A Review of Other Covenants: Alternative Histories of the Jewish People edited by Andrea D. Lobel and Mark Shainblum (Ben Yehuda Press, 2022)
By Derek Newman-Stille
Other Covenants reimagines Jewish history, tracing different possibilities and new paths forward. As a work of alternative history, it remaps the Jewish world and stories and traditions that were familiar become defamiliarized and reimagined. Other Covenants invites readers on a ride through other imaginings and new possibilities allowing key aspects of Jewish history to play out differently, taking us through the exodus from Egypt, through demonic battles, through folk tradition, into the hands of antisemites, through skies filled with seraphim, out of the hands of Goliath, into the world of the mob, and even into space
Characters face brutal violence, displacement and diaspora… but they also delve into challenges of love, feats of engineering, community building, religious challenges, mitzvahs, and powerful revivals and rejuvenations.
As co-editor Mark Shainblum points out “I reject the idea that Jewish history can be entirely summed up by “They tried to kill us, they failed, let’s eat!”” And as co-editor Andrea Lobel observes “if this timeline isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.” These are not tales of just surviving, they are tales full of possibility and the richness of Jewish life.
History is shattered in this book and each piece of it bites back and forces the reader to pay attention.
As with most alternative history narratives, Other Covenants not only invites us to reimagine the past, but also to think about the present and ponder the future. It opens up new ways of looking at the future and pulls us out of the “things are the way they are” approach.
To find out more about Other Covenants, visit https://www.benyehudapress.com/books/other-covenants/#:~:text=The%20first%2Dever%20anthology%20of,other%20historical%20roads%20not%20taken.
A review by Derek Newman-Stille, MA, PhD ABD (they/them)