Sunday, December 20, 2020

Jew(ish): A primer, A memoir, A manual, A plea


Jew(ish) is a collection of essays, ruminations, and reflections on Jewish identity in the 21st century. Released 1st Dec 2020 by Amazon UK on their Little A imprint, it's 200 pages and available in paperback, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately. For Kindle Unlimited subscribers, this book is currently included in the KU subscription library to borrow and read for free.

I have read a lot of ethnography and ethnohistory this year and this was a good choice to wrap up the year. It is by turns wistful, humorous, subtly chiding, and very human. I found myself disagreeing with some of what the author says, of course. He refers to himself as a lapsed Jew. I would rebut that "lapsed" is not at all the same thing as "non-religious" or "agnostic". I grew up in a family dynamic very similar to the one into which he brought his son. I too, am a product of Irish (not Welsh) Catholics on my mother's side, and Jewish family absolutely devastated by the Holocaust on my father's side. 

Anyhow, aside from pedantry, much of the content of this book resonated with me deeply. I found kinship in his protective sarcastic humour and deflection. I remember the same sense of dissonance when I visited friends' houses as a child. There's quite a lot to like (and ruminate on) in this book and each of the entries is a short and compact read. The entries are arranged thematically: God, family, comedy, security, Israel, race, and the internet. 

Some of the book is undeniably difficult to read (how could it possibly not be difficult?). There are descriptions which have made an indelible mark and will be difficult to eradicate. I think it's a worthwhile book, especially in light of the awful upswing in racist and anti-Semitic attacks both actual and virtual in the USA and worldwide. 

Four stars. This would make a good gift to readers of history, ethnography, and allied subjects, as well as lovers of biography and memoirs.

 Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.  


No comments:

Post a Comment