Joel Chasnoff, author of The 188th Crybaby Brigade: A Skinny Jewish Kid from Chicago Fights Hezbollah: A Memoir , is guest-blogging all week for MyJewishLearning and the Jewish Book Council.
If writing a book is like giving birth, then receiving the PDF of the jacket cover is like seeing the first ultrasound: finally, it hits you that this creature is for real.
When it came time to discuss the cover of my book, The 188th Crybaby Brigade, I made two requests. First, that the jacket art be directed by Chip Kidd, the “rock star” of book jacket design. Iâ€™ve always loved Kiddâ€™s ability to produce a single, iconic image that perfectly captures the essence of a bookâ€”such as he does in these two covers for Augusten Burroughs and David Sedaris:
My second requestâ€”it was more of a demand, actuallyâ€”was that the cover not be overtly Jewish. The 188th Crybaby Brigade is my memoir about my year as a combat soldier in the Israeli Army. Throughout the book, I discuss my strong Jewish upbringing and my resultant connection to Israelâ€”a connection that, ultimately, led me to volunteer for a combat unit of the IDF.
But I’ve always felt that, despite the Jewish themes, Crybaby Brigade is a human story with mass appeal. Itâ€™s a story about a father and son. Itâ€™s about myth and the inevitable disappointment that occurs when we come face-to-face with our heroes. Most of all, itâ€™s a book about identity: as I progress from hapless basic trainee to tank soldier in Lebanon, I ask myself just who I really am.
So when it came time to discuss the cover, I didnâ€™t know exactly what I wanted, but I certainly knew what I didn’t want: anything that might drive away the general audience because the cover was too blatantly Jewish. My editor agreed.
So I was shocked when the following PDF showed up in my inbox:
I stared at the image. Speechless.
A minute later, my agent called. “Well?” he asked.
I shook my head. “Itâ€™s soâ€¦Jewish,” I said.