By Andrew Sanger
March 21, 2010
It almost started to seem that The J-Word, despite its success in the UK, was not going to be noticed at all in the US.
Plenty of reasons for this have been put to me. Americans, I've been told, can't relate to the dilemma of the main character: Jack Silver's anxiety about anti-Semitism and his determination to lose his Jewish identity, apparently are quite alien to the American Jewish experience. Another interesting idea is that America is such a religious country that Jack's resolute anti-religious secularism seems implausible. I've also been told that anti-Semitism is so rare in America that the violent assault on Jack just would not happen. Frankly I don't believe any of these explanations.
One US website that has taken an interest in The J-Word is the Jewish literary site Scribblers on the Roof. Here's their online interview with me about the book, the inspiration for it and about the whole process of writing: http://bit.ly/aKdbua
I've also just come across this really good review of The J-Word, with a useful US perspective on it, on a blog called The Texas Scribbler: http://bit.ly/9AL6cd
I haven't given up all hope that Americans will start to read The J-Word. My own opinion is that its slow sales in the US are more to do with lack of promotion than anything else (the publisher is a cash-strapped British independent, Snowbooks). The central issue in the book, the loss of Jewish identity among secular Jews, is as important in America as in Europe.
The story is about an old man (Jack Silver) so secular that he long ago stopped thinking of himself as a Jew, but who is beaten up by anti-Semitic thugs who have no trouble identifying what he is. With the help of his brilliant little grandson (Danny), he sets out to track down the thugs and get justice in his own way.