New Books: March Releases

Five new books unearth the real stories behind a Biblical harlot’s bad rep, the power of resilience, and the lies we all tell.

The Real Sins of Jezebel

Despite her millenniums-old bad rep, Jezebel did not sleep around, cuckolding King Ahab. In Jezebel: The Untold Story of the Bible’s Harlot Queen (Doubleday), former psychologist and journalist Lesley Hazleton carefully makes the distinction between slut and sexually powerful female, and reminds us that Jezebel’s biblical face-off with the zealous prophet Elijah (see: The Book of Kings) was not about marital infidelity: It was a fierce clash between tolerance and religious fundamentalism. Sound familiar? Jezebel’s only unfaithfulness, Hazleton asserts, was to Yahweh, the God of the monotheistic Israelites; she worshiped the deities of her native Phoenicia — Baal, Mot, Adonis, and others. Hazleton’s parsing of biblical translations, her visits to the religious landmarks, and her historical and archaeological analyses are rich and informative. Jezebel (who may have been among Shakespeare’s inspirations for Lady Macbeth) dies a grisly death by defenestration at the hands of her enemies, but this truer version of her life may mark the beginning of renewed interest in her. — Thelma Adams

Still Lying After All These Years

Susan Shapiro Barash interviewed 500 women, 66 percent of them over 40, for Little White Lies, Deep Dark Secrets: The Truth About Why Women Lie (St. Martin’s). Barash, who is also the author of Tripping the Prom Queen: The Truth about Women and Rivalry, says that as we reach midlife "Our lies become more deliberate, we feel less guilty about them, and we keep secrets to protect ourselves."

We lie about how successful our adult children are, for an obvious reason: We wish they were more established. We tell our boyfriends we want to get married because we want to keep them on the hook, but we’d really rather maintain separate homes. And we lie, most of all, about money. We tell our friends that we can afford anything, we tell the men we’re dating that we make next to nothing, and we tell our children that we haven’t the foggiest idea whether or not they’ll inherit anything. Why? We make, save, and invest more than any previous generation of women and our lies are a way of protecting ourselves until we get our bearings in this brave new world. At least we’re not lying about our age anymore.— Rebecca Adler

Searching for Solace

Three authors have used the complex nature of suicide as a backdrop for their beautifully written new books:

Novelist and poet Terese Svoboda set out to write "a tidy coming-of-age account of a young soldier in postwar Japan" about her charming, Superman-like uncle. For Black Glasses Like Clark Kent (Graywolf Press), she spent months recording his riveting tales of his 18-month stint in occupied Japan after World War II. Part confidante, part archivist, she soon learned that he’d suppressed a terrible secret for decades: In overcrowded army prisons, the military policemen assigned to guard convicted American soldiers executed many of them. Almost all of the victims were African-American. In 2004, the reports of atrocities at Abu Ghraib reawakened her uncle’s traumatic memories, and Svoboda’s contact with him became more difficult. Suffering from severe depression, he checked himself into a psychiatric ward. Days after his release, he killed himself. "Suicide confers a kind of immortality on the victim," she writes, "a photo forever fixed, Superman with his cape unfurled behind him, his fists clenched." After her loss, Svoboda took on the role of detective. She interviewed dozens of World War II veterans and traveled to Japan to uncover a story that is fascinating and disturbing.

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