Saturday, June 24, 2023

Q&A with Anne Dublin




Anne Dublin is the author of the new middle grade book She's a Mensch!: Ten Amazing Jewish Women. Her many other books include Jacob and the Mandolin Adventure. She is based in Toronto.


Q: What inspired you to write She's a Mensch!, and how did you choose the women to include in the book?


A: For about 25 years, I’ve been writing reviews of books for young people for the Association of Jewish Libraries. During that time, I’ve noticed how most biographies about Jewish women are about Anne Frank, and more recently, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. As important as these women were, I’ve often wondered where the books are about other 20th-century Jewish women—most of whom are still relatively unknown.


I spoke with Margie Wolfe, my publisher at Second Story Press in Toronto. I told her I wanted to write about one particular Jewish woman whom most people don’t know about. Margie thought for a minute and said, “Anne, why not write about 10 Jewish women?”


Then I thought for a minute, and said, “Sure! Why not?”


Now the real work began. I went to the fabulous Jewish Women’s Archive website, and began to make my long list. I was looking for women who had been born in the 20th century in different countries around the world; women who were prominent in various fields of work but who had gone beyond their professions to try to make the world a better place.

Every woman in my book is a mensch—the Yiddish word for a decent, upright, mature, and responsible person.

Q: The Canadian Jewish News said of the book, “The biographies collected in She’s a Mensch! have at least one thing in common: all 10 of them sought to do something about the unfairness they saw in the world.” What do you think of that assessment?


A: I agree with the CJN's assessment of She's a Mensch! Although each woman works (or worked) in many different fields—sports, journalism, science, law, education, music, dance, theatre, or the rabbinate— each woman has practised “tikkun olam”, the repair of the world.


Q: How did you research the book, and what did you learn that especially surprised you?


A: I used basic research tools such as books and articles--in print and on the internet--as well as interviewing the women and/or their family members. To hear these women's voices was especially gratifying. What also delighted me was having access to rare documents and photos that gave me further insight into these women's lives and work.


What surprised me was how my own life's journey connected to that of each woman in my book.


Q: What do you hope readers take away from She’s a Mensch!?


A: I believe that, by learning about the lives of these amazing Jewish women, we can understand the importance of fighting for human rights and dignity for all. I hope these women's lives will inspire people to make their own positive impact in the world.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I'm working on a historical novel for young people. I seem to be "hooked" on the theme of orphans. This one will take place in Poland, shortly after World War II.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Another biography I wrote about 20 years ago--Bobbie Rosenfeld: The Olympian Who Could DoEverything--seems to be in a "revival" stage. A new play about Bobbie will be presented in Barrie, Ontario at the end of the summer.


Because of that renewed interest, I'll be speaking to several groups over the next few months about Bobbie Rosenfeld, one of Canada's greatest athletes. It does my heart good to know that people are still interested in Bobbie's life story.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Anne Dublin.

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