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Norman Ravvin


Department: Religion

Faculty: Arts and Science

Norman Ravvin
Phone: (514) 848-2424 ext. 2068
Website(s): Norman Ravvin


Canadian Jewish Experience and History, Jewish Writing, Canadian Jewish Literature and History, Holocaust Studies, judaism yiddish

Language(s) spoken:


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Norman Ravvin is a critic, fiction writer, and journalist. In 2023 he published Who Gets In: An Immigration Story (University of Regina Press) , which blends memoir, history and archival work to tell the story of his grandfather's efforts to bring his family after him from Poland in the early 1930s.  Who Gets In presents prairie life, investigates Canadian Jewish identity in this period, and brings a fresh view of the immigration regime employed at the time by the federal government under R.B. Bennett. 

Ravvin's essays on Canadian and American Jewish literature are collected in A House of Words: Jewish Writing, Identity, and Memory (McGill-Queen's). The essays included in this volume focus on such writers as Eli Mandel, Leonard Cohen, Saul Bellow, Philip Roth, Mordecai Richler, and Chava Rosenfarb. A House of Words also considers the role of multiculturalism, postcolonialism, and the Holocaust in the reception of Canadian writing. He is co-editor of The Canadian Jewish Studies Reader (2004), which includes two essays by him, focusing on Eli Mandel and Matt Cohen.

His recent fiction publication is the chapbook The Busker and Willie P. (Espresso Chapbooks, Toronto). His novel of Poland and Vancouver, The Girl Who Stole Everything, appeared in2019 (Linda Leith Publishing)Previous fiction includes The Joyful Child (2011, Gaspereau),  Lola by Night, which appeared in Serbian translation, and the story collection Sex, Skyscrapers, and Standard Yiddish.  A story from it is in the The New Spice Box: Contemporary Jewish Writing (2020).  

Other books include Hidden Canada: An Intimate Travelogue (2001) and the novel, Cafe des Westens, which appeared in 1991 and won the Alberta Culture and Multiculturalism New Fiction Prize. He is the editor of Not Quite Mainstream: Canadian Jewish Short Stories (2001) and Great Stories of the Sea (1999).  His published essays focus on Irving Layton, Leonard Cohen, Philip Roth, Bruno Schulz and A.M. Klein.  The latter work is in his co-edited volume Failure's Opposite: Listening to A.M. Klein (McGill-Queen's UP, 2011).  He contributed an introduction to George Walker's wordless biography of Leonard Cohen, which appeared in trade paperback and artist's special editions.  Earlier work includes an essay on "memory tourism" in Poland in Canadian Literature, a chapter on Jewish identity in a collection called Religion and Ethnicity in Canada, and an introduction to the reissue of Gwethalyn Graham's Earth and High Heaven from Cormorant Books. 

As general editor of a series in association with Red Deer Press at the University of Calgary and the Institute for Canadian Jewish Studies, he oversaw the publication of books dedicated to Canadian Jewish writing and history. Among the publications from the Institute is Mordecai & Me: An Appreciation of a Kind, by Joel Yanofsky. The Institute brought out, in collaboration with Red Deer Press, Henry Kreisel's 1948 novel, The Rich Man.  While chair of Concordia's Institute for Canadian Jewish Studies Ravvin oversaw two chapbook series focused on Canadian Jewish literature and history. The titles in these series include a long short story by Toronto writer Cary Fagan, and a translation of a document dealing with early Montreal Jewish history, by Ira Robinson.

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