Publication date: October 24, 2023
Sarra Copia: A Locked-in Life is historical fiction based on the life of the title character, who was confined in the Jewish ghetto in Venice from her birth in 1592 until her death forty-nine years later. Sarra’s father supported her secular as well as her Hebrew education, and she studied classical Greek, Latin, and philosophy, and wrote poetry and letters. Sarra even convened a literary salon in the ghetto that was attended regularly by Christian clerics—including one who came to accuse her of heresy. In crystalline prose, Nancy Ludmerer reimagines Sarra’s relationships with her family, her inner world, and her strong but often troubled connections with the Christian world outside the ghetto.
“Sarra Copia: A Locked-in Life is a wholly original, glorious novella about containment and transformation, about Copia, a Jewish woman, poet, and intellect in Renaissance-era Venice. Nancy Ludmerer embraces Sarra’s world, set within the Jewish ghetto of Venice, and beyond, with diamond-clear prose. This novella is about the power of language, of water, loss, of salons and fathers and sisters and one woman’s fierce, probing mind. Nancy Ludmerer writes with the authority and beauty of Edith Pearlman and Louise Erdrich; this is a magnificent book.”
—Karen Bender, author of Refund, National Book Award finalist
“Reading Nancy Ludmerer’s Sarra Copia: A Locked-in Life we are magically transported to 17th century Venice. Poet and intellectual Sarra Copia grows up in the Ghetto Nuovo, where her father cultivates in her a questioning, artistic mind: ‘The life of the mind. They can take other things from us, but they cannot take that.’ Ludmerer’s exquisite storytelling makes Sarra Copia a captivating read. Only afterward do we marvel at how she sculpts a moment of depth and historical significance, searing her character’s life into our understandings of the past.”
—Carol Dines, author of This Distance We Call Love
“With Sarra Copia: A Locked-in Life Nancy Ludmerer takes us on the journey of this remarkable Jewish woman, physically locked in the Venice ghetto from sunset to sunrise, but despite the discrimination in 17th century Venice, intellectually free. As Sarra moves from childhood to maturity, to marriage, motherhood, and eventually leadership in Venice’s salon culture, we experience with her the daily life of Jews relegated to the confines of the ghetto and her courageous intellectual and emotional quest to escape.”
—Rabbi Barbara Aiello, Italy’s first woman rabbi and author of The Cat That Ate the Cannoli: Tales of the Hidden Jews of Southern Italy
About the author
Nancy Ludmerer’s stories appear in Kenyon Review, Electric Literature, New Orleans Review, the Saturday Evening Post, Litro, and many other journals. They have been translated into Spanish, read aloud on public radio, and have won prizes from Masters Review, Carve, Pulp Literature, Streetlight, and Gemini. Most recently, her short story “The Loneliness Cure” won Orison Books’ Best Spiritual Literature Prize for fiction and appears in Best Spiritual Literature, Vol. 7, 2022. Her short memoir “Kritios Boy” (Literal Latte) was cited in Best American Essays 2014 and other nonfiction appears in Vogue, The American Lawyer, and Green Mountains Review. Ludmerer’s debut collection, Collateral Damage: 48 Stories, was the 2022 winner of Snake Nation Press’s annual fiction prize.