Thursday, January 26, 2006

R's Bragging Rights

Normally I don't like to toot my own horn, but sometimes genius has to be acknowledged. So today I point out my great foresight in choosing ex-Ithacan Renée Kaplan as my writing partner. Why today, you ask? Well, because yesterday there was official outside confirmation of her prowess as a scribbler.

In this week Publisher's Weekly magazine, there's a review of the anthology, Half/Life: Jew-ish Tales from Interfaith Homes, to which Renée contributed an essay. Forthwith that review, and please take special note of whose quote they singled out to reprint from this multi-authored 280 page tome.

Half/Life: Jew-ish Tales from Interfaith HomesEdited by Laurel Snyder. Soft Skull Press, $15.95 paper (280p)
This anthology of 18 essays takes for granted that Jews will intermarry, and that the children of intermarriages will be "halfs," or half-Jews. Being a half, says Snyder, is not second best; it is not a pale imitation of being really Jewish. Rather, "half" is an interesting, incorrigible, perplexing and profound moniker in its own right, a label that somehow captures the existential angst that all people experience. Read cover to cover, the anthology begins to feel suffocating in its predictability—smart folks reflecting smartly about their struggles with identity. But many of the individual essays are engaging, funny and provocative. Dena Katzen Seidel describes, in a strikingly detached tone, the emotional abuses doled out by her flaky mother, a Christian Scientist. Novelist Thisbe Nissen explains that every New Yorker is a little bit Jewish, while Renée Kaplan observes that the only deal her mismatched parents ever made and kept was the agreement to raise the kids Jewish. "My half-Jewishness is a memento of that short-lived moment of concord between the two," she muses with a touch of melancholy. Half-Jews will see themselves and their families in this book, and they will laugh, and maybe even cry, while reading. (Apr.)
Nice, huh? Like I said, genius. And you will be considered very savvy yourself if you purchase a copy of this book for your bookshelf when it comes out in April!


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