New Book ‘People Love Dead Jews’ Is Meant to Make You Uneasy

"I've discovered that the uncomfortable moments are usually where the story is," says author Dara Horn.

Celebrated novelist Dara Horn’s new book of essays, People Love Dead Jews: Reports from a Haunted Present (Norton), has a provocative title—and is meant to make readers uncomfortable.

Horn, 44, says she was inspired after realizing that every time she was asked to write about subjects related to Jewish culture, it was in response to an anti-Semitic attack, showing her that “people were using dead Jews as a metaphor to teach some nice lesson about humanity, and that living Jews were being asked to erase themselves in order to make room for that convenient feel-good lesson.”

“If you find the title disturbing, you’ll be even more disturbed by what’s inside the book. As a writer, I’ve discovered that the uncomfortable moments are usually where the story is. So yes, my goal is to make you uncomfortable and then to make you think about why,” says Horn, who lives in Short Hills with her family.

Horn, a professor of Jewish literature who has taught at Harvard, is the author of five novels. Her latest book has been named a finalist for the 2021 Kirkus Prize in Nonfiction and was included on the New York Timeslist of the year’s top 100 books.

“I’ve found that even educated and thoughtful people are just completely unaware of how perverse the mania for dead Jews is, and how pervasive, and how much it erases and denigrates both living Jews and the actual content of Jewish culture,” Horn says. “It’s everywhere. Even in China. And even here in New Jersey.”

The essays reflect on subjects from the international veneration of Anne Frank to the myth that Jewish family names were changed at Ellis Island.

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