Joheved by Maggie Anton
The first in the Rashis’s Daughters trilogy, Joheved is a perfect blend of inspiration, religion and historical fiction. Rashi was a real person who wrote some of the most well-known and studied Torah commentaries in existence. While the name Rashi is widely recognized, little, if anything, is known about his daughters. It was, and for some still is, traditional for fathers to ensure that their sons were taught the Torah and Talmud (commentaries and interpretations of the Torah.) Women were exempt from such learning. While it wasn't expressly forbidden for women to study the Talmud, it was frowned upon and not generally encouraged. One of the issues the book brings up is how the customs of a community can have the feel of a law.
Joheved is Rashi's oldest child. She and her sister Miriam feel drawn to studying the Talmud. Their father's love of teaching overwhelms any misgivings he has about females studying what traditionally only males studied. Joheved herself worries about possible grave consequences resulting from her "male" behavior. At the same time she feels that studying Talmud is a holy deed whether done by a man or a woman.
It is fascinating to watch someone overcome a cultural/religious taboo in order to do what feels so deeply right, something that honors, not disgraces, her religion.