December-January's Book: The Gravedigger's Daughter, by Joyce Carol Oates

Monday, January 07, 2013

Joyce Carol Oates has been called one of the most quintessentially American writers. She’s also one of the most prolific, with more than 70 books to her name. We’ve selected her 2007 novel The Gravedigger’s Daughter for our next Book Club read. It weaves in some of her own family’s story and is set in rural New York, where the author was raised. It tells the story of Rebecca, the daughter of a man who, after fleeing Nazi Germany in 1936 and immigrating with his family to a small town in upstate New York, can only find work as a gravedigger and cemetery caretaker.  When the family's bleak situation and emotional frailty sparks an unthinkable tragedy, Rebecca, heads out into America seeking renewal, redemption, and peace from the violence of her past. 

Joyce Carol Oates will be here January 7 to talk about the novel! Get the conversation started now by leaving your comments and questions about the book!

Comments [6]

anna from new york

Joyce Carol Oates is of course illiterate. What worse she is unable to think.
I heard only a short segment, but it was enough.
Dear Lady, the fact that your opportunistic ancestors came last century to move away from Judaism, doesn't mean that "PEOPLE came to move away from everything, including Judaism." Yes, most came away from pogroms, harassment and starvation, but ... they also came to be themselves (isn't this the promise of America) and that meant in this case they came to remain Jewish.
Secondly, the fact that your opportunistic ancestors did want to be with Jews probably meant that there were also Jews in America. I know it's too logical. But then again I am not a fiction writer.
The immigration of the 1930s which had a high percentage of already assimilated and intermarried German Jews (some were Jews only in Hitler's eyes), was different, but it too wasn't monolithic and yes, some were determined to remain Jewish.
Playing jazz doesn't necessary mean to be "civilized." Actually, I, a Jew, can offer some other definitions of "civilization."

Dear Lady, it's worth sometimes to stop writing and start thinking.
dr anna

Jan. 07 2013 01:51 PM
Al from white plains

my grandparents came from Russia and tried to make it in Bridgeport and went to western NY because there seemed to be more opporunity to have a house and a job but also were one of two jewish families in the whole town.

Jan. 07 2013 12:58 PM

I find it exciting to hear that Ms. Oates' book is based on her grandmother's story. My great grandmother has an interesting story, but much is shrouded in mystery. I never knew her or my grandmother, her daughter. I have always wanted to write a story so that I can fill in the mysteries for myself. I wonder if Mrs. Oates wrote the book for similar reasons.

Jan. 07 2013 12:55 PM
Joan Greenfield

Joyce Carol Oates is a such a prolific writer - I'm wondering whether she ever looks back and re-visits her published work with a mind to re-writing.

Jan. 07 2013 12:19 PM
Ed from Larchmont

And if dark, why would that be so?

Jan. 07 2013 05:42 AM
Ed from Larchmont

A reader said that she found Ms. Oates books 'dark'. Does Ms. Oates see this book, or her other books, as 'dark'?

Jan. 07 2013 05:38 AM

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