Virtual Event: Joshua Lambert


The Literary Mafia:
Jews, Publishing, and
Postwar American Literature

in conversation with JOANNA RAKOFF


September 9, 2022
12:00 PM ET


Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138


Free - $5 contribution suggested at registration

Harvard Book Store welcomes JOSH LAMBERT—author and Director of the Jewish Studies Program at Wellesley College—for a discussion of his new book The Literary Mafia: Jews, Publishing, and Postwar American Literature. He will be joined in conversation by JOANNA RAKOFF, best-selling author of My Salinger Year.

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About The Literary Mafia

In the 1960s and 1970s, complaints about a “Jewish literary mafia” were everywhere. Although a conspiracy of Jews colluding to control publishing in the United States never actually existed, such accusations reflected a genuine transformation from an industry notorious for excluding Jews to one in which they arguably had become the most influential figures.

Josh Lambert examines the dynamics between Jewish editors and Jewish writers; how Jewish women exposed the misogyny they faced from publishers; and how children of literary parents have struggled with and benefited from their inheritances. Drawing on interviews and tens of thousands of pages of letters and manuscripts, The Literary Mafia offers striking new discoveries about celebrated figures such as Lionel Trilling and Gordon Lish, and neglected fiction by writers including Ivan Gold, Ann Birstein, and Trudy Gertler.

In the end, we learn how the success of one minority group has lessons for all who would like to see American literature become more equitable.

Praise for The Literary Mafia

“At every turn, The Literary Mafia looks forward by looking backward. Josh Lambert’s shrewd, astringent account of Jews as novelists, critics, editors, and publishers provokes us to envision tomorrow’s news:  the wholesale transformation of American letters with a fresh and diverse array of voices.” —Esther Schor, author of Bridge of Words: Esperanto and the Dream of a Universal Language

“Catnip for anyone fascinated by the intricacies of the publishing world, this subtle and judicious book investigates an insufficiently examined aspect of American Jewish cultural history while posing important questions—about who decides which books get published, and why—that resonate strongly in the present.” —Ruth Franklin, author of Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life

“From the very first page, this book is funnier and more gripping than a book on publishing has any right to be. Anyone interested in America's intellectual or Jewish history must read this, and anyone looking for an engrossing story should.” —Emily Tamkin, author of Bad Jews

Joanna Rakoff
Joanna Rakoff

Joanna Rakoff

Joanna Rakoff is the author of the international bestselling memoir My Salinger Year and the novel A Fortunate Age, winner of the Goldberg Prize for Fiction, the Elle Readers’ Prize, and a San Francisco Chronicle Bestseller. Rakoff’s books have been translated into twenty languages and nominated for major prizes in The Netherlands and France. She has written frequently for the New York Times, Vogue, Marie Claire, O: The Oprah Magazine, and many other publications.

Josh Lambert
Josh Lambert

Josh Lambert

Josh Lambert is the Sophia Moses Robison Associate Professor of Jewish Studies and English, and Director of the Jewish Studies Program, at Wellesley College. His books include Unclean Lips: Obscenity, Jews, and American Culture (2014) and How Yiddish Changed America and How America Changed Yiddish (2020).

Photo Credit: Lisa Abitbol

Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

Walking from the Harvard Square T station: 2 minutes

As you exit the station, reverse your direction and walk east along Mass. Ave. in front of the Cambridge Savings Bank. Cross Dunster St. and proceed along Mass. Ave for three more blocks. You will pass Au Bon Pain, JP Licks, and TD Bank. Harvard Book Store is located at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Plympton St.

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