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Mandy Clarke
IU Press

Last modified: Friday, January 25, 2013

IU Press author wins 2012 National Jewish Book Award

Jan. 25, 2013

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- A book published by Indiana University Press has won the 2012 National Jewish Book Award. Gerald Sorin, author of "Howard Fast: Life and Literature in the Left Lane," received the biography, autobiography and memoir prize for his portrait of writer and Communist Party member Howard Fast.

Presented by the Jewish Book Council, the National Jewish Book Award recognizes books of Jewish content in an annual celebration of the Jewish experience.

Howard Fast book

The council began selecting books in 1950, honoring authors in 18 categories. The award now has the longest history of any prize of its kind, with several recent Indiana University Press winners including Jeffrey S. Gurock for "Orthodox Jews in America," Olga Borovaya for "Modern Ladino Culture" and Deborah Dash Moore for "Gender and Jewish History."

Howard Fast's life, from a rough-and-tumble Jewish New York street kid to the successful and famous author of close to 100 books, rivals the Horatio Alger myth. The author of best-sellers such as "Citizen Tom Paine," "Freedom Road," "My Glorious Brothers" and "Spartacus," Fast joined the American Communist Party in 1943 and remained a loyal member until 1957, despite being imprisoned for contempt of Congress.

Sorin illuminates the connections among Fast's Jewishness, his writings and his left-wing politics, and he explains Fast's attraction to the Communist Party and the reasons he stayed in it as long as he did. Recounting the story of Fast's private and public life with its adventure and risk, love and pain, struggle, failure, and success, Sorin also addresses questions such as the relationship between modern Jewish identity and radical movements, the consequences of political myopia and the complex interaction of art, popular culture and politics in 20th-century America.

Sorin is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the State University of New York-New Paltz. He is also the author of "Irving Howe: A Life of Passionate Dissent" and "The Prophetic Minority: American Jewish Immigrant Radicals, 1880-1920."