No event in modern history has inspired so many books as the Holocaust. This monumental atrocity has compelled thousands of writers to reexamine their notions of history, humanity, morality, and even theology. None of these books, however, is quite like Cynthia Ozick's The Shawl—a remarkable feat of fiction which starts in darkest despair and brings us, without simplification or condescension, to a glimmer of redemption.
The Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts designed to revitalize the role of literary reading in American popular culture. Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America, a 2004 NEA report, identified a critical decline in reading for pleasure among American adults. The Big Read addresses this issue by bringing communities together to read, discuss, and celebrate books and writers from American and world literature.
A great book combines enlightenment with enchantment. It awakens our imagination and enlarges our humanity. It can even offer harrowing insights that somehow console and comfort us. Whether you’re a regular reader already or making up for lost time, thank you for joining The Big Read.
Note: The Shawl is copyright © 1980 by Cynthia Ozick. Originally published in The New Yorker From The Shawl by Cynthia Ozick (Vintage, 1990). Used by permission of Melanie Jackson Agency, L.L.C.
Cynthia Ozick (Copyright Nancy Crampton)
The Star of David atop this streetcar designates its route through the Warsaw Ghetto. (Library of Congress)
A destitute woman carries her infant in the Warsaw Ghetto. (United States Holocaust Museum, courtesy of Instytut Pamieci Narodowej)