In Tablet magazine this week: I did pieces on the plethora of Holocaust books for children, most of which are NOT GOOD, and on the ALA’s list of most-frequently-banned-and-challenged-books of 2014, which does not contain enough Jews.
The art for the Holocaust piece, incidentally, was inspired by an actual book cover.
You know, for kids!
A fun-to-report and strangely moving (to me, anyway) piece on how Jewish soldiers celebrated Passover in the European and Pacific military theaters during World War II. It’s a bit freaky, handling these old documents at the Center for Jewish History/American Jewish Historical Society. They don’t even make you wear gloves! (I was super-careful anyway.)
Other recent pieces: The Best Children’s Books for Passover, Josie’s and my annual CHALK expedition in memory of the Triangle Factory Fire, ideas for making your seder sparklier, and more.
My most recent piece for Tablet magazine has over 3,000 Facebook shares, so I’m guessing it’s hit a nerve. It’s about the Meitivs, a family in Maryland who were found responsible for “unsubstantiated child neglect” after letting their kids (ages 10 and 7) walk home (during the day) from a nearby park (on well-traveled streets). And it’s about a woman calling my synagogue to accuse me of being a neglectful parent for letting my 10-year-old take the bus alone.
We talk about wanting our kids to be responsible and independent (and we tell them “Let’s Move!” if we are the First Lady of the United States) but we don’t allow them to actually get out in the world to play, walk and bike in a self-directed way. Grr. Anyway, the piece makes the point that keeping your kids in a lockbox is not actually a Jewish value.
Working on my book. Pissing off parents of kids with nut allergies. Pondering certification for ethically kosher marijuana. Reviewing a novel I very much respected but did not enjoy. Pointing out a really crappy apology for using racist imagery to sell Photoshop tools. The usual.
You guys, I had so much fun doing this story on Jewish fanfiction for Tablet magazine. It made me realize I’ve been interested in established characters plunked into new settings since college, when I did my thesis on Eudora Welty’s The Robber Bridegroom. Have you read it? Such a weird, oblique, troubling book, and I loved it even though I didn’t GET it. There is really troubling sexual mishegas, and the characters are flat….but there’s something GLEEFUL and powerful about the way Welty messes with her characters. (Who really aren’t HERS.) (But for whatever it’s worth, I liked Margaret Atwood’s The Robber Bride, a longer and even more subversive version of the fairy tale that was published after I graduated from college, even more.) (And here is TRIVIA: Welty hated the word novella. But her book is a novella. She’s dead so she can’t come at me.) (This may be the greatest number of back-to-back parentheses I have ever used.)
This playbill for the musical based on the book is way better than any actual cover the book ever had. Please savor it.
But hey, would it have killed them to put Miss Welty’s name on it?
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Tablet’s comment section has tended to be pretty vitriolic. In the comments I have been called everything from a “latte-swilling,” “spoilt,” “knucklehead” “hypocrite” (as I said a couple of years ago, it’s like a Zagat review of horridness!) to the kind of American Jew responsible for the Holocaust. I have been told I am a terrible parent whose children should be taken away, a person who has sacrificed her children on the altar of her ideology (I’m not sure what that means either) and the kind of mother whose children will not identify as Jews. I have been told I am a liberal moron and a Zionist apologist. (Yes! Both!)
I don’t mind a little name-calling (I eat your hate like love, as someone once said), but Tablet’s comment section was a chum float of people hissing and shrieking at each other and at the story’s writers, with a lot of random anti-Semitism and some context-free Jesus thrown in. With some intelligent commentary popping up like bits of tasty krill. I am losing control of this metaphor.
The last piece I did for Tablet was a quickie (poor word choice, sorry) on the contents of everyone’s favorite kosher whipped topping, Cool Whip. I mentioned that it includes polysorbate 60, an ingredient in many sexual lubricants. Just a passing mention! In an 800-word piece! One commenter went nuts about my mentioning sexual lubricant in the same story in which I mentioned my daughter, and was I going to talk to HER about sexual lubricant, and how Tablet is coarsening Jewish discourse by TALKING about sexual lubricant and why is sexual lubricant relevant and what is wrong with American Jews that they talk about sexual lubricant and…well, basically, he said the words “sexual lubricant” a whole lot more than I did. But I can’t tell you exactly what he said because now Tablet’s comment section is GONE.
Temporarily. Tablet is trying an experiment in which folks who want to comment on stories and read other people’s comments will have to pay for the privilege. Many online publications are eliminating their comments systems entirely. Tablet’s hope is that by raising the bar to entry a bit (commenting is cheap but not free), we can elevate the tone of the discourse a lot.
And of course on Twitter and Facebook you can still call us all the names you want for free!
Hey, I wrote about vaccines again. How are you?
Another look at how failing to vaccinate your children is NOT a Jewish value, especially now when we’re teetering on the edge of losing our herd immunity. In Tablet Magazine this week, I listed the Personal Belief Exemption (PBE) rates in kindergarten classes at some Jewish day schools in California (using data from the California Department of Public Health). Now my fellow yehudim are having conniptions.
I do understand that having even 2 or 3 PBEs in a small class can make the opt-out rate look stratospheric. On the other hand, just 2 or 3 PBEs in a small class could be enough to compromise the health of that class.
I agree strongly with Rabbi Joseph Prouser of the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly: Jewish Day Schools can (and should) make immunization compulsory.
The actress who played Mrs. Wolowitz on The Big Bang Theory recently passed away, and with her went a once-pervasive staple of broadcast-TV humor. I wrote about the portrayal of Jewish mothers on television, then and now, in Tablet Magazine this week. [click to continue…]
Mind your head! Fasten your safety belts; clench your buttocks! It’s going be a bumpy ride!
Nah. We had a great time, and I believe we successfully minimized the sullenness that the teen/tween visitor is prone to. Here’s an account of our trip, which might be useful to know if you are planning a visit yourself with tweens/teens of your own. [click to continue…]
I have a quick little piece on holiday apologies — based on Susan McCarthy’s and my work on SorryWatch — over at Health.com.
Perhaps this SantaCon participant should read it. Especially if that’s not her car.