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Pepper, Silk & Ivory: Amazing Stories about…
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Pepper, Silk & Ivory: Amazing Stories about Jews and the Far East

by Rabbi Marvin Tokayer, Ellen Rodman

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Consummate storyteller, Rabbi Tokayer draws on personal experiences in Asia to reveal amazing stories of Jews who both benefitted from and contributed to the Far East. Here you will read about a woman who refused to give up until the Japanese Constitution included rights for women and children, and American baseball player who spied for the U.S. in Japan, and the secret behind one of the world’s most famous logos. These are only a few of the fascinating stories presented here. A must read!
  HandelmanLibraryTINR | Nov 12, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This book slipped by the wayside for a while there (oops!), so I had only read about half of it, and now finally just got to the other half. So when I added it, I glanced at the reviews. I'm sad to see so many negative remarks!

Personally, I thought this was excellent, and would recommend it to anyone curious about the history of Jews around the world. I had no idea Jews had such a prominent history in the East!

One reviewer commented "stylistically it reminds me of when my grandmother tells stories: kind of anecdotal and broad-ranging ... I wish the focus were narrower and it delved deeper." Now, if it were a novel, or a book about a single person, sure, I would have a problem with that. But since this is someone sitting the reader down and sharing with them the history of many people, I think "grandma telling stories" does fit the style Tokayer presents, and I think that is perfect! I also think that unless someone wants to read a multi-volume encyclopedia about Jews in the Far East, there is obviously only so much detail that can be covered! It's pretty clear to me that the point of this work is to highlight a good number of people in a reasonable amount of space. So that's what we get, the highlights. It's saying Hey, look, there's so many important and fascinating people you've never heard of! See what you're missing out on?
Many of the amazing people covered have written their own works, novels, poetry, history, etc, as well as autobiographies - which are mentioned; so anyone who is intrigued by these slices of narrative can go out and acquire the works that have all the detail. But it would be impossible to cover all that detail on all those people in one volume!

So for me, I was delighted to learn about all these incredible people, and while this was not a fast-paced edge-of-your-seat thriller to zip through, I found the style just right for the contents. Pepper, Silk, & Ivory is a great introduction to a great many fascinating people! ( )
  .Monkey. | Oct 25, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The content of this book is quite interesting but the writing style is only ok, which means I would only recommend this book to people interested in Jews in the Far East or other related subjects rather than a particularly good non-fiction book. It was nice to read these stories, which came across very personally, especially given the fact that the author knew or knows many of the parties involved or their descendants. ( )
  palmaceae | May 31, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This is an ok book. Stars are mostly given for subject matter, which is fascinating and mostly untold (until now!) There are some great characters to be discovered here...many of whom could probably have whole books about their lives. Unfortunately I didn't really enjoy reading it...i found it a bit tedious and slow-moving, and not nearly as compelling as it should have been. Some of the stories seem like they're missing details or not quite as filled out as they could have been as well. Also, it's worth noting that the title can't be mistaken for Jew IN the far east, but rather jews interacting with the far east. some of these men and women lived large portions of their lives in east asia, others didn't. Either way, it's fascinating to examine the broad impact these jewish men and women have had around the world. ( )
  LipstickAndAviators | Apr 15, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I have never reviewed an ER selection without finishing it before, but in this case, I must. I have read a little more than half of the book, 12 of 23 chapters, and I simply cannot slog through any more of it. It's not the subject matter, which ought to be utterly fascinating, and sometimes does take over enough to keep my interest for a while; it's the style. There is no narrative flow; it's clunky, it's non-sequential, there are too many references to the author's connections to his subjects, which add nothing to the reader's knowledge or understanding. I truly wanted to know about the accomplishments of Laura Margolis, Jacob Schiff, Beate Sirota Gordon, and Two-Gun Cohen (he should be irresistible, right? Not right.) so I struggled through those chapters, but I did not enjoy the journey. This is a badly written history textbook, not a gripping historical narrative. And it's a shame, because I believe the authors' basic premise, that there were fascinating Jewish figures lost in the cracks of Far Eastern history, is valid. There is enough dry information here to prove that premise, but the research did not translate well into Story in these hands.

Review written February 2015 ( )
2 vote laytonwoman3rd | Mar 1, 2015 |
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Rabbi Marvin Tokayerprimary authorall editionscalculated
Rodman, Ellenmain authorall editionsconfirmed
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There is a missing page in Jewish history. We tend to assume that Jewish history is to be found in the Middle East, Europe, North Africa, and the Americas - but not in the Far East. Pepper, Silk & Ivory has discovered that missing page, revealing the amazing stories of Jews who both benefited from and contributed to the Far East. You will read about the "uncrowned Jewish king of China," the indefatigable World War II refugees in Kobe, and the baseball player who became an American spy in Japan, as well as the Jew who served as Singapore's first prime minister, the amusing comedy of errors surrounding the Chinese Jews of Kaifeng, and the extraordinary tale of the sixteenth-century Marrano physician in India. Jewish contributors to Eastern music and the Jewish members of Mao Zedong's circle also have their stories told. Consummate storyteller Marvin Tokayer, Lifetime Honorary Rabbi of Japan's Jewish community, draws on a lifetime of personal experiences and a wealth of knowledge as he, in concert with writer and television producer Dr. Ellen Rodman, weaves together the characters and history of the Jews of the Far East into this fascinating book.… (more)

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