Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Rebecca Alpert

Rebecca Alpert is Associate Professor of Religion and Women's Studies at Temple University and the author of Whose Torah?: A Concise Guide to Progressive Judaism.

Her new book is Out of Left Field: Jews and Black Baseball.

Not so long ago I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
I read fiction on a Kindle while riding my stationary bicycle, and I am grateful to every author who transports my mind to other worlds while my body labors in this one. The last book I read, Brooklyn: A Novel by Colm Toíbín, took me to Brooklyn in the 1950s, the place where I was born and raised, and made me see it in a way I’d never imagined. The protagonist Eilis Lacey and I walked the same streets and visited the same sights (Downtown Brooklyn, Brooklyn College, Ebbets Field, Coney Island) at the very same time. But Eilis’s Brooklyn was vastly different from my own, and I loved seeing the world of my childhood through the eyes of a young woman negotiating a new life for herself far away from her family and home in Ireland.

While I mostly reserve my fiction reading time for the bicycle routine, I sat still to devour the novel Lorene Cary just published, If Sons, Then Heirs. Having enjoyed being a “reader, listener, and adviser” on previous drafts, I relished being in this saga one more time, recalling the joys and trials of the Needham family as they made their way through the generations, and discovering the new details the author had added to their lives. Re-reading fiction can sometimes give more pleasure than the first time around, lovelier because you know and care about the characters even before they arrive on the page.

Writing about Jews and baseball has given me the chance to read sports books and call it work—such a guilty pleasure. I’ve read three incredible ones lately: Advancing the Ball: Race, Reformation and the Quest for Equal Coaching Opportunity in the NFL by Jeremi Duru; Raceball: How the Major Leagues Colonized the Black and Latin Game by Rob Ruck, and Cuban Star: How One Negro-League Owner Changed the Face of Baseball, a biography of Alex Pompez by Adrian Burgos, Jr. Duru, Burgos, and Ruck are academics who write with style and passion at the troubled intersection of race, ethnicity, and sport. Their works make a major contribution to our growing understanding of sports as a lens through which to view social realities and foster social change.

Finally to work, really: I am translating a course I teach, “Jews and Sports,” from an “on site” to an “online” environment. The Online Teaching Survival Guide: Simple and Practical Pedagogical Tips by Judith V. Boettcher and Rita-Marie Conrad has been a source of wit and wisdom as I traverse that new minefield. And I am about to pick up and re-read a classic: Stony the Road We Trod: African American Biblical Interpretation, edited by Cain Hope Felder, as I begin research for a conference paper on rabbinic interpretations of the biblical “curse of Ham.” Summer reading is not, after all, only about play.
Learn more about Out of Left Field at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Out of Left Field.

--Marshal Zeringue