Finding yourself in fiction
HEN ESTHER Ehrlich grew up in the 1970s, she had only one overtly Jewish children’s book — Sydney Taylor’s All of a Kind Family. Now she has written Nest (Rock the Boat, £7.99), about a 1970s Jewish family living on very un-Jewish Cape Cod and coping with the mother’s multiple sclerosis. Ehrlich’s orthodox mother (a poet who herself had MS) and secular, unbarmitzvahed father sent their children to a secular socialist Yiddish school.
“Even though I grew up where there were other Jews, I still knew the feeling of being on the outside,” says Ehrlich. “As a Jewish kid, you’re just aware you’re different. Choosing to put the Orensteins on the Cape was a way of capturing those feelings of otherness.”
Nest is not just set in the past, it feels 1970s through and through. There are references to the music, snacks and children’s books of the time (which have endeared the book to adults who, like Ehrlich, grew up in the ’70s) and Ehrlich takes her time, delicately building the relationships between Chip and her sister, her parents and friends. Frightening things happen to them but the world of the book still feels safe and innocent, making this heart-warming story
suitable for ages 10 up. Esther Ehrlich