The Good Books: Writing Religion for Young Adults

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Micol Ostow, author of So Punk Rock (And Other Ways to Disappoint Your Mother), is guest-blogging all week with MyJewishLearning and Jewish Book Council.

If you had told me when I first began my career as a writer of teen fiction that I would in time gravitate from the pop-sugar of early projects like 30 Guys in 30 Days over toward books with a decidedly…Semitic bent, I would have laughed.

jewish authors blogThirteen years of Jewish day school, I thought, could really sap the Jew right out of a girl.

Having graduated from Solomon Schechter only to then willingly submerge myself in the equally homogeneous environment of a small, New England liberal arts college, it seemed to me that Judaism was a facet of myself that didn’t need exploration or understanding—unlike my experiences as a Latina, or a feminist, or even a journalist, being Jewish was nothing new. It simply was.

But a curious thing happened after I’d churned out a few installments of lighthearted chick lit: when it came time to write a more personal story that was rooted in my own reality, out came Emily Goldberg Learns to Salsa. “Emily†followed a Jewish Puerto Rican teen as she reconnected with her Latina roots over one summer of bonding with her borriqua family.

Though I was getting closer to events of my own life, the story still took the stance that Emily’s Judaism and religious beliefs were fully intrinsic to her, fully integrated. Again, it was the experience of other that my character sought more proactively.

Several years later, my brother David approached me with the idea of co-creating an “illustrated novel†that featured yeshiva boys turned wanna-be rock stars. After hearing his pitch, I was hooked. And this past July, So Punk Rock (and Other Ways to Disappoint Your Mother) released to a lovely response, in particular from the Jewish reviewer set.

so punk rock and other ways to disappoint your motherPunk Rock deals more directly with questions of religious and cultural identity, and my protagonist, Ari, comes to many of the same conclusions that I have about my own faith. I had no idea, sitting down at the computer, that I had so much to say about my own spirituality, but “Punk Rock†is by far my favorite of my own creations.

Posted on November 2, 2009

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