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    Auditioning for the Jews, who love Chinese Food (and Books)

    By Jennifer 8. Lee | May 29, 2008

    Auditioning for the Jewish Book Council in May 2008

    So I recently went to Los Angeles for a two-minute audition held by the Jewish Book Council, which coordinates the Jewish Book Network of some 100 Jewish book fairs and events around the country.

    It is a combination of speed dating and the gong show or “JDate and a camel auction“, as Rachel Donadio wrote in The New York Times last year. You have two minutes (and they will stand up and pull you off if you exceed that) to charm them. They get a book with your picture and bio in it. (It really is like JDate! One woman even asked me if I were single)

    Why all the fuss? The Jewish Book Network, as Rachel explained, has picked up some of the slack from declining author tours over the past decade, organizing and underwriting multicity gigs. And as one of my New York Times colleagues puts it, they buy lots and lots of books. And the biggest book fairs include St. Louis, San Diego, Detroit.

    I wasn’t fully aware about the relationship between Jews and Chinese food before I started my research except for the Christmas = Chinese food + a movie ritual. Then I discovered there were two academic papers written on Jews and Chinese food, which is twice as many as any other topic on American Chinese food — so there had to be something there. There is a paper called Safe Treyf  [pdf].

    At the audition it was basically me and 200 Jews. I felt I was like playing a massive of game of which- one-of-these-is-not-like-the-other. Everyone else in the audition book has last times like Cohen, Edelman, Epstein, Schwartz, etc. But at least I was easy to remember in the crowd.

    I actually had lunch with Carolyn Hessl and Miri in April, arranged by publicist extraordinaire Cary Goldstein. And I have an entire presentation (different from the ones that are online) that answers the question “Why is Chow Mein the Chosen Food of the Chosen People” which makes the tongue-in-cheek argument that Chinese food is the ethnic cuisine of the American Jew. I’m still honing it. It mentions Chinese restaurants with names like Shang Chai, Cho Sun and my personal favorite — Genghis Cohen.

    Seriously, Jews are one of the most important demographics for this book, I told them in my two minute spiel (which I rehearsed and rehearsed to get down to under 1:50). Why?

    1. They love Chinese food.
    2. They buy books (supposedly 23% of all commercial hardcover in the United States)
    3. They have social groups like JCCs and synagogues where they can bring authors in.

    As I told them at the end, this is how they know the book is for them. My book has 18 chapters. Seriously, originally it was 19 and I made the first chapter into a prologue.

    And the group showed their affection back. The dinner at the audition? It was Chinese food. Which I was told, was in honor of my book!

    Topics: Book Musings, Jews & Chinese Food | No Comments »

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