From the cover of "A Good Day for Seppuku" by Kate Braverman
From the cover of "A Good Day for Seppuku" by Kate Braverman

New books by Bay Area Jews, Jan. 2018

Barbara Ridley knew that her mother’s life story was compelling: She’d fled Czechoslovakia before the Nazi invasion, leaving her family and her Judaism behind, and ultimately ended up in England.

"When It's Over" Barbara RidleyWhile Ridley had recorded her mother’s oral history, she realized after her death in 2002 that “there were a lot of gaps,” Ridley explains on her website. “I certainly didn’t understand many of the details, and my mother never discussed the emotional impact of what she went through. So I thought, well I love fiction, I’ll make up what I don’t know, I’ll write a novel.”

Folding in historical facts about the wartime years in England (including some political insights she gleaned from a stash of letters her father had written), Ridley crafted the historical fiction “When It’s Over.”

Ridley, who lives in the East Bay, will read from her book and answer questions at 2 p.m. Feb. 11 at Copperfield’s Books, 850 Fourth St., San Rafael.

Jewish characters are scattered throughout novelist and short fiction writer Kate Braverman’s new book, “A Good Day for Seppuku,” set for publication in early February.

The award-winning writer, poet and San Francisco resident, whose debut novel “Lithium for Medea” made waves nearly 40 years ago, takes readers into often uncomfortable territory in her new short-story collection. There’s Bernie Roth and his disengaged wife, Chloe, in the throes of separating; high school teacher Barbara Stein, endlessly searching for her prostitute daughter; and a host of other lost souls. Braverman, who grew up in Los Angeles and moved to the Bay Area over a decade ago, sets many of the stories in California.

Though she has never hidden her Jewishness and there are Jewish themes in her work, Braverman told the L.A. Jewish Journal in 2006 that it was her first interview with Jewish media. “I’m not coming out of the closet [as a Jew],” she said, “I’ve been out of the closet for 28 years.”

Good Blood: A Journey of Healing Irit SchaferSpeaking in bookstores, synagogues and wellness centers, Irit Schaffer shares her message of resilience in the face of adversity — recounted in her autobiographical book, “Good Blood: A Journey of Healing.”

Born in Israel and raised in Canada, Schaffer believes the lifelong lessons she learned from her Holocaust-survivor parents have given her strength and a unique perspective on the mind-body-spirit connection.

From the time she was a child, she never tired of her father’s wartime stories (like the time he had bullets removed from his body without pain medication). Yet it took her mother 50 years before opening up to Schaffer about her Holocaust travails.

“My parents’ stories of survival had an impact on everything in my life,” writes Schaffer, a physical therapist in San Francisco.

From his childhood in Berlin to his years in Shanghai — where he and his family lived during the Hitler era — to his new life in America, Ernest Glaser attests he’s had “a life well lived.” That’s what the 90-something Walnut Creek resident titled his recently published memoir, which “was written with my children and grandchildren in mind: to provide a basis for reflection and on which they might build their own lives,” Glaser explains in the postscript.

Once established in the U.S., Glaser became head of the Avoset Food Corp., married and raised a family, eventually settling in the East Bay.

The Perfect Family fern kepkeRetired Novato schoolteacher Fern Kepke certainly knows kids, having taught kindergarten for 30 years. But after her beloved dog Kirby died, she needed a way to channel her sadness into something positive. Combining her passion for storytelling and dogs, Kepke wrote “The Perfect Family,” a children’s book about a little girl and her dog, Paisley.

What makes a family? Gearing her book for ages 6 to 9, Kepke answers that question simply and sweetly. Illustrator Laurie Barrows’ colorful drawings enhance the narrative.

Liz Harris

Liz Harris is a J. contributor. She was J.'s culture editor from 2012-2018.