Winner, National Indie Excellence Award 2021 Best Regional Fiction – Southwest
Finalist, National Indie Excellence Award 2021 Literary Fiction
Finalist, National Indie Excellence Award 2021 Best Fiction Cover Design
Winner, Independent Press Award 2021 Literary Fiction
Jacobo's Rainbow is an historical literary novel set primarily in the nineteen sixties during the convulsive period of the student protest movements and the Vietnam War. It focuses on the issue of being an outsider the ‘other’ an altogether common circumstance that resonates with readers in today’s America. Written from a Jewish perspective, it speaks to universal truths that affect us all.
On the occasion of the 15th anniversary of a transformative event in Jacobo’s life the day he is sent to jail he writes about what happened behind the scenes of the Free Speech Movement which provides the backdrop for a riveting story centered on his emergence into a world he never could have imagined. His recording of those earlier events is the proximate cause of his being arrested. Jacobo is allowed to leave jail under the condition of being drafted, engages in gruesome fighting in Vietnam, and returns to continue his work of chronicling America in the throes of significant societal changes.
Jacobo’s Rainbow is a story of triumph over adversity (hypocrisy, loss, lies, murder, concealment, prejudice) that is told with vivid descriptions, perceptive insights, humor and sensitivity, which enables the reader to identify with the characters who come to life in a realistic fashion to illustrate who we are, how we behave, and what causes us to change.
It can be read on three levels: (1) The story of what it was like to have lived through and been a participant in the Free Speech Movement and the Vietnam War (‘The Sixties’); (2) A metaphor for what is going on college campuses today, in terms of the shutting down of speech and the rise of anti-Semitism; and (3) What life is like for the ‘outsider.’
"JACOBO’S RAINBOW, DAVID HIRSHBERG’s second novel (it follows MY MOTHER’S SON) is, without a doubt, one of the best literary novels pertaining to the American Jewish experience that’s come along in quite a while.This book is creative, clever, and highly imaginative. It’s got everything you want in a good read: beautiful language (including an extraordinary poem on pages 206-207 in the print version), fascinating characters, and a riveting narrative that makes you not want to put it down. It’s like one of those Russian nesting dolls where you keep opening it up to find another one inside until the secrets are revealed and there’s no more mystery to be solved.
This book takes you back to the 1960s — the decade political assassinations, the free speech movement, the freedom summer, and the Vietnam War. You find yourself dropped into this period with a parachute that lets you observe as if you were gently floating down without touching the ground. And there’s a lot to see: how the free speech movement defines what kind of speech is free; how anti-Semitism creeps into the landscape like a weed that can’t be expunged; how class, race, and religion are at the heart of people’s actions; how the original Americans are treated (non-spoiler alert: not well!); and how war can define alternative views on patriotism.
Hirshberg is skilled at showing us how people aren’t necessarily what they appear to be at first glance. And he is like a magician who has you going for the feint, such that when one of the several reveals are made you don’t say, “Hey, I knew that was coming!”
Each of the characters’ speech and actions are true to what real-life people would say and do. That’s no mean feat, considering that there are Ashkenazic, Sephardic, and Mizrahi Jews, as well as an important native American character, student protest leaders, and a chief of police who’s having trouble with the new fault lines in American society. There is no exaggeration, caricature, or hyperbole. All characters — flaws and all — and scenes are true-to-life. What’s especially haunting is a chapter that takes place in Vietnam. You’ll get a feel for what it was really like, not some Rambo-type fantasy. And it wasn’t pretty, other than being pretty awful. One of your takeaways is likely to be that we haven’t learned our lessons.
In addition to the jungles of Vietnam, the book’s settings include a remote isolated village west of the Rio Grande (it got me thinking about Brigadoon) and a fictitious university in New Mexico. The land (and the water) are prominent features, and they are reflected in the magnificent cover.
As you get near the end, you realize that while Hirshberg is writing about the 1960s, in truth, he’s writing about today. He makes you think hard about what’s happening on college campuses nowadays in terms of how free speech is now defined and how anti-Semitism has come roaring back. And in writing about Vietnam, you get a feel as well for US involvement in 21st century foreign wars.
Although the themes are serious, the book is exciting, and you feel as if you know and can identify with the lead characters. It’s provocative and fun at the same time. What could be better than that?" — Howard Jay Smith, author of Meeting Mozart, and Beethoven in Love, Opus 139.
Setting aside the Great Depression of the 1930s, there are two unforgettable decades that stand out in American consciousness over the past one hundred years: the Roaring twenties and the sixties—and if you’re left wondering what all the hubbub is about, you can’t do better than to check out some of the great books based on those periods: The Great Gatsby, say, or The Sun Also Rises; and for the sixties, Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Helter-Skelter, and Slaughterhouse Five would be a nice start.
