Retelling Genesis

Retelling Genesis

by Barry Louis Polisar
32 p. paperback 
illustrated by Roni Polisar
ISBN# 978-0938663973

"A clever and artistically compelling first person way of pointing to the lessons of the Torah."
– Rabbi David Wolpe, Sinai Temple, Los Angeles

So much of the beauty of the Torah lies in its ellipses--the rich detail left unexplored, the unexpected plot twist left unfollowed. Barry Louis Polisar's lovely prose poems give voice to the Bible's lesser characters, and add a compelling vision to the long Jewish tradition of filling in the gaps in our stories with new stories, and new interpretations."

– Joshua Foer, Author and Journalist

"These stories remind us of how timeless the Genesis story is. Despite our knowledge and familiarity with the Bible, we often miss the charm of the story, the sweep of history and the timelessness of the "word made flesh." These stories invite us all to see a new depth in the accounts of these families, as well as our own family experience. We can "read, mark, learn and inwardly digest" these stories in a way that invites us to go back and read the Bible again with new eyes and a new awareness."
– The Rev. Anne Weatherholt, St. Mark's Episcopal Church

"Barry Louis Polisar is a storyteller. Since his song opened the film "Juno," his name recognition and his popularity have skyrocketed and his music has been featured in movies and commercials around the world. When word came that he had written a book about Genesis, I was thrilled. Mr. Polisar has approached the task with unexpected reverence but also with his usual creativity and verve."
– The New Jersey Jewish Standard

"A thoughtfully sensitive, poetically touching, and creatively engaging rendition of thirteen famous stories in the Biblical Book of Genesis. The colorful and striking illustrations immeasurably add to the carefully crafted words. Polisar's wise choice to have the characters address us in the first person, allows for the reader's immediate, intimate, and intertwined encounter in a fresh way."
– The Jewish News of SE Virginia

"The new book by Barry Louis Polisar gives a timely and fresh perspective on thirteen stories in the Torah's first book."
– The Florida Heritage Jewish News

"Readers who know the original biblical text will pick up on the poetic references. Each story gives a voice to many secondary characters whose perspectives are overlooked in the original Bible stories."
– New Mexico Jewish Link

"After penning "Telling the Story: A Passover Haggadah Explained" - an alternative look at the Passover story - Polisar wrote "Retelling Genesis" which retells stories from the Book of Genesis through the secondary characters' points of view."
– The Baltimore Jewish Times

"It takes a keen ear to hear everyone's story. What Barry Louis Polisar has heard from children and set to music he now hears from Torah and sets to print. As I read these, I kept saying to myself, "Of course! Why didn't I see that before?" 
– Rabbi Jack Moline, Agudas Achim Congregation

"Shrewd, funny, and often moving: a great achievement. These are serious yet playful midrashim."
– David R. Slavitt, Poet, Author, and Translator

"Often comic, each delightful yet provocative dramatic monologue dives bravely beneath the surface of famous and lesser-known stories from Genesis, its impact heightened by beautiful and evocative dream-tinged illustrations."
– Len Berkman, Professor of Theatre, Smith College

"Barry Louis Polisar's latest book uses humor and irony to retell Biblical stories in a refreshing way. His recasting of the narratives causes us to look at familiar stories in a new light. Reading these first-person stories, one comes away with a personal attachment and a more profound understanding of the text. It certainly got me thinking about stories I have read many times in a whole new perspective. An extremely readable and wonderful contribution to our understanding of characters we thought we knew."
– Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt, Congregation B'nai Tzedek

"Humorous and poignant, heartbreaking and hopeful, this book is a tour de force birthed by a rich religious imagination. Each of the characters that Polisar gives voice to, eagerly speaks his or her mind, and all sound grateful to have at long last been given the opportunity to speak. I can imagine this book being used by many educators to spark conversations among students."
– Rabbi Mark Novak, Minyan Oneg Shabbat

"A great resource for teaching Torah."
– Rabbi Adam Schaffer, Religious School Director, Temple Aliyah, Woodland Hills, CA

"I ordered this book out of curiosity and because my family has long loved Barry's songs. I had no idea what to expect, and was instantly charmed. The author offers an entirely different way of reading key stories from Genesis, by imagining them from the perspective of an affected participant. This will inspire you to think about the deeper underlying values and dilemmas - but because the stories are so short, so human, so well told, you don't feel that they are didactic. The illustrations, by Roni Polisar, are a charming addition and work superbly with the text."
– Amazon Five-Star Review

Thirteen stories from the book of Genesis are retold from the secondary character's point of view: Eve, Noah's wife, Laban, Esau, and other characters who don't normally get their story told are given a voice in this series of interweaving monologues which unfold to reveal a story of irony and faith. Though each story connects to the next, they can be performed individually or read as a series of dramatic soliloquies or prose poems. 

The jacket copy offers a good description of the book: "Murder, deceit and treachery are themes Polisar wrestles with in this skillful retelling of thirteen stories from the Book of Genesis. Unlike a typical Midrash, which creates a new story to fill in gaps in the original narrative, Polisar's poetic retelling refers only to events that appear in the biblical text. However, he gives a voice to many of the secondary characters whose perspective is often overlooked in the original stories. In the classic Talmudic tradition of searching for truth by weighing all sides, Polisar allows these interweaving stories to unfold, revealing a truly spiritual tale."

Rabbi Mark Novak describes the book this way: "Humorous and poignant, heartbreaking and hopeful, "Retelling Genesis" is, in the end, the story of an eternal family, from whom we re-learn that what goes around, comes around. This book is a tour de force birthed by a rich religious imagination. Each of the characters that Polisar gives voice to, eagerly speaks his or her mind, and all sound grateful, after 4,000 years of waiting, to have at long last been given the opportunity to speak their truth. Each monologue is lovingly crafted as if the author had asked us if we had any questions we've wanted to ask, and then proceeds to interview each person on our behalf. I can imagine this book being used by many educators to spark conversations among students."

Please note: This book is not a children's title and is not included in Barry's public school visits, but would be appropriate for middle schoolers, high schoolers, and those engaged in biblical and torah study.