books

All My Loving:
Coming of Age with Paul McCartney in Paris

In January 1964, I was an obedient thirteen-year-old schoolgirl in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Then I heard the Beatles sing “She Loves You” and turned instantly into a passionate Paul Girl.

That summer, my family and I sailed away to spend a year in Paris. Desperately lonely, trapped between my powerful parents, I kept myself company by scribbling a stream of stories – poignant yet funny and articulate fantasies about my love life, and, later, shy imaginings of my marriage and sex life, with Paul McCartney. In the fall of 1965, we returned to Halifax, where I discovered Bob Dylan, the Freedom Singers and real boys.

The story in All My Loving takes place in the mid-Sixties, just before the Western world broke wide open. We kids heard the rumblings first, felt the power of the musical explosion into our staid world. But my world also included the Ban-the-Bomb movement, the fight for civil rights, the casual anti-Semitism of small town Canada, even the question, lurking at the back of my mind, of why my mother’s life was so much more limited than my father’s. Society was about to change very quickly, but in 1964-65, all those revolutions were on the horizon. Except for the music, which was right there, in my tiny transistor radio, filling me with joy.

A FEW REVIEWS

“The book perfectly captured all the joy and sorrow and angst – so much angst! – of being a teenage girl in the 1960s, or any time. It bought back my adolescence so vividly that I plan to order another copy for my friend Hilary, known to me in the summer of 1965 as Mrs. George Harrison.” VIRGINIA VAN VLIET

“Kaplan’s very rich portrait of a family and a time draws us inside her years as a misunderstood outsider.” JIM PURDY, screenwriter/director/producer

Purchase All My Loving Online


True to Life: 50 Steps to Help You Tell Your Story

True to Life: 50 Steps to Help You Tell Your Story is a distillation of my twenty-year teaching practice, packed with vital information for writers, laid out clearly and succinctly and illuminated with quotes from important creative voices.

I have turned the essence of my classes into a book in order to share everything I know about writing, and also to pass on unique pointers from my friend, the great writer and teacher Wayson Choy. Almost all the steps detailed here are relevant not just for creative non-fiction, but for every kind of writing, including fiction.

There are a number of how-to books about creative writing, but few as concise and filled with humour and insight as True to Life.

“This book is fabulous: a user-friendly, down-to-earth accessible guide to writing that simplifies the complex without making it simplistic, taking readers through the mechanics from the initial brainstorm to the final edit.” WENDY LITNER, Huffington Post writer, lawyer, writing student.

“I very much enjoyed your book on memoir writing and obtained a lot of useful information from it. I made notes but will pick up a hard copy for reference – am seriously “unpacking” and will make revisions to accommodate the excellent tips you provide. I particularly appreciate the humour in the book – the “running and skipping granny” had me on the floor.” CURTIS BARLOW, chair, REEL CANADA, lawyer, cultural executive, diplomat.

 

Purchase True to Life Online


Yours Truly: a book of the blog

Hundreds of readers follow my blog, so for those who like to hold an actual book in their hands – on the treadmill, in the bathtub, at the beach – I edited nearly 3 years of entries into Yours Truly, the candid, humorous story of one woman’s journey through life, and, more importantly, through France.

Order at beth@bethkaplan.ca. Cost: $20 plus postage. The perfect gift for friends or enemies.


Finding the Jewish Shakespeare

Now in paperback!

Finding the Jewish Shakespeare: The Life and Legacy of Jacob Gordin

Purchase Finding the Jewish Shakespeare Online

A FEW REVIEWS

“Finding the Jewish Shakespeare brings back to literary life Jacob Gordin, a protean, prophetic, wickedly funny and absolutely serious theater artist. Along with him, his great granddaughter Beth Kaplan resurrects the richness, magnificence and complexity of the world of Yiddish theater.

This is a witty, shrewd and elegant book which tells a story of vital importance: how an impoverished, beleaguered immigrant culture begins to speak to itself, begins to find its agency by understanding itself through art, by finding its voice. In the process, Kaplan performs a smaller but invaluable service, namely detailing the life of a marvelous playwright, whose career makes a great story about making theater.”
Tony Kushner, Pulitzer, Emmy and Tony award winning playwright and screenwriter, April 2012.

“Beth Kaplan makes [an] invaluable contribution with her full-length biography of Gordin, who happened to have been her great-grandfather. Her book admirably combines scholarly research, critical analysis, loving tribute and personal memoir.
Matt Nesvisky, Jerusalem Report, December 10, 2007

“… A remarkably thorough and insightful biography… With this wonderful and meticulously researched book, Kaplan has done much to revitalize Gordin’s memory. “
Bill Gladstone, Canadian Jewish News, September 2007

FROM THE PUBLISHER Syracuse University Press

An illuminating genealogical quest, and an inside look at the life and times of a fabled cultural figure in Yiddish theater.

In this revelatory biography, Beth Kaplan sets out to explore the true character and creative achievements of her great-grandfather Jacob Gordin, playwright extraordinaire and icon of the Yiddish stage.

Shedding new light on Gordin and his world, Kaplan describes the commune he founded and led in Russia, his meteoric rise among Jewish New York’s literati, the birth of such masterworks as Mirele Efros and The Jewish King Lear, and his deadly feud with Abraham Cahan, powerful editor of the Jewish Daily Forward. Writing in a graceful and engaging style, she recaptures the Golden Age and colorful actors of the Yiddish theater, 1891-1910, and the dynamic cultural life of Eastern European Jews on the Lower East Side, where Gordin was revered. Most significantly she discovers the emotional truth about the man himself, a tireless reformer who left a vital legacy to the theater and Jewish life worldwide, but an aftermath of loss and estrangement to many of his eleven children.

More than a life story, Kaplan takes readers on a stirring search for lost heritage and resolves a family mystery. She provides a goldmine for theater history buffs: there is no other full-scale biography of Gordin in any language.

NOTES FROM THE AUTHOR

Since its publication, I have spoken about the book in numerous places, including in New York at the 92nd Street Y and at the Stella Adler Studio, and at Oxford University, the Vancouver Jewish Book Fair and the Stratford Festival. In 2008, I delivered the Wexler Lecture in Jewish History in Washington, D.C. and lectured in French in 2009 at the Medem Library in Paris.

Dec. 3, 2008
“In the eleven-year history of the Wexler Lecture, Beth Kaplan was perhaps the best speaker we’ve had. She held the audience spellbound with a vivid account of her great-grandfather Jacob Gordin’s fascinating life and her own quest to uncover it.”
Natalie Wexler

Dec. 5, 2009
“What a strong impression Beth made on our students. We have had an enormous number of very impressive speakers and artists of all kinds. Rarely have I heard so much excitement and enthusiasm. I look forward to future collaboration.”
Tom Oppenheim, Director, the Stella Adler Studio

One more recent review:

“What a wonderful book! The extensive research you did to uncover this important story, the heartfelt and beautiful writing, the family connection, make for a riveting read. Aside from the story of your great-grandfather himself, I love the picture you paint of immigrant Jewish life on the Lower East Side of that era. This is an important book.”
Perry Coodin, 2008

For details on speaking engagements, please check my blog.

A podcast about Gordin and the book, in the form of interviews with Beth Kaplan and others, can be heard at www.nextbook.com   Under Archives, click Theater, then Staged Rebellion.


How to order:

Finding the Jewish Shakespeare: The Life and Legacy of Jacob Gordin

Syracuse University PressAmazon.comAmazon.ca