A Wide Variety of Jewish Fiction Not Set in 1940′s Europe
It’s more than okay because I totally feel this. And it can be hard to find ourselves in contemporary lit because if the story isn’t about Jewishness or a character isn’t terribly observant, the book’s blurb and keywords often give us no hints. Meanwhile, gentile authors love to plop us down in the middle of our most famous mass tragedy, when there’s so much more to us.
So I am really glad that I can help. All of the following links go directly to my reviews, which are pretty detailed and should give you an idea if the book sounds like something you’d like.
Starting with YA, I recommend Playing with Matches (Modern Orthodox setting, about a girl trying to repair her relationship with her older sister and accidentally starting a matchmaking service) and My Year Zero (all girl love triangle.) Additionally, one of the two main characters in Gone, Gone Gone (all boy love triangle, but also about the trauma of living through the 2002 sniper crisis in Maryland) is Jewish.
Leading characters, although not the MC, of YA superstars Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda and The Rest of Us Just Live Here, are Jewish. All of those have a contemporary setting; for historical f/f YA there is the short story The Fire-Eater’s Daughter, which is set in the 1950′s in a circus and has a Jewish lead. (With that time setting: her mom is a survivor but that’s not what the story is about.)
For graphic novels, I highly recommend the Rabbi Harvey books (philosophical/funny, setting some of our legends in the American Old West),The Rabbi’s Cat (philosophical/dark; this one kinda has some of that dissection you were trying to avoid), and the Mirka books (children’s fantasy about a lot of female characters in an Orthodox setting.) And I loved the two Jewish stories in the Dates LGBTQ+ comics anthology, both of which had trans characters.
Libi Astaire’s written a number of Regency mysteries set in London’s Jewish community, both short stories and full length. My favorite was The Doppelganger’s Dance, about a violinist being gaslit by a mysterious anonymous rival, and here’s a review of one of the shorts, “What’s in a Flame?” Speaking of historicals, Heather Rose Jones’s 1800′s lesbian fantasy series introduced well-rounded Jewish characters in its second book, The Mystic Marriage, which is about lesbian scientists creating magic rocks (the Jewish characters are the alchemist’s young apprentice and her father.)
For short, free Jewish sci-fi online I recommend Three Partitions (nonbinary, Orthodox) and Seven Commentaries on an Imperfect Land. Grand Jeté also fits these categories but is much darker (so not as much my personal preference.)
Finally, I hope you will consider checking out my own series, which is fluffy queer fantasy set in a made-up Jewish kingdom based on South Florida where I grew up. There are three novels and two short stories published so far with @torquerepress, with a fourth book and five more shorts coming this July. A good place to start is the two Tales from Outer Lands (the shorts), because they make a good intro and focus the most on the Jewishness. This free five-panel comic I wrote with @theloserfish makes another good preview; it’s about the queen’s girlfriend trying to bake gluten-free challah with the help of the palace wizard.
@returnofthejudai is this the post you’re looking for? It has loads of book recommendations and also worth reading the comments/reblogs because other people have recommended more things!
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Do you need an explanation for why there are dragons when the real world doesn’t have dragons? Because it’s a story. Do you need an explanation for why those dragons can fly when logically a creature of that size shouldn’t be able to do so? Because it’s a story. Do you need an explanation for why a human wiggling their fingers and saying certain words causes lightning to shoot out of them and fry that dragon to a crisp? Because it’s a story. Do you need a reason for why that finger-wiggling human is a gay woman and not a straight man? No, you don’t, because it’s the least absurd thing in this paragraph and you accept all of the others without question.
This is a jar full of major characters
Actually it is a jar full of chocolate covered raisins on top of a dirty TV tray. But pretend the raisins are interesting and well rounded fictional characters with significant roles in their stories.
We’re sharing these raisins at a party for Western Storytelling, so we get out two bowls.
Then we start filling the bowls. And at first we only fill the one on the left.
This doesn’t last forever though. Eventually we do start putting raisins in the bowl on the right. But for every raisin we put in the bowl on the right, we just keep adding to the bowl on the left.
And the thing about these bowls is, they don’t ever reset. We don’t get to empty them and start over. While we might lose some raisins to lost records or the stories becoming unpopular, but we never get to just restart. So even when we start putting raisins in the bowl on the right, we’re still way behind from the bowl on the left.
And time goes on and the bowl on the left gets raisins much faster than the bowl on the right.
Until these are the bowls.
Now you get to move and distribute more raisins. You can add raisins or take away raisins entirely, or you can move them from one bowl to the other.
This is the bowl on the left. I might have changed the number of raisins from one picture to the next. Can you tell me, did I add or remove raisins? How many? Did I leave the number the same?
You can’t tell for certain, can you? Adding or removing a raisin over here doesn’t seem to make much of a change to this bowl.
This is the bowl on the right. I might have changed the number of raisins from one picture to the next. Can you tell me, did I add or remove raisins? How many? Did I leave the number the same?
When there are so few raisins to start, any change made is really easy to spot, and makes a really significant difference.
