“Sacred Trash: the Lost and Found World of the Cairo Geniza” by Adina Hoffman and Peter Cole (Schocken Books) is the 2012 recipient of the he Reference and User Services Association’s (RUSA) Sophie Brody Medal Award for outstanding Jewish literature.
The award is an annual honor bestowed by the Collection Development and Evaluation Section (CODES) of RUSA, and is funded by Arthur Brody and the Brodart Foundation. It is given to encourage, recognize and commend outstanding achievement in Jewish literature. Works for adults published in the United States in the preceding year are eligible for the award.
“Sacred Trash” recounts the discovery and retrieval of worn-out Jewish documents from the Cairo Geniza. In this religiously-mandated repository, medieval documents were found that render a fascinating view of a 900-year span of a vibrant Mediterranean Jewish culture by examining not only sacred texts, but also wills, contracts, letters and other everyday documents.
The committee also selected three honor books:
“Jerusalem: the Biography” by Simon Sebag Montefiore (Alfred A. Knopf): This book provides an in-depth and balanced history of Jerusalem up to the Six-Day War. Montefiore covers the origins and evolutions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, all of which have claims to the city, as well as the struggles that each group has faced throughout history. While the book is highly informative, its accessible style keeps the reader engaged.
“MetaMaus” by Art Spiegelman (Pantheon Books): Spiegelman explains his motivations and challenges in creating “Maus”, which is based on his parents’ Holocaust experiences. He also explains why he used a comic book format, as well as the difficulties he had in maintaining an accurate picture that corresponded to his father’s stories. Spiegelman also discusses how the world received “Maus” and his challenges in maintaining its integrity.
“Quiet Americans: Stories” by Erika Dreifus (Last Light Studio Books): This little book of short stories is a gem that anyone can read and enjoy. Its straightforward writing and understandable stories about German Jews and their descendants bring us into the everyday lives of Jewish Americans. Some stories are interrelated, but they stand alone in their own right.
The winner and honor books were selected by the Sophie Brody Medal Award Committee, whose members include Edward Kownslar, Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi (Chair); Emily Bergman, University of Southern California; Asia Gross, St. Charles City-County Library District; Danise Hoover, Hunter College; Judy Korn, Johnson County Community College; and Deborah Luchenbill, State Historical Society of Missouri.