4 2022

Fourth Annual Marvin Caplan Jewish Book Festival l Nancy Churnin

11:00AM - 12:00PM  

JHamilton 1605 Main Street West

Contact Jazmin Rymberg
905-648-0605 ext 301

Nancy Churnin will be presenting on her book Dr. Mr. Dickens
Nan­cy Churnin writes about inspir­ing peo­ple that encour­age kids to heal the world. Dear Mr. Dick­ens, the true sto­ry of a woman who spoke up to Charles Dick­ens, won the 2021 Nation­al Jew­ish Book Award; A Queen to the Res­cue, about Hadas­sah founder Hen­ri­et­ta Szold, who saved 11,000 chil­dren from the Holo­caust, won a 2022 Syd­ney Tay­lor Notable.

Read­ers today are well aware of age-old con­tro­ver­sies sur­round­ing insen­si­tive por­tray­als of racial or eth­nic groups in books. In Dear Mr. Dick­ens, Nan­cy Churnin and Bethany Stan­cliffe tell the sto­ry of one Jew­ish read­er, Eliza Davis, who was a fan of nov­el­ist Charles Dick­ens but not of his anti­se­mit­ic car­i­ca­ture in Oliv­er Twist. Davis felt that the char­ac­ter of Fagin rep­re­sent­ed a dan­ger­ous­ly mis­lead­ing por­tray­al of her peo­ple, so she wrote to Dick­ens in hopes of a response. The small dra­ma of this inter­ac­tion between a famous author and a woman seek­ing change makes for an inspir­ing story.

Many chil­dren might not be famil­iar with Dick­ens, but Churnin intro­duces the basic facts of his career with sen­si­tiv­i­ty and accu­ra­cy. He is ​“the most famous writer of Eliza’s time,” and read­ers eager­ly await install­ments of his sto­ries in pop­u­lar mag­a­zines. Selec­tive facts about the era and about Dick­ens’ work, includ­ing his com­mit­ment to expos­ing social evils, set the stage for Eliza’s deci­sion. The implic­it hypocrisy of the novelist’s com­pas­sion for Oliv­er Twist, a poor orphan, angers Davis; young read­ers will eas­i­ly under­stand the idea that adults may fail to live up to their own ideals. Churnin care­ful­ly explains the dif­fer­ence between a char­ac­ter and a stereo­type through Davis’s rea­son­ing. Fagin is repeat­ed­ly iden­ti­fied as ​“the Jew,​”sug­gest­ing that his hor­ri­ble traits are endem­ic to the Jew­ish people.