“What does that even mean?”

Englander, NathanThe Brown Baggers met on March 15 to talk about the Same Page title: What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank by Nathan Englander. This collection of eight short stories focuses on various aspects of trust, Jewish identity and neighborliness.

The Brown Baggers were divided on if the first story, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank,” was the best narrative in the collection. This story caused a lot of discussion- some said that the story was very thought provoking. They reflected on how they would personally answer the big question in the story and speculated on how others might answer it. Readers shared the opinion that people would answer the question differently, based on their own family’s personal situation. Others noted that they thought it was interesting how the couples in the story kept secrets from each other and how different the marriages of the couples were.

Several readers thought that “The Reader” was one of the best stories in the collection, and others enjoyed “Free Fruit for Young Widows” in which a father tells his son how a man may have saved his life in the army. But the tale becomes more detailed and complicated as the young boy hears it over again as he grows up. “How We Avenged the Blums” was a tale about how a few young boys learned to fight back against their antisemitic classmate by taking fighting lessons from a Russian janitor. Most found this tale to be both humorous and interesting.  

Many felt that “Peep Show” was a psychological tale and just did not enjoy reading it as much as some of the other stories. “Sister Hills” caused a lot of debate, mostly on how surprising the ending was and whether the neighbor turned out to be bitter or simply unable to let go.

Unfortunately, the Brown Baggers didn’t have time to discuss all of the stories. Several readers commented that they did not usually read short stories, but felt that Englander’s narratives were very complete and provided a rich narrative. Many also mentioned that though some of the stories were humorous, it was definitely a dark humor and did not appeal to everyone.

Titles mentioned:
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
The Sellout by Paul Beatty
Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

More Information:
Meet the author at the Northside Library on March 22 and at the Festival of the Book
Op Ed from the New York Times by Nathan Englander
Interview with NPR
Review from the Jewish Book Council

The Brown Baggers will meet again on April 19 at 12pm and will be discussing Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance.

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