This week’s Sapphic Reading Challenge category features books with a Jewish main character. Ideally, try to pick a sapphic book that was written by a Jewish author.
Read up on the rules of the Sapphic Reading Challenge
If you are only discovering the Sapphic Reading Challenge now, the good news is you can still join! It’s a year-long challenge, so it runs until December 31, 2021. Read up on the rules of the Sapphic Reading Challenge and then start reading!
15 sapphic books with Jewish characters
I put together a list of 15 sapphic books with Jewish main characters that I hope you’ll enjoy!
Knit One, Girl Two by Shira Glassman
Small-batch independent yarn dyer Clara Ziegler is eager to brainstorm new color combinations–if only she could come up with ideas she likes as much as last time! When she sees Danielle Solomon’s paintings of Florida wildlife by chance at a neighborhood gallery, she finds her source of inspiration.
Outspoken, passionate, and complicated, Danielle herself soon proves even more captivating than her artwork…
My Year Zero by Rachel Gold
Lauren thinks she has a pretty good life—so why is it that she feels crazy most of the time? She figures it’s nothing she can’t fix by getting her first girlfriend and doing better at school. But how is she ever going to find a girlfriend in Duluth, Minnesota?
When she meets a group of kids who are telling a science fiction story online and gets invited down to the Twin Cities, she gets more attention than she ever expected, from two very different girls: charming Sierra and troublesome Blake.
Blake helps Lauren understand that she’s not the crazy one in her life. But Blake’s attention—and insights into life and living with bipolar disorder—threaten to destroy everything Lauren has created for herself, including her relationship with Sierra.
Nice Jewish Girls by Elizabeth Andre
Susan Hay just wants to find a nice girl. Is that too much to ask? Susan thinks it is until she meets Ali Sams. To no one’s surprise, Susan, a long-haired femme, falls hard and fast for the cute and sexy soft butch who looks strangely familiar.
Ali falls just as fast, but Susan realizes that the familiarity she feels is linked to a painful childhood incident that sends her running away. Ali doesn’t remember the incident, but that doesn’t stop her from wanting to make things right. All Ali needs to do is get Susan to see her as more than who she was in the past, but Susan is not about to make that easy.
The Escape Artist by Judith Katz
Sofia, a nice Jewish girl from Poland, is lured away from home by Tutsik Goldenberg, a wealthy traveling businessman who claims to be a lonely Argentine diamond merchant in search of a wife. Upon arriving in Buenos Aires, Tutsik dumps Sofia at his sister’s brothel.
Hankus, also a nice Jewish girl from Poland, is passing as a man. Having escaped the pogroms of Poland that killed her family, she lives her life as a handsome and mysterious magician and escape artist.
When Tutsik spots the talented juggler and acrobat Hankus he envisions success as his manager, seeing Hankus as the means to get out from under his sister’s thumb.
Sofia and Hankus fall in love and their attempts to walk the tightrope of love, freedom, and independence are quickly put to the test.
The Papercutter by Cindy Rizzo
A deeply polarized and ungovernable United States of America has separated into two nations—the God Fearing States (GFS) and the United Progressive Regions (UPR).
Judith Braverman, a teenager living in an Orthodox Jewish community in the GFS, is not only a talented artist accomplished in the ancient craft of papercutting, she also has the gift of seeing into peoples’ souls—and can tell instantly if someone is good or evil.
Jeffrey Schwartz has no love for religion or conformity and yearns to escape to the freedom of the UPR. When he’s accepted into an experimental pen pal program and paired with Dani Fine, an openly queer girl in the UPR, he hopes that he can finally find a way out.
As danger mounts and their alarm grows, Judith embeds a secret code in her papercuts so that she and Jeffrey can tell Dani what’s happening to Jews in the GFS without raising suspicions from the government. When the three arrange a quick, clandestine meeting, Jeffrey is finally faced with the choice to flee or to stay and resist. And Judith is reeling from a pull toward Dani that is unlike anything she has ever felt before.
Fried & Convicted by Fay Jacobs
Fay Jacobs is back! Again! With more wise, witty and laugh-out-loud commentary about the craziness of contemporary life, plus a glimpse of the diverse and welcoming resort town of Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. This time Fay grapples with the insanity of a high tech bra, cartoon bladders in advertising, and acting her age . . . It’s provocative, political, heartwarming, and hilarious!
Risk by Elana Dykewomon
To change the world, you need to take risks. That’s something Carol Schwartz knows bone deep. And it’s something she’s prepared to do. She learned about risk as a girl. She never understood why, but her father chose to go to Vietnam and she never saw him again.
Now Carol, a Berkeley-educated idealist, tutors high school students. A Jewish lesbian, she’s a community activist in Oakland. And she’s learned to take risks of her own. She gambles her inheritance, her love, even her own well-being.
Across the years—from the mid-eighties to the post-9/11 world—the stakes get ever higher and her gambles more desperate. Until finally Carol finds out just what’s left when the last gamble is lost.
Paper Is White by Hilary Zaid
When oral historian Ellen Margolis and her girlfriend decide to get married, Ellen realizes that she can’t go through with a wedding until she tells her grandmother. There’s only one problem: her grandmother is dead.
