It's not just that the author has completely missed the point of the story of Esther, or that she's created a relationship that simply would never have happened in real life. Getting entered for the award isn't a problem either - many books get published and many books get submitted for various awards. The bigger problem for me is that the committee for this award didn't read the book and think, "wait - what??" That the book was published isn't the problem, it's the official imprimatur of the award committee that's the problem.
What brought this to my attention was this blog post. Which was followed by this one.
Unlike Jennifer, I was born a Jew and raised in a Jewish family. The congregation we belonged to in SmallTown had a number of Holocaust survivors and they ensured that we understood what they went through. They spoke, we saw film reels, we read Holocaust literature (Night in seventh grade stands out) and were never allowed to forget. Our sense of Jewish history was:
- the god of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob
- the Egyptian exile
- the Assyrian exile
- the Babylonian exile
- the Diaspora
- the Holocaust
Only, it wasn't a joke.
My decision to become a Quaker has nothing to do with any of that - honest - and I'm one of only two people in my very large extended family who has left the Jewish faith. But here's the thing: it was my choice. Freely made over a period of years, not under any duress. And in no way did my decision "redeem" me. You know, unlike the heroine of For Such A Time.
Until recently I didn't know that I had family who perished in the Holocaust. I'd always thought that they "luckily" came to America (or gone to Panama) in the late 1800s/early 1900s (if you consider it lucky to escape pogroms). A few years ago, my uncle told me that his grandfather sent money home to his parents and siblings for decades, until World War II when it became clear that there was no one left.
What's the point of this post? It's that within a few weeks the High Holidays will commence, a time when Jews worldwide will gather to pray, atone, celebrate and participate in a religion that has been around for 5776 years (or, for those Christians out there, 3761 years longer than the Christian faith). That this book is out there, that the author doesn't understand how wrong she was (seriously: she used Holocaust Remembrance Day as an opportunity for a giveaway!), that the publisher, the RWA and the award committee don't get what pain they've caused is incomprehensible to me.
It should be incomprehensible to everyone.