These books have successfully supplemented primary and secondary readings in my course on "Medieval Jews and Judaism," which attracts an enrollment of fifty diverse students:
Amitav Ghosh, In an Antique Land: History in the Guise of a Traveler's Tale (Vintage Books, 1994)
Ghosh interweaves his own experiences as a Hindu anthropologist doing fieldwork in Egyptian villages in the 1980s with Cairo Genizah documents about a twelfth-century Jewish merchant from Tunisia and his twenty-year sojourn in Mangalore, India. This humane exploration of intercultural coexistence and misunderstanding reminds us that medieval Jewish life extended east as well as west, illuminates Middle Eastern village life on the cusp of modernization, and also raises important questions about our approaches to the "antique."
Sharan Newman, The Wandering Arm: A Catherine LeVendeur Mystery (Forge Books, 2001)
This accessible and well-researched genre novel by a medievalist is set in twelfth- century Paris and deals with Jewish- Christian relationships of a number of kinds (social, economic, familial, romantic, and intellectual) revolving around a relic theft that threatens the security of the Jewish community. Newman provides detailed depictions of life in urban, monastic, and noble settings, as well as in the Jewish quarter of the medieval city, and the lively characters and situations engage student interest and provide connections to more conventional readings.
A. B. Yehoshua, Journey to the End of the Millennium: A Novel of the Middle Ages (Doubleday, 1999)
Yehoshua's demanding, richly textured narrative contrasts the mores of Sephardi and Ashkenazi Jews against the backdrop of a journey from Morocco to Paris to the Rhineland set around the year 1000. Diverse characters—Jewish, Muslim, and Christian, merchants and scholars, slaves and rulers, physicians and artists, and most centrally women and men—interact in a stylistic tour de force (with virtually no direct dialogue) that succeeds in conveying some of the complexities and dilemmas of an ultimately mysterious era.