A project of the Jewish Community Library, One Bay One Book is a year-long conversation connecting Bay Area readers through discussions, events, and informal conversations centered around a single title and its themes. This year we invite educators working in Jewish settings to join us for a special educators discussion of this year’s One Bay One Book selection, Helene Wecker’s new novel The Hidden Palace, sequel to The Golem and the Jinni.

Chava is a golem, a woman made of clay, who can hear the thoughts and longings of those around her and feels compelled by her nature to help them. Ahmad is a jinni, a restless creature of fire, once free to roam the desert but now imprisoned in the shape of a man. Brought together under calamitous circumstances, their lives are now entwined. Fearing that they will be exposed, these magical beings hide their true selves and try to pass as human—just two more displaced immigrants in the bustling world of 1900s Manhattan. Combining historical events with elements of Jewish folklore and fantasy, the novel follows Chava and Ahmad as they encounter other beings like themselves and seek to find their places in a rapidly changing human world.

Reading The Hidden Palace provides us with the opportunity to explore key questions about diversity, equity, and inclusion in our work as educators and leaders in our community:

  • How is diversity represented in this fantastical novel and what can we learn, as Jewish educators, from these characters and how they live, work, and grow together?
  • Gender equity is a major theme in The Hidden Palace, as Chava and her orphaned students are forced to accept many of the expectations placed upon early 20th century girls and women, while other women characters are shunned for their choices. How do issues of gender equity play out in our work as educators?
  • What do mythical creatures such as the golem or jinni/jinniyeh teach us about the lived experience of those with hidden and visible disabilities? How can this understanding inform our practices of inclusion in and outside the classroom?

A limited number of print and electronic copies of The Hidden Palace are available for borrowing from the Jewish Community Library free of charge, starting in January. To reserve a copy, please write to library@jewishlearning.works. Bay Area residents can also borrow the eBook, or listen to the audiobook.

This is a free event, but registration is required. This workshop is offered free of charge as a gift from the Jewish Community Library, which is part of Jewish LearningWorks.

Questions? Contact noa@jewishlearning.works