The Mothers is my third novel but it’s the first novel I’ve written that tracks so closely with my own life. I had to make a leap as a novelist to write in the first person, to examine a single woman’s inner life, as opposed to the bigger sweep of the multi-generational novels, Golden Country and Something Red, that were written with an eye toward history and the way it affects families.
This book is all about families really, or about a couple who wants to make one desperately. If my other books deal with what happens to families over time, this character—Jesse Weintraub—is most concerned about time stopping. About the story, as it were, ending with her.
I, like Jesse, struggled for a long time to make my family (even though I do believe that it’s not just children that make a family…). And like her, my spouse and I were involved in a terribly long and particularly harsh adoption process that has only ended a few weeks ago. My most private concerns, a sadness I could only tell myself, were the same concerns I am interested in as a writer. These were in part involving what gets passed down through the generations. The history of our families, the voices of my grandparents and what they went through. What if it all that stopped with me?
What if all the stories just stopped with me? All those voices? At the bottom of it, this is what Jesse feels deeply. She wants to see a new generation grow. She gets a little despairing, she acts a little wild, but at the bottom of it, she wants to pass on all of it, the good, the bad, the painful, the joyous, so the cycle will keep going, so everyone’s story, including hers, gets told.
As a Jewish blogger and editor, I always say that the period leading up to Jewish Book Month is one of my favorite times of the year. So many books come across my desk for review—I only wish I had the time to read them all. Each author, each new book, is not just a potential article for my magazine or blog post. To me, every author—whether they write fiction or non-fiction— is a storyteller, adding their own piece to our collective Jewish story.
This year the tables have turned, and I’m the one hoping and wishing that Jewish editors and writers will choose my book from among the great pile for review—the thought makes me feel proud, humble and frightened all at once.
In putting together my new anthology, Living Jewishly: A Snapshot of a Generation, I hoped to be a storyteller as well. In the Jewish world, engaging 20- and 30-somethings is a hot button issue—questions like ‘How do we get young Jews to feel connected to Israel? To affiliate with traditional Jewish institutions? To care about Jewish continuity, ritual and tradition?’ float around waiting to be answered.
As a member of this elusive generation myself, I live and breathe these questions in my personal life and as a Jewish professional. As I recently completed my master’s degree in Jewish professional studies, I became determined to tell the story of my generation.
To get started, I sent out a call for stories to my peers:
Are you a Jewish 20- or 30-something with a story to tell? Do you want to be part of a collection of voices that together tell the unique story of our generation?
Within hours, my email box was flooded. I received close to 50 submissions—all remarkable, rich and more diverse than I could have ever imagined.
In Living Jewishly, I put these essays together to create a window into our Jewish lives and identities. Each essay is beautiful, unique, brutally honest and revealing. In truth, it is my contributors who are the real storytellers—without them, the story, the picture, would not be complete.
I often think about what it means to really be a storyteller. To me, this is not a title to be taken lightly. With it comes certain responsibility, not just to inform, but to do so artfully, shedding light on topics that may otherwise have been left untold.
While I don’t think I’ve solved the mystery of my generation, I do have some insights into the types of stories we want to tell. However it is that we express ourselves Jewishly, I’m certain that every Jewish 20- or 30-something has an interesting story to tell—and maybe all we need is the opportunity to tell it.