Ilan Stavans brings an irrepressible intellectual curiosity and enthusiasm to all his projects. In The Seventh Heaven, he has written a fascinating account of his travels through Jewish Latin America in a quest for answers about many things, not least his own identity and place in the world. Stavans is a Mexican Jew who now lives in the United States. One part voyage of discovery, one part requiem, and one part redemption song, The Seventh Heaven is an unforgettable journey.
The necessary talent of good travel writers is the ability to find and talk with the most interesting people in each place they visit. Ilan Stavans has that talent in spades. His book introduces us to a wonderfully varied group of smart and opinionated Jews (and a few non-Jews) across Latin America. It is a pleasure to read.
Stavans’ book is an example of the Latin American essay tradition at its best. This is a hybrid genre that mixes scholarly work, personal notes and anecdotes, with commentary and insights on Jewish experiences in Latin American, as well as the mosaic of identity components of Latin Americans of Jewish origins. Beautifully written, the text plays with words and languages, creating a marvelous tapestry.
Ilan Stavans is Lewis-Sebring Professor of Humanities, Latin American, and Latino Culture at Amherst College. He is a renowned essayist, cultural critic, and translator. Stavans has authored, coauthored, or edited many works of fiction, nonfiction, graphic novels, and anthologies. He is the editor of The Norton Anthology of Latino Literature, and hosts the NPR podcast In Contrast.