Tootsie and Anne Frank (this is a bad post title)

by marjorieingall on June 9, 2019

Yay, hip is better. Two steroid shots, new NSAID, started physical therapy.

Also yay, I am ridiculously excited for the Tony Awards. I’ve seen way more of the nominated shows this year than usual, maybe because more shows this year than usual were feminist-ish, LGBT-ish, or media-related-ish.

Here is a Tablet piece I did on the Jewification of Tootsie: The Musical. The Broadway show is way more Jewy-feeling (and way better) than the movie; I rewatched the latter and it’s mostly cringe-inducing, sorry. The show is still problematic, but at least trying? However, I am IRKED that no one is talking about how Dustin Hoffman, credited as a producer on the musical, has been accused by several women of sexual assault and sexual harassment. So that’s nice. 

Hoffman responded to the first accusation with, “That’s not who I am.” And coincidentally (really!) I just wrote about the offensiveness of the phrase “This is not who I am” for SorryWatch! (So many celebrities have said it; I did not know until I googled yesterday that Hoffman was one of them.) But uh, the entire cast of Tootsie: The Musical is delightful and I will be happy if Santino Fontana wins a Tony and I will rewatch all of his Crazy Ex-Girlfriend videos in tribute. (But I want Hadestown to win for best musical, because it is no question the best musical.)

Here’s a piece I did for our indispensable neighborhood blog, EVGrieve, on a manga-obsessed (and charming!) librarian new to our local branch.

And here’s a piece on why people should stop writing children’s books about Anne Frank. They’re frequently saccharine, universalizing in a damaging-to-history way, trivializing even when they’re well-meaning…and given how badly Anne wanted to be a writer, can’t we do her the courtesy of reading her work? If you feel your child is too young to read The Diary of Anne Frank, maybe WAIT rather than giving them a picture book narrated by the tree outside her window or her roommate’s cat? Also, maybe there are some other stories — maybe even some non-Holocaust stories! — more suitable for picture books? Maybe the Holocaust, as I have noted in multiple pieces, has developed a dangerously outsized role in contemporary Jewish identity? 


game of moans

by marjorieingall on May 12, 2019

Warning: Whine.

I have a brutal cold and ALSO sudden and terrible hip pain. Knew about the bursitis and tendinitis, but an x-ray showed BONUS arthritis and a bone spur, woot. I suspect this is all a result of the rod-implantation and removal surgery I had on a broken femur when I was 11. But who the hell knows. My family is at the Lizzo show at Brooklyn Steel, and I can’t stand up for that long, so I’m feeling sorry for myself.

Look at Lizzo at the Met Gala. 


I was stuck on the couch, so I watched the Mr. Rogers documentary, and I swore I wasn’t gonna cry and then I cried. It’s beautifully crafted and the last few minutes are so moving. Here’s a quote (from a bit earlier in the film, not from when I was crying) about Mr. Rogers’s decision to come out of retirement to do a special on 9-11, despite not being sure he could help. He said, “I felt that I had to speak to the families of our country about grief — a plea not to leave the children isolated and at the mercy of their own fantasies of loss and destruction. Children have very deep feelings, just the way parents do, just the way everybody does, and our striving to understand those feelings and to better respond to them is what I feel is a most important task in the world.” 


Which is a good segue to this piece I did for the New York Times Book Review about three lovely short novels for young readers that tackle loss and grief. I also wrote about the first national study of Jewish grandparents for Tablet, and did a fun history piece about lessons modern-day women activists can learn from the Kosher Meat Boycott of 1902. It is so instructive reading the Times’s coverage of that event: It treats the Jewish women strikers like animals — uncivilized and instinctual and clueless about how the world works — and blithely excuses police brutality. I did like one description of the women protesters:  “Armed with sticks, vocabularies, and well sharpened nails.” We can do that!




