Reading the Signs

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Yesterday was funny and sad and moving and poignant and pretty awesome, all told, the kind of day that makes you question why you do what you do, and then shows you by smacking you squarely in the head. Here’s the song I’d listen to if I listened to music, but it’s still part of that time period where we don’t listen to music, so I’m dwelling in the silence instead. Which might be just as well.

beer gardenFirst was Young Adult Writers Drinks Night, which are definitely my 5 favorite words in the English language to say together. Laughing and making merry other YA writers, and my editor at Scholastic — and then my other editor for my non-kids’ press, coincidentally, happens to walk into the same dive bar. You know how there’s an argument against a Jewish homeland that says that, if we’re all in the same place, one bomb could wipe out all the world’s Jews? I realized that, if someone dropped a bomb on this particular beer garden, I would have no editors left in the world.

I went to the B&N on 66th Street and did a covert signing. (All they had was Candy, but hey, one book signed is one book maybe-sold.) I don’t know if it was a good sign or a bad sign or what. Asked the guy who worked there if they could order more, and he said he’d try to remember to ask his boss in the morning.

Then I went to the Mimaamakim poetry text study. It was a pretty amazing feat — 80 or so Orthodox folks going over Lucille Clifton and Seamus Heaney, analyzing their words like Torah and ripping them apart like Talmud. It was kind of glorious. Even the painful parts (well, the parts that were painful to an English kid like me) were glorious. People don’t just read poetry these days. Especially Orthodox people. Except, they do.

As we were packing up, two girls came up and asked if I was me, and told me how they’d both read Never Mind the Goldbergs and about their class projects in yeshiva and they had no idea there were other people in the universe like them. I wanted to tell them all about Michael Muhammad Knight and how he hadn’t known there were other punk Muslims in the universe — and then I realized, I was the same way with punk Jews. This was kind of my signal flare to the universe, my “are you out there?” call. And, dammit, sometimes people reply.

Yes: it was a good night.

Posted on July 23, 2009

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