60 Books In 2019 #4: The Golem and The Jinni by Helene Wecker

My grandpa, Grampy, we called him, passed away this weekend. Which means I’ll always remember The Golem And The Jinni, which I kept thinking, “he’d have loved this book,” as I read through it.

“It was a fine day that we came to this country,” was a favorite saying of Grampy’s, he’d affect a brogue, an accent that never quite suited him the way his natural Manhattan flat vowels and nasally tones did. But he was right, of course. America has been unfathomably good to our family, and frankly, to our people. My background is primarily New York Irish, (not to be confused with Boston or Chicago Irish, the culture is a bit different.) with smatterings of German, British and Jewish.

The children of immigrants, yearning always for both America and home. And The Golem And The Jinni is about that, and so much more. A Golem, a being of clay, created by Jewish mysticism, and Jinni, a demon of fire, from the deserts of Syria, find themselves in the great city of immigrants, New York, and find each other.

This is a wonderful book. It’s the closest I’ve seen to American Magical realism in a while. (I always hold up Shoeless Joe and it’s adaptation Field Of Dreams as the best examples.) Chava, the golem, and Ahmad, the Jinni, are magical beings in the very real Manhattan of the 1890’s, Chava making her way as a baker in the Jewish community of the Lower East Side, taken in by a kind retired rabbi and his activist nephew, Ahmad working as a silversmith in the Syrian community, lost in a time and place he finds exasperating and stifling.

In the end both realize there is a great deal of the old that needs to be given up, to make a new home, the knowledge forgone, but the worthwhileness of the new place, freed from old bounds.

It was a fine day we came to this country. Home should never be forgotten though, and I’m grateful to have family that’s centered so much of who we are around that connection to home.

Anyway, this book is awesome.

Up next is Circe by Madeline Miller. I know it was like the book in 2018, so I’m only a little behind on this one. (Seriously, y’all, I’m trying.)

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