Skip to content

Jem Lester: Shtum

(Fiction, 320 p. 2017)​​

Drawn from the author’s own experience, Shtum’s dark humor powerfully illuminates the heartbreaking-yet-inspiring challenges of lovingly raising a nonverbal child with autism (Shtum is British-Yiddish slang for silence). Struggling to cope emotionally, financially, and as a family, ten-year-old Jonah’s parents try unconventional methods, including the legal fiction of divorce, to save their relationship and obtain access to institutional care for their physically difficult son. Things don’t work out quite as anticipated, particularly for his now-single father and primary caretaker, Ben. Grandfather Georg, whose hidden past holds a key to the family’s future, takes them in — revealing nuance in the already deep emotional attachment among the three.

Discussion questions from Reading Groups for Everyone

Publishers Weekly Review

Review by Saskia Baron, The Guardian, Mar. 16, 2016

Review by Shahirah Loqman, Book Loves Reviews, Sept. 11, 2017

Review by Eli Gottlieb, The Denver Post, Mar 26, 2017

Review by Kristyn M. Levis, Writing NSW, Dec. 4, 2017

Review by Letitia Montgomery-Rodgers, Forward Reviews, May-June 2017

Author interview with Mark Ulrich, Hillingdon Libraries, Apr. 14, 2016

Author interview with Scott Simon, Weekend Edition Saturday, NPR