Rosalind Reisner, reader, author, speaker, and librarian, writes and speaks about memoirs, Jewish literature, and Readers’ Advisory service at conferences, libraries, and organizations around the country. I am the author of Read On…Memoirs: Reading Lists for Every Taste and Jewish American Literature: A Guide to Reading Interests, a Readers’ Advisory guide published by Libraries Unlimited, which won the 2004 Judaica Reference Book Award from the Association of Jewish Libraries. I am also the editor and contributor to Women in the Literary Landscape: A Centennial Publication of the Women’s National Book Association. (C&R Press, 2018)
Information on Rosalind’s Programs (talks for the reading public & Reader’s Advisory workshops for librarians.)
More biographical information:
I grew up in Brooklyn, New York and as a teenager I roamed around Brooklyn and Manhattan with friends, learning the subway lines, the neighborhoods, and going to museums, concerts, and plays. An avid reader, I began keeping a list of everything I read beginning when I was in 7th grade. At college, also in New York City, I met my husband Gerald, another Brooklynite. Soon after graduation, we packed up the VW and headed out to Minneapolis, where we both enrolled in graduate school at the University of Minnesota: Gerald for a Ph.D in Mathematics and me for a Master’s in Library Science. Life in the Twin Cities was very different from New York and although we enjoyed the change, we knew we’d go back East one day. While we lived in the Twin Cities, I worked as a reference librarian at Hennepin County Library, one of the great public library systems; a place that nurtured and mentored staff and where eccentricities were tolerated and strong opinions welcomed. At HCL I learned that if a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing well and that a good public library is a treasure not to be taken for granted. I continued to keep up my reading list.
We returned to the East Coast and much to our surprise found ourselves in New Jersey, the state New Yorkers love to scorn. Our two sons, Alex and David, were born and grew up there and I continued to work in libraries–public and academic–near our home. Gerald applied for a rotational assignment to San Francisco and we all spent half a year enjoying that beautiful city and exploring California. I brought my reading list along. All too soon we were back in New Jersey.
I continued to work as a librarian in public and academic libraries, but became increasingly interested in finding non-traditional outlets for my library skills. I took a job with the book distributor, Baker & Taylor, working with libraries all over the U.S., helping them make purchasing decisions for new and expanding libraries. Visiting libraries and meeting librarians around the country connected me with the library profession in wonderful, unexpected ways. Later, I worked at a regional library cooperative, arranging continuing education programs for librarians in 3 New Jersey counties.
The California experience had sharply reminded us of our urban roots–we’d been pining for New York for far too long. An apartment in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan brought that missing piece back into our lives. We began to divide our time between New York City and the Jersey Shore. After 10 years in hectic Chelsea, we moved to the Upper West Side, still hcctic, but greener. I still keep up my reading list.
In 2001, I began to research and write a reference book on Jewish American literature for the publisher Libraries Unlimited. For years I had been the volunteer librarian at my synagogue and in the process became fascinated by the way Jewish American literature had changed during the twentieth century. The book I wrote, Jewish American Literature: A Guide to Reading Interests , was part of the Genreflecting Readers Advisory Series, a group of books that help librarians answer the question “What should I read next?” I annotated over 700 works of fiction and non-fiction and provided resources for librarians-and readers-to help them enjoy the riches of this literature: from genre fiction to literary fiction and autobiographies. The book was published in 2004 and received wonderful reviews. It also received the 2004 Judaica Reference Book Award from the Association of Jewish Libraries.
In the course of writing the book, I became fascinated by the way memoirs bring history to life. I put together a program that illustrated the story of Jews in America using memoirs and novels. In the past 15 years, I’ve given that talk many times and I continue to enjoy the wonderful audience response. My interest in memoirs also led me to speak to librarians about the relationship between memoirs and fiction, a topic that became front page news as readers and critics questioned the veracity of the memoirs they read. In September, 2009, my second book was published: Read On…Life Stories: Reading Lists for Every Taste, a book that helps readers find wonderful memoirs. Libraries Unlimited, now part of ABC-Clio, was once again the publisher.
People began to ask me what my next book would be, but I assured everyone that I was done. Famous last words! I’ve been a member of the Women’s National Book Association for many years and when their 2017 centennial was on the horizon, I was asked to edit a book that would combine a history of the organization with an overview of the history of women in the literary world in the U.S. going back to colonial times. The history portion would cover women in many of the fields related to publishing: writing, editing, printing, bookselling, and librarianship. I was happy to take on the project, never expecting that in addition to editing, I would become a major contributor to the book. Working on the book was a wonderful experience, combining research, editing, and writing, and the finished product is beyond what I had hoped. It’s called Women in the Literary Landscape: A Centennial Publication of the Women’s National Book Association.
I am still adding titles to the reading list I started long ago as a child in Brooklyn (and I’ve entered those titles into Goodreads.com). It’s nostalgic to look back and see how a curious little girl began to read classic fiction and plays; moved on to the standards of twentieth century literature; explored contemporary fiction and discovered favorite authors; and embarked on non-fiction reading projects. The pleasures of reading have never failed and it is a joy to be able to share, on this website, some of my favorites.