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post-seder meditation

by marjorieingall on April 25, 2019

Excuse me while I kvell. (No, not “keel,” you freaking WASP autocorrect.) My teenage daughter made our Passover Haggadah, in the style of a zine, and the ’90s are totally back as I am sure you’ve heard.  [click to continue…]


11 years of chalking

by marjorieingall on March 26, 2019

Just skip this whole post if you’re sick of hearing me talk about CHALK,  the wonderful art project created by multidisciplinary artist Ruth Sergel, [click to continue…]

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a ribbon of stories

by marjorieingall on March 25, 2019

Today is the 108th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that this event has been central to my American-Jewish identity. I’m not particularly devout; my interests lie in Jewish culture and storytelling, NYC history, labor history, immigrant rights, feminism, the value of tikkun olam (healing the world). The fire ties together all these narratives. I’ve written about the event and its aftermath for the Jewish Forward, for Tablet, and on this blog. (Google, if you want.) Right now, when human rights in this country feel precarious, it’s good to remember that a hundred years ago, young women like Clara Lemlich — a tiny dynamo who didn’t even speak English! — fought, at great personal risk, to galvanize workers to strike and succeeded in creating safer workplaces and better lives for their fellow Americans. Sweatshops are still an issue all over the world, and I don’t mean to minimize that. But today NYC has laws against child labor and to protect workers, and codes to make buildings safer. Collective action and commitment can have a real impact.

Thanks to the efforts of the volunteer Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition, work has begun, at last, on a memorial at the site of the factory. (Which is now an NYU building, like everything else below 14th street.) Fittingly, the Coalition  turned building the memorial into a participatory act. Last week, I helped with the fabrication process at the Fashion Institute of Technology — architects, fashion professors, activists, survivors’ descendants, Jewish and Italian and Chinese women — the last group are leading the fight for NYC workplace rights today — gathered to create together. There were a handful of men. Not many. Also fitting. What we worked on together was lovely, inspiring. 


on change and on parenting values

by marjorieingall on March 20, 2019

I’m ambivalent about the departure of my longtime East Village neighbors, the Hells Angels. I’ve been on the block for 18 years (chai!); they’ve been here for around 60 (the history is in the link). Here are two pics of my actual building — the Angels’ building is across the street — back in the day. It was abandoned sometime in the ’70s or ’80s and became a squat, then the roof started collapsing, then it was sold by the city to a 21-year-old baby proto-developer for a dollar, then the wee Master of the Universe-to-be gradually fixed it up (when we arrived, everything in the back of the building, including the chimney, was painted a hideous seafoam green, because he apparently got a deal on boat paint), and when we moved in it was an interesting mix of artists and creative people and now it is…less so.

I’m not sure when either of these pics are from. (Do you?) I do not own them, found ’em online, and will take ’em down if asked. 


Let’s see. In other news, I raged professionally, like everyone else, about Operation Varsity Blues. Not to brag or anything, but I am proud that cheating is not one of my many, many vices. And I did not raise cheaters. I truly believe everything I wrote in my book about raising kids to be independent, ethical, mensch-y people. THAT IS YOUR JOB AS A PARENT. And if you have a certain amount of privilege, as I do, part of good childrearing is opting out of the crazy-people competitive child-rearing race. My kids went to the diverse, progressive little public school down the block (and to bring this full circle, the original principal just told me on FB that at the beginning of the school’s life — it opened in 1991 — the Angels donated $50 for books every year!) and then to a diverse, non-fancy, progressive, non-testing-oriented middle and high school. These schools have served them really well. My kids aren’t assholes. And they are both curious and clueful about the world.

It feels apt, at this time when we’re pondering widespread system-gaming (of a system that’s already designed to privilege the privileged!), for me to quote social reformer and activist Caroline Pratt (1867-1954), upon whose philosophy my girls’ elementary school was based: 

I had dreamed of a child world in which railroads and city streets, farms and factories, the stuff of which the real world is made could be brought down to children’s scale so that they might grasp it. I had envisioned a community of children who could in their own way, through the child activity, which we misguidedly call play, reproduce this world and its functioning. Such a community of little individuals, equals in size and strength and understanding as adults are equals in their own adult communities would learn not only physical truths about the world, but social truths as well, the all-important truths of people with many individual differences who must live and work with each other.


In honor of National Women’s Day, here is a comic I made when I was around 13, about a character in Jewish folklore. Then I grew up and majored in Folklore & Mythology and drinking male tears. 

For Tablet this week, I wrote about “sensitivity readers” (terrible name, honestly) and how they’ve become misguided shorthand for OMG CEEEEEENSORSHIIIIIIP IN YOUNG ADULT LITERATUUUUURE. Do I deny that people call other people names on social media? I DO NOT! Do I think we’re giving entirely too much focus to a phenomenon affecting only a handful of books, which distracts us from larger problems in publishing, such as, uh, the paucity of writers getting to tell their own communities’ stories? I DO! Feel free to let me know what you think, though I will ignore you if you’re unpleasant.

