Okay, granted, it’s pretty late for a Hanukkah shopping tip, but the book Jewdar is recommending doesn’t come out until January anyway, so consider this an early Tu B’Shvat recommendation. We know we’re not supposed to judge books by their cover, but there’s something we gotta love about a book by a university press with a title like Jews and Booze, which sounds more like a Heeb party than a dissertation. (Full discretion, the author, Marni Davis, a history professor at Georgia State University, is a friend of a friend of Jewdar, and was once a guest for drinks at the Jewdar residence.)
The full title of the tome is Jews and Booze: Becoming American in the Age of Prohibition, which might lead some would-be readers to visions of bootlegging Jewish gangsters. While Jewdar’s always happy to read that, this book offers a much broader and more interesting array of Semitic experiences. “Prohibition” in this sense refers not just to the actual period in which the Volstead Act was in place, but for the whole period of the Progressive Era during which Prohibition was being pushed and in which alcohol—and the role Jews played in producing and purveying it—was a target of American reformers. Jewdar has always been amazed at the ability of academics to take inherently interesting subjects, like TV and sex, and make them incredibly boring. Davis manages to avoid this, producing an account which is at once both highly readable and yet still approaches the subject in a sophisticated manner. And if that doesn’t pique your interest, we offer just this tidbit—“Black Cock Vigor Gin.” (If that doesn’t pique your interest, not only is this the wrong book for you, but you’re on the wrong website.) Anyway, Jewdar says buy the book, and if we see Davis again, the drinks can be on her.