One of my favorite things to do is judge a book by its cover. I’m usually drawn to those that depict an air of nostalgia: a wooden pie shelf, a scuffed pair of Keds or, in this case, a 1940s-era woman in a soft pink A-line dress looking out over a fading New York City skyline. I was immediately captivated, despite being slightly put off by what I initially perceived to be an inflammatory title.
Kitty Zeldis’ novel, “Not Our Kind,” is about two women from different worlds. By fate or accident, Eleanor Moskowitz, a Second Avenue Jew, and Patricia Bellamy, a Park Avenue Anglo-Saxon Protestant, become “almost” friends. At the outset, Patricia insists that Eleanor take on a less Jewish-sounding last name so that she can work as her daughter’s tutor in their restricted building. In an ironic twist, the Jewish Israeli-born author chose to use a pseudonym for this book because she feels her last name, McDonough, doesn’t sound Jewish enough.
In a recent interview with Curt Schleier of the Jewish Standard, Zeldis says her new book is “about the intersection of Jews in a non-Jewish world.” She says she is not talking about the Orthodox, who she sees as “shielded from the outside world,” but rather those like herself who have assimilated. She clarifies, “I feel what I am doing is expanding the definition of what it means to be Jewish. The way we’ve been doing it hasn’t been so great. The sense of exclusivity, the sense of us and the other doesn’t speak to my core values.” Indeed, “Not Our Kind” is about finding that we have more in common than the stereotypes that have kept us apart, finding a place in this world that does not leave others out.
Kitty Zeldis will appear at the Book Festival 12 p.m. Nov. 14.