JFK, polyamory, Jewish noir and more: New books by local Jewish authors appeal to diverse readers


“Jewish Noir II: Tales of Crime and Other Dark Deeds” edited by Kenneth Wishnia and Chantelle Aimée Osman (PM Press, 372 pages). This collection, which releases on August 23, includes stories by several Bay Area Jewish writers: Eileen Rendahl (“Brother’s Keeper”), Ellen Kirschman (“The Almost Sisters”), Zoe Quinton (“Crossover”) and Rita Lakin (“The Nazi in the Basement”). The stories cover a range of topics, including Jewish identity, assimilation, antisemitism and Israel. Publishers Weekly called the volume a “superior follow-up” to an earlier “Jewish Noir” collection published in 2015.


Jewish Noir II: Tales of Crime and Other Dark Deeds

PM Pr. Aug. 2022. 400p. ed. by Kenneth Wishnia & Chantelle Aimée Osman. ISBN 9781629638225. pap. $17.95.M


This second anthology touching on the trials and tribulations of being Jewish misses the mark. The current divisive political climate, described in Wishnia’s introduction, makes survival of Jews and other minorities more challenging. However, the stories, for the most part, do not reflect this. Nor do many of them have that traditional “noir” feel. The authors are less known than those in its predecessor. Many of the stories could apply to any religion or ethnic group, thus rendering them less relevant to Judaism. More than a few have pat endings. Three standout stories include Steven Wishnia’s “Taking Names,” which points out that the poor working conditions existing for Jews during the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory tragedy exist today for other immigrants in other industries; Joy Mahabir’s “Datura,” which truly does have a noir tinge as readers get to decide whether the protagonist is sane or insane; and “The Nazi in the Basement” by Rita Lakin, a sometimes poignant story that chronicles an octogenarian’s reminiscences of growing up in New York’s Irish-Jewish-Italian ghetto during World War II and the heartbreak of losing a child to the war.

VERDICT An uneven set of stories touching on Jewish identity, religion, and history.