27 July 2010

Tablet: Roots and Family Trees

Today's Tablet Magazine has a book column focusing on family history in diverse ways.

The featured books include:

-- The 40 moves in 20 years documented in Brooke Berman's No Place Like Home: A Memoir in 39 Apartments (Harmony, June).

-- David Kushner’s account of harsh real-estate politics detailed in the 1957 integration of Levittown: Two Families, One Tycoon, and the Fight for Civil Rights in America’s Legendary Suburb (Walker & Company, August).

-- Adam Langer’s The Thieves of Manhattan (Spiegel & Grau, July).

-- Telling Stories: Philip Guston’s Later Works (California, May), by Tablet’s poetry columnist David Kaufmann surveys the machinations New York City’s avant garde art scene of the late 1960s and 1970s.

-- The strange story of the Aleppo Codex, the oldest surviving edition of the Tanakh in book form, date to 939 CE, which Maimonides himself purportedly studied, and which lived in Syria before being smuggled to Israel in 1957, is detailed in Crown of Aleppo: The Mystery of the Oldest Hebrew Bible Codex (JPS, July), by Hayim Tawil and Bernard Schneider. One can also see the Codex on the web.

... the Aleppo Codex has from time to time been the subject of fantastic claims and suspicions of forgery; in particular, the unscrupulous Crimean Karaite scholar Abraham Kirkovich (1786-1874) tarnished the manuscript’s reputation through his spurious claim that its author was a Karaite, rather than a Masorete.
-- University of Chicago historian Fred M. Donner surveys the first century of Muslim history in Muhammad and the Believers: At the Origins of Islam (Harvard, May).

-- Tracing the Tribe has already given a shoutout to Buzzy Jackson’s Shaking the Family Tree: Blue Bloods, Black Sheep, and Other Obsessions of an Amateur Genealogist (Touchstone, July), and Tablet provided a bit more.

[It] combines memoir and upbeat how-to elements as the author investigates her own family’s story through DNA testing, a Caribbean cruise, and old fashioned library research. Her father’s relations, with roots in Alabama, regale her with far-fetched family legends, but it turns out that the Galician Jews on her mother’s side tell one another “no stories about the old days or the old country.”
-- Genetics and DNA play a part in Jennifer Rosner's If a Tree Falls: A Family’s Quest to Hear and Be Heard (Feminist, May), as she describes discovering a history of deafness in her ancestors and a demonstration of "real" family ties:

When her two great-great-aunts, both deaf, were caring for infants, “they tied strings from their wrists to their babies at bedtime. When the babies fidgeted, they would feel their tugs and wake to care for them in the night.”
See the link above for more on each book.

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