22, 2020
young jewish girl
[Music, Intro] This is The Book of Life, a show about Jewish kidlit, mostly. I'm Heidi Rabinowitz. Welcome to our special series, Books in the Time of Coronavirus. We'll hear from authors who had to cancel their spring 2020 promotional events due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Today we hear from author Michelle Cameron, about her adult novel Beyond the Ghetto Gates.
Hi, this is Michelle Cameron from Chatham, New Jersey. I'm the author of Beyond the Ghetto Gates, which will be published on April 7, by She Writes Press. Beyond the Ghetto Gates is a historical novel set in the harbor city of Ancona. As the young General Bonaparte wages war throughout Italy, he discovers that its Jews are enclosed behind ghetto gates and he sends his soldiers to dismantle them. The novel tells the story of Mirelle, a young Jewish girl who falls in love with a dashing French Catholic soldier, despite being betrothed to a wealthy merchant from her community. And it's a story of the devoutly Catholic Francesca, who witnesses a portrait of the Virgin Mary come to life. Francesca's piety, ties her to a murderous and abusive husband who embroils her in the theft of that portrait. I was so pleased when the Kirkus Reviews said that Beyond the Ghetto Gates was "a gripping peek into a bygone Italy and an astute look at the era's prejudice." They totally got what I was going for. I was inspired to write this novel when reading Michael Goldfarb's Emancipation: How Liberating Europe's Jews from the Ghetto Led to Revolution and Renaissance. In it, he describes Napoleon's emancipation of the Italian Jews and I said to myself, there is definitely a novel here. I had an extensive 25 event plan to promote my book. This included local synagogues and libraries, an interview by Dara Horn at The Book House in Millburn, New Jersey, another by fellow historical novelist Nancy Bilyeau at Shakespeare and Company in New York. And of course, a launch party at Mundo Summit, where I teach creative writing to The Writers Circle. Some of these events have been moved virtual. I've gotten really good at using Zoom. But most are going to have to wait until the crisis is over. At least I hope they will. On my book tour, I was planning to tell audiences about the gifts my research gave me, how I learned that Ancona, Italy was the world center of ketuba making, creating gorgeous and distinctive Jewish marriage certificates. And the anecdote of how Napolean totally freaked out when he saw the miracle Madonna portrait while looting the cathedral, and especially about his Jewish nickname, derived from his surname, Bonaparte. Italian Jews called him Chelek Tov, because he played such a good part in Jewish history. My novel is available both as a ebook and as a hold in your hand copy at any online outlet. although I really hope people buying it will support local booksellers. Like so many small businesses, they're truly suffering right now. My own local bookseller The Book House actually dropped off two books on my doorstep three nights ago, and I know a lot of them will do this, as well as offering curbside pickup. You can also order Beyond the Ghetto Gates through Indiebound.org and Bookshop.org. You can find me online at my website at Michelle-Cameron.com, where you'll find more information about the novel as well as a book club guide. I also want to mention how grateful I am to the various organizations, such as The Book of Life, and to those individual authors who have stepped up to help those of us with books coming out during this troubled time. It is a true mitzvah. I'd like to invite everyone listening to help heal the world with this tikkun olam action: Stay in touch with those older or immune compromised individuals who may not be able to leave their homes at all. If you can, offer to do their grocery shopping or go to the pharmacy for them. I think we all need to be responsible for one another, not only during this crisis, but even afterwards, when we'll need to adjust to whatever new reality the aftermath brings. Thanks for having me on the show. I hope everyone stays healthy. And books are a terrific way to escape any anxiety you might be feeling. So read lots of them, especially with your kids. Thank you
[Music, Outro] If you write or illustrate Jewish books, and your new book's spring 2020 promotional events have been canceled due to the pandemic, I invite you to take part in The Book of Life's special series Books in the Time of Coronavirus. Visit tinyurl.com/booksCOVID for instructions or get in touch with me at 561-206-2473 or BookofLifepodcast@gmail.com.
Listeners, you know the drill: check out BookofLifepodcast.com for links to every way to reach me, every way to support the show, every way to get more information, and to hear every Book of Life episode since 2005, since you've probably got extra time on your hands right now. Thanks as always to the Freilachmakers Klezmer String Band for our background music. Please stay healthy, and everybody please wash your hands.