In Jacobo’s Rainbow, David Hirshberg is making a bid to join the short list of very special novels about the tumultuous sixties—a time of reckoning as the US finally began to confront systemic racism, poverty, its aggressive use of military force, and other societal ills. Today’s headlines betray a country still engaged in that reckoning fifty-plus years later.— Matt Sutherland, Editor-in-Chief, Foreword Reviews
A deftly crafted and inherently fascinating read from first page to last, "Jacobo's Rainbow" by David Hirshberg is an impressively scripted historical and literary novel that is set primarily in the nineteen sixties during the convulsive period of the student protest movements and the Vietnam War. Specially and unreservedly recommended for community, college and university library Historical Fiction and Literary Fiction collections. James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief, Midwest Book Review
In Jacobo’s Rainbow, Hirshberg presents a how-to guide for political unrest, artfully painting a picture of how causes take root and find their leaders, and depicting the public and private personas of false prophets as well as the mentality of hangers-on and mobs. Antisemitism is a major theme in the novel, which Jacobo becomes aware of from his Jewish friends’ stories, which illustrate the precariousness of Jews’ lives around the world. Hirshberg explores many other themes, from the treatment of soldiers returning from Vietnam to the issues facing Native Americans. With a fast-moving plot, well-drawn characters, and an inspiring message, Hirshberg has given readers an engaging, thoughtful, and original story.—Renita Last, Jewish Book Council
“…the book is riveting, and about half way through the story is a credo — a statement of faith recited every Saturday night chronicling the journey of this community and, in a sense, of the Jewish people as a whole — which I found extremely moving. Mr. Hirshberg … is an extremely imaginative and talented writer. His first novel, My Mother’s Son, which I reviewed in 2018 on these pages, was equally well written and satisfying.”— Aaron Leibel, Washington Jewish Week
Having published two literary novels, David Hirshberg is 2/3 of the way to a trifecta. My Mother’s Son, his fine debut, took place in the nineteen fifties. He’s followed with the raucous, thoughtful Jacobo’s Rainbow, a magic carpet ride to the sixties, when campus activism about free speech, voting rights, and Vietnam made headlines.
Through Hirshberg’s writing we travel behind the marches and protest signs for glimpses of how leaders can push followers over the edge, how flames of misogyny and anti-Semitism burn within a supposedly egalitarian movement, how free speech is defined by those who set the agenda, and how movements marginalize outsiders.
Hirshberg may be writing about an earlier time, but he’s describing our world today, where life is more complex than headlines and sound bites. He warns us to be careful about what we read and encourages us to shift our thinking as time provides perspective.
Hirshberg cleverly reveals secrets and builds excitement throughout the novel. A chapter that takes place in Vietnam is particularly impactful both for the story it tells and its long-lasting impact on characters and readers alike.
This reader is already looking forward to the author’s next effort!— Jeff Wallach, author of Mr. Wizard
“If you remember the turbulent 1960s or if you are simply curious about its implications, issues, and characters, Jacobo’s Rainbow by David Hirshberg is a novel that you will want to read and ponder. There are multiple layers to the saga of Jacobo Toledano, who is an outsider in every way imaginable. From his involvement in The Free Speech Movement at his university, through his work as a medic in Vietnam, there is an undercurrent of Anti-Semitism throughout the book. Hirshberg takes us into Jacobo’s heart and head as he grapples with big questions of truth and lies and freedom and democracy. At every step of the way, Jacobo struggles with his own role in how to make the world better and how to bring about change. Hirshberg’s inventive fiction is set against the angst and turmoil of that tempestuous decade and yet its themes of the limits of free speech, the role and scope of government, and Anti-Semitism and other forms of prejudice, are as current as today’s news.” — M.F.A., Amazon
David Hirshberg has moved from Boston in the ‘50’s and resettled, a decade later, in New Mexico. And, again, has created a tale, unconstrained by time or geography, with insight and compassion. In Jacobo’s Rainbow the commentary is both personal and societal as we follow Jacobo Toledano through the turmoil of the 60’s at home and abroad. War, intolerance, religious discrimination and ethnic biases are juxtaposed with personal honor, social activism, empathy and pride in one’s heritage. As in My Mother’s Son, in which Hirshberg’s attention to detail made that story seem autobiographical, this same facility seemed to insert him directly into the narrative, not only as a perceptive and sensitive onlooker, astutely recognizing and conveying the humanity of his characters, but also as a participant endowing those characters with values we celebrate. The fluidity of the transitions from events current to that time, to the history of a people from time immemorial, creates seamless layers of plot and character development which culminate as the final chapter closes. Once more, we are left with a lasting image, implied in the book’s title, but not revealed until the story ends. From red to indigo Jacobo's Rainbow is a joy to read.— A.E., Amazon
Reading Jacobo’s Rainbow, I was amazed and delighted as I had been by Hirshberg’s first novel, My Mother’s Son, by his ability to create a completely believable imaginary universe. Most of the novel takes place in the 1960s at the University of Taos, which we all know never existed. We quickly forget that, overwhelmed as we are by the accumulation of realistic, plausible details. (I was often tempted to Google the University of Taos just to be sure that it was purely a product of Hirshberg’s imagination.) And, as with My Mother’s Son, I found myself reluctant to put the novel down, both because of its delightful pace and readability, and because he continually drops clues that will eventually help us understand the novel’s mysteries.
I highly recommend Jacobo’s Rainbow, a totally enjoyable, moving, and masterful work of literary fiction.—Paul J. Schwartz, author of The Rosendale Suite
Jacobo’s Rainbow is a fictional memoir that reads true to life with its elegant prose and historical detail! Like a masterpiece on dispthis story is rich with layers waiting for the reader to pull them back to reveal hidden truths…Jacobo’s Rainbow resonates with authenticity that captivates readers from page one!—Tricia Hill, IND’Tale Magazi
- National Indie Excellence Award 2021 Literary Fiction
- National Indie Excellence Award 2021 Best Fiction Cover Design
- National Indie Excellence Award 2021 Best Regional Fiction – Southwest
- Independent Press Award for Literary Fiction