‘Is Superman Circumcised?’ ranked oddest book title of 2021

'Is Superman Circumcised?' is an in-depth examination of the Jewish roots of the character over the course of his nearly century-long lifespan.

 1978 Superman/DC Sticker Cards (photo credit: MARK ANDERSON/FLICKR)
1978 Superman/DC Sticker Cards
(photo credit: MARK ANDERSON/FLICKR)

Humorously titled book Is Superman Circumcised? The Complete Jewish History of the World’s Greatest Hero by Roy Schwartz has won an equally humorous international literary award, winning the Diagram Prize for the Oddest Book Title of the Year 2021.

Originally formed in 1978, the award is given out every year by the British publishing industry trade magazine The Bookseller, and is chosen by a public vote.

In 2021, Is Superman Circumcised? beat out five other titles that had been shortlisted in the beginning of November. These pieces of higher education writing – indeed, despite their names, all of them come from academic sources or university presses – consisted of The Life Cycle of Russian Things: From Fish Guts to Fabergé, Hats: A Very Unnatural History, Curves for the Mathematically Curious, Handbook of Research on Health and Environmental Benefits of Camel Products and Miss, I Don’t Give a Shit: Engaging with Challenging Behaviour in Schools.

But despite its funny name, Is Superman Circumcised? Is far from just a simple, humorous book. Rather, it is an in-depth examination of the Jewish roots of the character over the course of his nearly century-long lifespan.

Superman, in general, is considered by most to be the first-ever true superhero published in fiction. There is undoubtedly a powerful Jewish influence on the character, as well as in the comic book industry as a whole.

A Superman figure from the original set of the ''Seinfeld'' television comedy series is seen on display at Hulu's ''Seinfeld: The Apartment'', a temporary exhibit on West 14th street in the Manhattan borough of New York City, June 24, 2015. (credit: MIKE SEGAR / REUTERS)A Superman figure from the original set of the ''Seinfeld'' television comedy series is seen on display at Hulu's ''Seinfeld: The Apartment'', a temporary exhibit on West 14th street in the Manhattan borough of New York City, June 24, 2015. (credit: MIKE SEGAR / REUTERS)

And the conclusion author Schwartz comes to over the Jewishness of the Last Son of Krypton is a resounding “yes.”

“That’s right. Superman, the Man of Steel, the symbol of Americana, is Jewish,” Schwartz declares in the very beginning of his book and proceeds to look into the various aspects that lead to this conclusion, taking the reader on a dive through of Jewish theology, culture and history.

It should be noted that the character was, indeed, written by two Jewish authors in the 1930s, and a lot of his character reflects the struggles of an immigrant, though the book presents a far more extensive and in-depth look at these aspects.

The book is clearly a passion project for the author. Israel-born, Schwartz learned English through comic books and cartoons. He has worked extensively as a writer for multiple publications, companies, law firms and production studios, and also directs marketing and business development for a regional law firm.

But years later, even now living in New York, Schwartz’s true love and appreciation of comic books and the iconic characters birthed by those pages is evident to see in his latest work, as is his great appreciation of Jewish culture.

“The competition was stiff, but I’m glad I was able to rise to the challenge,” Schwartz joked about his victory. “I’m sincerely honored to receive this august literary prize. It’s a great reminder that even serious literature is allowed to be fun.”

Though Schwartz won the prize, he will not receive any other reward, save for the one physical reward that accompanies it: A passable bottle of claret.