The Violin Players

"A Jewish Girl's High School Introduction to Antisemitism"

Fiction - Audiobook
Audio Book
Reviewed on 07/27/2020
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

When I was growing up, there were country clubs and residential communities dubbed “exclusive”..... code for No Jews or Blacks Allowed.

At college, another dorm student crudely remarked, “ Look, there go the Jew and the Chocolate,” pointing at my African American theater classmate and me. I heard giggles in the background.

When my husband and I moved to the Midwest, I inquired about renting in a charming area. Our recruiter advised against it. “You wouldn’t be welcomed there,” is all she said.

None of these incidents were brutal experiences. They simply kept me on guard.

When my daughter was a high school student, I hoped her experience would be different. Sadly, among high school kids, antisemitic slurs and racial jokes still provided a good laugh for many. That’s when I decided to write THE VIOLIN PLAYERS.

This would become my third YA novel. The first two were historical fiction. This novel would be different- a teen romance that examined bigotry in high school. It appeared in bookstores in 1998. Invitations to speak at schools and organizations followed. I even penned a stage adaption, but I never considered recording an

With the rise of antisemitic acts worldwide, my daughter (now a mother), suggested I “dust off” the pages of THE VIOLIN PLAYERS and tell Melissa Jensen’s story to a new generation.

I have no illusions. My romance audiobook will not eradicate bigotry, but just, maybe, it will serve as a reminder to speak out against it.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Foluso Falaye for Readers' Favorite

Moving from New York to the Midwest with her parents for seven months is the last thing 15-year-old Melissa Jensen wants. She's going to miss her school and the Midwest sounds somewhat unexciting. To her surprise, she comes to like it and finds it hard to resist the charm of the beautiful house they stay in, her new school with the famous drama teacher and fantastic orchestra, and the amazing Daniel Goodman, who is Jewish and super attractive. What she's not expecting is the presence of antisemitism in the school. Being Jewish herself and seeing her Jewish crush get bullied for being one, Melissa must act and make the right decision. Eileen Bluestone Sherman shines a light on discrimination in The Violin Players with an enthralling narrative.

Being aware of the effects of one's actions from the receiving end's perspective is a strong catalyst for positive change, and Eileen Bluestone Sherman delivers this experience with a spunky and heartwarming high school storyline. I felt the excitement from the very first page, and it kept me glued until the end. The cheerfulness of the main protagonist is depicted in her electric conversations with the other characters and in her love for things like poker, acting, violin, and baseball. The Violin Players progresses with a jovial tone and a little tension, which climaxes dramatically towards the end. I loved the characters in general, and it's easy to connect with them.

I was impressed when I found out that The Violin Players is narrated by the author. Not only does she write a great story, but she also does a splendid job of narrating it. I feel it's an excellent idea because it brings a closer experience to what the writer had in mind when creating the characters. Eileen Bluestone Sherman narrates so well that I knew every character by the way she changes her voice and expressions to portray them. The Violin Players is narrated so vibrantly and animatedly that the moods of the storyline and the narration harmonize perfectly. The good sound quality and the soft music that plays at the beginning also make the listening enjoyable. I had a fantastic time!

K.C. Finn

The Violin Players is a work of fiction in the young adult, coming of age and interpersonal drama sub-genres, and is presented in audiobook format, written and narrated by author Eileen Bluestone Sherman. Dealing with prejudice and important cultural issues, our central protagonist Melissa Jensen is off to a bad start when she is ripped away from her New York high school to study in the Midwest whilst her father works away. But just as Melissa begins to enjoy her new placement, her new crush Daniel experiences intense bullying and antisemitism, causing Melissa to question everything about her identity and how much prejudice there is in the wider world.

Author Eileen Bluestone Sherman delivers a compelling narrative that covers some extremely important social issues, but she does it without browbeating her readers and makes them feel included and empathetic in Melissa’s story. The narrative structure gives us a close insight into her thoughts and feelings, and the beats of the plot and social interactions are all very realistically portrayed to keep us grounded in the realism and issues of the piece.

In terms of audiobook production, the work is clearly edited and crisp to listen to. The author does an excellent job of narrating her own work, with a highly enthusiastic and emotive rendition that pays homage to the youth, optimism, and learning curve of her teenaged protagonist. Overall, I would certainly recommend The Violin Players to readers of intelligent and socially aware young adult fiction which raises important concerns but also tells an excellent and emotive story.

Patricia Reding

Melissa Jensen is not happy about leaving her New York home to head for the Midwest where her parents have taken new jobs in Henryville, a small college town, in the audiobook, The Violin Players, written and read by Eileen Bluestone Sherman. It’s hard for Melissa to leave behind her friends, and especially her Orthodox Jewish grandparents, even though Melissa doesn’t really identify as Jewish herself. Even so, from the outset, Melissa is pleasantly surprised when she finds in Henryville, Chris, the captain of the football team; a drama teacher who was a former Broadway actor; a particularly talented school orchestra; and Daniel, a fellow (gifted) violinist. When Daniel, Jewish himself, and his friend, Rob Kingston, discover nasty anti-Semitic graffiti in Rob’s locker one day, Melissa believes the incident to be the work of some popular students she has heard say anti-Semitic things. Still, at Daniel’s request, she agrees to remain silent about the incident. Soon, as Melissa works with Daniel to prepare for the school play, Romeo and Juliet, she finds herself becoming more attracted to Daniel. But while she keeps her own Jewishness a secret, even from him, Melissa witnesses a conversation between Daniel and one of the anti-Semitic students after a school event that turns violent, and Daniel is injured.

When a teacher shares with Melissa the famous quote by Martin Niemöller about speaking up for what is right, Melissa learns the importance of finding her voice. She also comes to appreciate the value of learning about her own family and ancestry because, as she discovers, that history includes lessons about recognizing and confronting bigotry. The issue of anti-Semitism is one worthy of sharing and teaching to young people at any time. The related issue of learning how to speak up in the face of any type of oppression or bigotry seems particularly pertinent today, given the efforts by many who seek to silence others merely because they think differently. Reading or listening to The Violin Players is a great way to introduce the issues to the young and to encourage conversation with them about the issues. I was particularly impressed with how Eileen Bluestone Sherman, author and reader of The Violin Players, gave voice to the wide variety of characters. She truly brought the story to life! From the little old grandmother with a bit of a New York twist to Melissa’s sassy high school girlfriends to her serious father, the author/reader gave each character a unique and consistent voice, bringing the whole to life.