Press kit for Bagels and Grits
Bagels and Grits press kit | Blurbs | Reviews | Author's bio | Author's web site | Author's photo | Cover image | Excerpts | Imprint
"Bagels and Grits is one of the most moving spiritual memoirs I've ever read. From beginning to end it held me enthralled. The narrative has a subtle flow. While Jennifer Moses anchors the narrative in Baton Rouge, she nonetheless ranges widely. Very few writers can manage transitions as effortlessly as she does. Without seeming digressive or intrusive, her episodes about a trip to Romania or to her grandmother's hometown in Kentucky fit beautifully within the arc of her story. It's breathtaking, too, the way the narrative reaches its climax so unexpectedly in Glasgow, of all places. Her prose transports you not only to widely varying locales, but to different time periods, as well. She deftly recreates another era in her meditation on her ancestors.
What I particularly admire is Jennifer Moses's exquisite prose. She is a writer's writer. Her tonal range is remarkable, from the offhandedly insightful ("the kind of friends you make on your first day of college so you don't have to eat alone in the cafeteria") to the tenderly observed ("And as for the portraits, they, too, changed...my great-great grandparents seemed to gaze at me not with disapproval or disgust, but with kind, even joyful acceptance...).
In some writers there is a note of strain, of sham even, when dealing with the mystical. Jennifer Moses's memoir, though, offers something new and wonderful. Each account of the transcendental is riveting. The details on page 137 about Joyce's vision of Jesuswell, this is beyond compare. There is something unusual going on here, because the element of humor plays so important a part. But not in an obvious way. When Jennifer Moses is in Glasgow, her vision of Gerald is in a way a wonderful "answer" to Joyce's earlier vision. Virtually every page has these felicities that delight a writer's eye."James Wilcox, director of creative writing, Louisiana State University and author of Heavenly Days and Hunk City
"Jennifer Moses has written a powerful, witty, honest, and probing spiritual autobiography of the first order. Struggling with ambition, despair, illness, and isolationstruggling also with the demands of being a wife, a mother, and a writerMoses grows and grows in this book as she opens more and more to the love and faith and pain around her until in the end we too are convinced that she has been blessedand is a blessing."Rodger Kamenetz, author of The History of Last Night's Dream and The Jew in the Lotus
"An enchanting, enthralling, and enlightening memoirpart Nora Ephron, part Harold Kushner, andhappilyuniquely Jennifer Anne Moses! An exciting, tender, and most affecting voyage of discovery." Jay Neugeboren, author of Imagining Robert, The Stolen Jew, and News from the New American Diaspora
In an absorbing memoir, Moses (Food and Whine) describes her disorienting move from Washington, D.C., to Baton Rouge, a city home to a paltry 220 or so Jewish families. Moses, who had a strong Jewish identity but little connection to religious practice, found herself grappling with her new city's intense Christianity: just about everyone was on intimate terms with Jesus. Moses's move to Baton Rouge, coupled with her mother's deteriorating health, prompted her to study Hebrew and celebrate her bat mitzvah, which she had not done as a girl. Yet this book is not just a spiritual autobiography. It is also an account of a daughter struggling toward the end of her mother's lifechemotherapy and cancer haunt every page. Moses's prose is lyrical and fresh: her daughter, for instance, is "so content within her skin that it's as if she'd been born with the soul of a shaman," and Moses's childhood, in which tennis games, ski trips and her parents' cocktail parties all somehow culminated in Shabbat dinner, was "like living in a John Cheever novel edited by Isaac Bashevis Singer." Moses has a vivid sense of humor and never takes herself too seriously. After finishing this book, readers may wish they could sit down over a bagel and grits and visit with her. (Oct.)Publishers Weekly
Fans of Moses's earlier book, Food and Whine, a collection of witty musings on her life as a 30-something wife, mother, and ur-yuppie in Washington, D.C., will be stunned (albeit pleasantly so) by the quantum leap her prose has taken in this new volume. At some point between her writing those early essays and this book, Moses's husband got sick of being a lawyer and took a job as a law professor at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. So the couple and their three school-age kids move to the Bayou and there, in the Bible Belt of the Deep South, the fish-out-of-water Moses gradually experiences a rebirth and deepening of her Jewish faith. Her search is galvanized, at least in part, by the volunteer work she does at the city's St. Anthony's AIDS hospice, amid patients and workers whose evangelical Christianity is as unshakeable as their circumstances are dire. Beautifully weaving both her personal crises and her family history into a larger discussion of the challenges facing contemporary Judaism, Moses, whose writing here is as witty as ever but much more thoughtful and nuanced than in the past, creates a moving portrait of a thoroughly modern woman struggling to make sense of, and to live up to, the faith of her forebears.
Lorraine Glennon, Ladies Home Journal
"No one in our circle, even among the church-and synagogue-goers, even among the most rigorously observant, was truly a person of faith, by which I mean a person who counts God among his inner circle. . . . Then Stuart took a job as a professor at LSU in Baton Rouge and we moved, with our three young children, to the Bible Belt, where just about anything that happens is attributed to the will of God. . . . At St. Anthony's not only did He exist, but also, at times, he came down to earth to say howdy or give a thumbs up. He was so present, so everyday, that you almost expected to bump into him at the grocery store."excerpt from the book
"But I really was scared. Scared that at any moment one of the residents would sniff out my mealy-mouthed, do-gooding pretensions, see right through my perky exterior to my barbed and cramped heart, and expose me. Scared of my incompetence, my lack of center. What was I doing there?"
excerpt from the book
Jennifer Anne Moses is a writer living in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Her essays, reporting, reviews, and travel and opinion pieces have appeared frequently in the New York Times, Washington Post, Baton Rouge Advocate, Notre Dame Magazine, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Salon, Mademoiselle, Commentary, and many other popular publications. She is the author of the book Food and Whine: Confessions of a New Millennium Mom. In addition to her work as a writer and mother, she volunteers at St. Anthony's Home, a residence for AIDS patients in Baton Rouge, and teaches Hebrew at Beth Shalom Synagogue.
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