Author bio

Tova Mirvis

Tova Mirvis - book author

I grew up in the small Orthodox Jewish community in Memphis, Tennessee, where I felt both what was grounding about being part of a such an enclosed world as well as what was stifling. This became the subject of m first novel, The Ladies Auxiliary, which I started writing when I no longer living in Memphis. Being away from home enabled me to look back and it and explore my own ambivalence about belonging.

My second novel, The Outside World, is also set in an Orthodox Jewish world, and is about two families whose children marry each other. In that book I wanted to write about the conflict between tradition and modernity, and also about marriage and dreams and belief and doubt.

My third novel Visible City began when I moved from New York City to a Boston suburb. I was so homesick for a city I had come to live, and longed for the anonymous intimacy that comes from living among so many strangers. Visible City is about a woman who watches her neighbors from her windows and becomes entangled in their lives. It's a book about watching people we don't know but about the difficulty of seeing people we do know as well. It's also about a lost stained glass window and about motherhood and the loneliness of marriage.

And now, after these three novels, I've written a memoir called The Book of Separation. It originated with an essay I wrote in the New York Times about leaving my marriage and my Orthodox Jewish faith. After the piece came out I was flooded with emails from people telling me their own stories of loss and change and it inspired me to write this book. The Book of Separation is about wrestling with doubt, about trying to be the person I was expected to be and about decided to change, when change felt as terrifying as anything I could do. I wrote about my experience of leaving a world where so much was scripted for me and trying to forge a new way of life that felt more genuine to me.

Tova Mirvis is the author of books: The Ladies Auxiliary, The Outside World, The Book of Separation, Visible City, ILY, Prayers for the Living, Life in the Present Tense: Reflections on Family and Faith, Sh'ma: The Many Faces of Translation, You Don't Look Like Your Picture, Settled and Unsettled (Sh'ma Journal: Independent Thinking on Contemporary Judaism Book 44)


Author books

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01
When free-spirited Batsheva moves into the close-knit Orthodox community of Memphis, Tennessee, the already precarious relationship between the Ladies Auxiliary and their teenage daughters is shaken to the core. In this extraordinary novel, Tova Mirvis takes us into the fascinating and insular world of the Memphis Orthodox Jews, one ripe with tradition and contradiction. Warm and wise, enchanting and funny, The Ladies Auxiliary brilliantly illuminates the timeless struggle between mothers and daughters, family and self, religious freedom and personal revelation, honoring the past and facing the future. An unforgettable story of uncommon atmosphere, profound insight, and winning humor, The Ladies Auxiliary is a triumphant work of fiction.
02
Tzippy Goldman was born for marriage. She and her mother had always assumed she’d graduate high school, be set up with the right boy, and have a beautiful wedding with white lace and pareve vanilla cream frosting. But at twenty-two, Tzippy’s fast approaching spinsterhood. She dreams of escape; instead, she leaves for a year in Jerusalem.

There she meets–re-meets–Baruch, the son of her mother’s college roommate. When Tzippy last saw him, his name was Bryan and he wore a Yankees-logo yarmulke. Now he has adopted the black hat of the ultra-orthodox, the tradition in which Tzippy was raised. Twelve weeks later, they’re engaged...and discovering that desire and tradition, devotion and individuality aren’t the easiest balance.

Hilarious, compassionate, and tremendously insightful, The Outside World illuminates an insular community, marvelously depicting that complicated blend of faith, love, and family otherwise known as life in a modern world.
03
The memoir of a woman who leaves her faith and her marriage and sets out to navigate the terrifying, liberating terrain of a newly mapless world.

Born and raised in a tight-knit Orthodox Jewish family, Tova Mirvis committed herself to observing the rules and rituals prescribed by this way of life. After all, to observe was to be accepted and to be accepted was to be loved. She married a man from within the fold and quickly began a family. But over the years, her doubts became noisier than her faith, and at age forty she could no longer breathe in what had become a suffocating existence. Even though it would mean the loss of her friends, her community, and possibly even her family, Tova decides to leave her husband and her faith. After years of trying to silence the voice inside her that said she did not agree, did not fit in, did not believe, she strikes out on her own to discover what she does believe and who she really is. This will mean forging a new way of life not just for herself, but for her children, who are struggling with what the divorce and her new status as “not Orthodox” means for them.