As the two young women beat their own early path toward marriage equality, Ellen’s longing to plumb that voluminous silence draws her into a clandestine entanglement with a wily Holocaust survivor–a woman with more to hide than tell–and a secret search for buried history that threatens to disrupt all of Ellen’s plans.
If there is to be a wedding Ellen must decide: How much do you need to share to be true to the one you love?
Murder and Gold by Ann Aptaker
New York City, 1954.
Two women are found murdered. One is Lorraine Quinn, Cantor Gold’s most recent one-night stand. The other is political power broker and aspiring New York socialite Eve Garraway, a regular client of Cantor’s stolen art trade.
Police nemesis, Lieutenant Norm Huber, wants to pin the murders on Cantor, send her to prison, and put her in the electric chair. He’ll get evidence on her any way he can. Into this cauldron of danger and death come two other women, each with ties to Cantor’s past. One hates her until passion intervenes; the other harbors darkly hidden feelings.
Set during the earliest stirrings of the Homosexual Rights Movement, Cantor begins to question her own tenuous identity, and the trade-offs she must make to get what she wants.
Cantor Gold, dapper butch art thief and smuggler for whom survival is everything, must now grapple with two fronts: surviving the shifting sands of the criminal underworld, and navigating the changing tides of society.
The Reluctant Daughter by Lesléa Newman
A story every daughter will recognize, The Reluctant Daughter depicts the struggles of Lydia Pinkowitz to communicate the realities of her life as a lesbian, as a feminist scholar, and as the woman she has become to her mother Doris.
After years of hoping to attain her mother’s love and acceptance while struggling to live a true and honest life, Lydia eventually acknowledges her mother will never really see her. When Doris develops a life-threatening illness, Lydia is forced to make a life-and-death decision of her own: should she make one final attempt to heal her relationship with her mother or simply let her go?
Postcards from the Canyon by Lisa Gitlin
Joanna’s mother just died, the FBI wants her to get a psychiatric evaluation, undocumented Chinese immigrants have taken over her apartment building, her lover hooks up with her best friend, and the country is being run by lunatics. Joanna clings to sanity by writing about her childhood, but plunging back into her tumultuous past only adds chaos to her life.
Aimée & Jaguar: A Love Story, Berlin 1943 by Erica Fischer (author) & Edna McCown (Translator)
Berlin 1942. Lilly Wust, twenty-nine, married, four children, led a life as did millions of German women. But then she met the twenty-one-year-old Felice Schragenheim.
It was love almost at first sight. Aimée (Lilly) and Jaguar (Felice) started forging plans for the future. They composed poems and love letters to each other, and wrote their own marriage contract. When Jaguar admitted to her lover that she was Jewish, this dangerous secret drew the two women even closer to each other. But their luck didn’t last. On August 21, 1944, Jaguar was arrested and deported.
At the age of eighty, Lilly Wust told her story to Erica Fischer, who turned it into a poignant testimony. After the book appeared in 1994 she was contacted by additional contemporaries of Aimée and Jaguar who offered new material that has been integrated into the present edition.
Gravity by Leanne Lieberman
Ellie Gold is an orthodox Jewish teenager living in Toronto in the late eighties. Ellie has no doubts about her strict religious upbringing until she falls in love with another girl at her grandmother’s cottage. Aware that homosexuality clashes with Jewish observance, Ellie feels forced to either alter her sexuality or leave her community.
Meanwhile, Ellie’s mother, Chana, becomes convinced she has a messianic role to play, and her sister, Neshama, chafes against the restrictions of her faith. Ellie is afraid there is no way to be both gay and Jewish, but her mother and sister offer alternative concepts of God that help Ellie find a place for herself as a queer Jew.
Running Fiercely Toward a High Thin Sound by Judith Katz
Nadine Pagan’s dyke sister Jane wants to find her. Her lover Rose wants to marry her. And her mother Fay wants to forget her. All Nadine wants is to stop the buzzing in her head.
Join Nadine as she escapes from her incendiary Jewish family into the lesbian town of New Chelm—and far, far beyond.
Timing Is Everything by Alison R Solomon
A terrified suspect.
A woman caught between her friend and her lover.
Wynn Larimer (who readers met in Along Came the Rain) is putting out the trash late one night when a car smashes into her, injuring her so badly that her entire livelihood is put in jeopardy. The accused perpetrator is Gabriella Luna. The timing couldn’t be worse—Gabriella is about to become a permanent resident but is now terrified of being deported.
Caught in the middle of it all is Kat Ayalon, who is Wynn’s best friend but in love with Gordy. How can Kat support both women, if helping one means selling out the other?
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Leave a comment and let us know which book you’ll be reading for the “Jewish character” category!
2 thoughts on “Sapphic book with a Jewish main character (Book Unicorn #9)”
I can recommend ‘Fearless: a sweet lesbian contemporary romance’ by Shira Glassman. It is also a quick uplifting read. Since Ms Glassman is a bisexual Jewish violinist IRL, she is writing what she knows. Besides, I appreciate a book title that tells you exactly what to expect, then delivers it.
I’ve read “naked in the promised land” by Lilian Faderman for this, does it count? I know it’s not a novel but a memoir, but it’s own voice and has wlw at the center