This is why it is bad, even despicable, to take a character who was originally a character of color and make them white. But why it can be positive to take a character who was originally white and make them a character of color.
The white characters bowl is already so full that any change in number is almost meaningless (and is bound to be undone in mere minutes anyway, with the amount of new story creation going on), while the characters of color bowl changes hugely with each addition or subtraction, and any subtraction is a major loss.
This is also something to take in consideration when creating new characters. When you create a white character you have already, by the context of the larger culture, created a character with at least one feature that is not going to make a difference to the narratives at large. But every time you create a new character of color, you are changing something in our world.
I mean, imagine your party guests arrive
Oh my god they are adorable!
And they see their bowls
But before you hand them out you look right into the little black girls’s eyes and take two of her seven raisins and put them in the little white girl’s bowl.
I think she’d be totally justified in crying or leaving and yelling at you. Because how could you do that to a little girl? You were already giving the white girl so much more, and her so little, why would you do that? How could you justify yourself?
But on the other hand if you took two raisins from the white girl’s bowl and moved them over to the black girl’s bowl and the white girl looked at her bowl still full to the brim and decided your moving those raisins was unfair and she stomped and cried and yelled, well then she is a spoiled and entitled brat.
And if you are adding new raisins, it seems more important to add them to the bowl on the right. I mean, even if we added the both bowls at the same speed from now on (and we don’t) it would still take a long time before the numbers got big enough to make the difference we’ve already established insignificant.
And that’s the difference between whitewashing POC characters and making previously white characters POC. And that’s why every time a character’s race is ambiguous and we make them white, we’ve lost an opportunity.
*goes off to eat her chocolate covered raisins, which are no longer metaphors just snacks*
“Crown-wearing Archie Comics character Jughead Jones has traditionally been more into burgers than romance, and a new comic is about to casually reveal that he is, in fact, asexual. In other words, he’s a person who isn’t sexually attracted to other people — a kind of sexual identity that’s rarely depicted in popular fiction.
But when writer Chip Zdarsky and artist Erica Henderson were tasked with helping Archie’s companywide reboot of its classic characters, they opted to subtly take a stand and add a new facet to a long-established property. The revelation happens in Jughead No. 4, which hits stands and digital outlets on Wednesday.”
Okay, but the first HP book came out in 1997. That was almost twenty years ago. No, JKR was not fully aware of her white/straight/cis privilege at that time. She has had 20 years to get better. She also wrote the first draft on table napkins while working as a single mother of multiple children and receiving public support.
We are allowed to retrospectively critique her lack of inclusivity. We are also allowed to think that perhaps her awareness of the lack of said inclusivity has improved.
Just as a goddamn FOR EXAMPLE, in 1997, if Rowling had tried to pitch Dumbledore, a school headmaster, as openly homosexual, her book would never have been published. Want some evidence? I can do that.
Regulations were introduced for discrimination protections on sexual orientation in employment on 1 December 2003, following the adoption of an EC Directive in 2000, providing for the prohibition of discrimination in employment on the grounds of sexual orientation.
Right, so he (Dumbledore) could have been fired for being gay at any point prior to 2000, even assuming Wizarding law was keeping up with Muggle law, which is a goddamn stretch considering how shoddy trials and evidence are maintained throughout Auror procedurals.
And, regarding “she could have made more students of color in the first place,” um:
The Race Relations Act 1965 outlawed public discrimination, and established the Race Relations Board. Further Acts in 1968 and 1976 outlawed discrimination in employment, housing and social services, and replaced the Race Relations Board with Commission for Racial Equality that merged into the Equality and Human Rights Commission in 2004. The Human Rights Act 1998 made organisations in Britain, including public authorities, subject to theEuropean Convention on Human Rights. The Race Relations Act 2000 extends existing legislation for the public sector to the police force, and requires public authorities to promote equality.
After 2000, some argued that racism remains common, and some politicians and public figures have been accused of promoting racist attitudes in the media, particularly with regard to immigration, however race and immigration although related are not the same concepts. There have been growing concerns in recent years about institutional racism in public and private bodies. Although various anti-discrimination laws do exist, according to some sources, most employers in the UK remain institutionally racist including public bodies such as the police and the legal professions.
I’m not saying “JKR has always been conscious of her White Privilege.” I’m not saying “she intended this from the start.” I’m saying, she started this fucking series when she was 25, she got it published when she was 32, and she is now fifty and has millions of dollars, resources, and feedback.
Hey, check it out: she’s had twenty-five years to learn.
Jo Rowling is a white British woman with a Bachelor of Arts in
French and Classics from the University of Exeter. It may very well have taken her this much time and this much exposure to the greater, wider world- outside her very white, very British influences in Tolkien and Dickens– to realize, “Oh, shit, I could/should have made my books more diverse, that’s such a lovely idea, my fans are so wonderful, I love their headcanons, they have taught me so much, I’m really lucky to have learned all of this.”
We want people to grow, don’t we? We want them to expand their minds and change. So can we please stop hating on people who weren’t born into the movement for finding it later?