This is a memoir about what it means to decide to heed your inner compass at long last. To free the part of yourself that has been suppressed, even if it means walking away from the only life you’ve ever known. Honest and courageous, Tova takes us through her first year outside her marriage and community as she learns to silence her fears and seek adventure on her own path to happiness.
04
For fans of Meg Wolitzer and Allegra Goodman, an intimate and provocative novel about three couples whose paths intersect in their New York City neighborhood, forcing them all to weigh the comfort of stability against the costs of change.
Nina is a harried young mother who spends her evenings spying on the older couple across the street through her son’s Fisher-Price binoculars. She is drawn to their quiet contentment—reading on the couch, massaging each other’s feet—so unlike her own lonely, chaotic world of nursing and soothing and simply getting by. One night, through that same window, she spies a young couple in the throes of passion. Who are these people, and what happened to her symbol of domestic bliss?
In the coming weeks, Nina encounters the older couple, Leon and Claudia, their daughter Emma and her fiancé, and many others on the streets of her Upper West Side neighborhood, eroding the safe distance of her secret vigils. Soon anonymity gives way to different—and sometimes dangerous—forms of intimacy, and Nina and her neighbors each begin to question their own paths.

With enormous empathy and a keen observational eye, Tova Mirvis introduces a constellation of characters we all know: twenty-somethings unsure about commitments they haven’t yet made; thirty-somethings unsure about the ones they have; and sixty-somethings whose empty nest causes all sorts of doubt. Visible City invites us to examine those all-important forks in the road, and the conflict between desire and loyalty.
05
Filtered through the post-9/11 world of persistent NSA surveillance, "ILY," honored in the Best American Short Stories 2014, questions the different lives we lead in our own homes and in our own imaginations. Are they that different? Does privacy exist anymore? What can we still hide? Nora, a middle-aged woman who is ignored by her husband and tech-savvy teenage daughter, reconnects with a childhood crush via Facebook. Soon a flurry of daily text messages controls her life, and she wonders whether or not she should make her online life real. But Nora has bigger problems, and we learn that everyone in this family is straddling the line between their authentic and hidden selves. A complex, fascinating story of familial disconnection told within the larger framework of a society manipulated by propaganda, "ILY" explores what it means to live in an era where the choice to live a split existence can be undertaken with deceptive initial ease.
06
Prayers for the Living is a novel both grand in its vision and loving in its familiarity. Presented in a series of conversations between grandmother Minnie Bloch and her companions, Alan Cheuse, National Public Radio commentator on All Things Considered, unfolds a layered family portrait of three generations of the Bloch family, whose members are collapsing under everyday burdens and brutal betrayals. Her son Manny is a renowned, almost legendary rabbi. Respected by his congregants and surrounded by family, no one suspects that he yearns for a life of greater personal glory, but when an oracular bird delivers what Manny believes to be a message from his deceased father, he abandons his congregation in pursuit of a life in business and his entire life spirals out of control.

As Manny's fortunes rise in the corporate realm, he falls deeper into an affair with a congregant, a Holocaust survivor, his wife sinks deeper into alcoholism and depression and his daughter, traumatized by a sexual scandal at college, makes Manny the target of a plot to shatter his newly-found empire. The devoted family matriarch, Minnie, observes and recounts the tragic downfall of her family, unable to save them from themselves.
08
By translation, we mean different things: the act of rendering a work from one language to another — and the act of negotiating the relationship, rarely straightforward, between author and translator. Translation can also mean “transforming something from one state of being to another.” This issue of Sh’ma includes a wide-ranging conversation between two writers — Sh’ma publisher Josh Rolnick and novelist Tova Mirvis — as they explore the magical transmutation of life into a page of fiction. Naomi Seidman looks at the domestic implications of an untranslatable Yiddish word. Mikhail Krutikov evaluates the literary career of a Russian Jew writing in Israel. Yehuda Kurtzer, Sara Hurwitz, and Barbara Mann take the temperature in a room of scholars and rabbis: How does the work of rabbis — who strive to translate religion and culture into sustainable and meaningful forces in our lives —resonate with the work of academics, who have an intrinsic interest in Judaism, but who have no interest, per se, in “meaning”? And, Or Rose sits us down at the table of his teacher, Arthur Green, as he and several colleagues translate for a contemporary audience the work of the Hasidic Maggid, Dov Baer.

We are a people who have experienced life in a multitude of languages and cultures. In this issue, and in the pages of Sh’ma every month, we translate the traditions and teachings of Judaism into a meaningful discourse for ourselves and the peoples around us.
09
A disgraced Hong Kong pop star wavers between acceptance and revenge after a sex tape scandal. An OKCupid hookup becomes a missed connection even while it's happening. A couple's quest for ever-safer sex leads to a near-fatal love triangle.

In DailyLit's first short story bundle, six very different writers explore the ways our digital obsessions have (and haven't) transformed the way we love. Award-winning and best-selling novelists Adam Haslett, Tova Mirvis, and Deni Bechard are paired here with exciting new voices Vanessa Hua, Justin Keenan, and Namwali Serpell for a listening experience that moves between domestic tragedy and weird, sexy sci-fi, international revenge plots and fantasies not even big enough for two.