And: Not all heroes wear capes. Here’s a profile I did for our indispensable East Village NYC blog E.V.Grieve of a friendly neighborhood copy shop man…with a MYSTERIOUS PAST. 

In non-me news, my friend Fawn Fitter wrote a fascinating piece in the NYT about her plans to donate her corpse to The Body Farm, a criminal justice program. And since I haven’t posted since the Oscars, please let me recommend a children’s book: Ruth and the Green Book, by Calvin Alexander Ramsey, illustrated by Floyd Cooper. It’s about a little girl’s family road trip in the Jim Crow era. It’s completely age-appropriate, scary and realistic but in a way children can handle. The happy ending feels earned — it’s feel-good but in a way supported by history. I read it a couple of years ago and learned a lot, and it suddenly seems more relevant than ever.  Ruth is the main character in her own story. 


Happy 30th birthday, Heather Has Two Mommies!

by marjorieingall on February 12, 2019

Long time no post. To make up for it, here’s a piece about the 3oth anniversary of Heather Has Two Mommies (I KNOW, RIGHT??) and its prolific author Lesléa Newman’s latest book, a lovely ode to immigration. (Spoiler alert: Newman is for it.) Please enjoy an illustration from the 1989 version of Heather and one from the current version. 


Further byline roundup: I wrote about a sort of consciousness-raising group for tween and teen boys, aimed at helping them embrace masculinity in an affirming, enlightened, n0n-bullying, non-rapey, non-toxic-in-general way. I found myself disagreeing with some of the ideas and methods, but was hugely impressed with its thoughtfulness…and as someone who identifies as female, I value the notion of men figuring out what works for men.  

I also wrote about a lousy apology for antisemitism (nope, not Ilhar Oman‘s) and about children’s books to read for Tu B’Shevat (“the New Year for the trees,” aka the Jewish version of Earth Day)

And as ever, we have loads of thrilling and dismaying new apology analysis (a racist crossword puzzle! more racism, from Cindy McCain! bad behavior in DC — shocking, we’re sure — and Brooklyn! and hold the phone, a plethora of ACTUALLY GOOD apologies!) over at SorryWatch. We also appeared on NPR, talking to WNYC’s Amy Walter about the art of the political apology.


Happy New Year!

by marjorieingall on January 3, 2019

I just got back from a trip to the UK to speak at the Limmud Festival in Birmingham. Have I ever seen 2500 Jews in one place before? I do not believe so! My own talks went well, and I attended some presentations by other people that were incredible. My three faves (though I enjoyed a panoply) looked at the Sephardic influence on Flamenco, the way the Talmud addresses sexual consent in marriage, and whether or not Virginia Woolf was antisemitic. The three presenters responsible — Leilah Brukhim, a Flamenco dancer who came to Limmud from Madrid; Rahel Berkovits, a lecturer at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem; and Aviva Dautch, a poet, instructor in English Literature at the British Library, and lecturer at the University of London — BLEW MY TINY MIND. So good, so inspiring, so charismatic, all three. I also got to hang with my fam and some wonderful friends in London, and I got to go to the Jane Austen House and Museum in Hampshire (picturesque!) and the Museum of English Rural Life in Reading (possessor of an awesome Twitter!) and both were a delight.

Here is the Jane Austen House cat, Marmite. She bites. 

Enough about travel. What have I been writing of late?

First up: You may have heard that the principal of LaGuardia High School (aka “the Fame school!”) tried to ban swastikas from the school’s production of The Sound of Music. I wrote about how this is a common practice. 

I also visited a fun museum show in Philadelphia about cartoonist/inventor Rube Goldberg

And I wrote about good Christmas books for cranky, FOMO-experiencing Jewish children.

And naturally, I followed that up with a piece about the inherent suckage of New Year’s Eve, from the perspective a cranky, FOMO-experiencing Jewish adult. (That would be me.)

May your 2019 be full of joy, comfort, learning, justice, and kindness.




how marvelous…

by marjorieingall on December 9, 2018

…to appear in the WASPiest publication known to humanity! Here I am opining about midcentury Jewishness, feminism, and the upending of Jewish Mother and Jewish American Princess stereotypes in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel