Review of It’s a Whole Spiel: Love, Latkes, and Other Jewish Stories

It’s a Whole Spiel:

Love, Latkes, and Other Jewish Stories

edited by Katherine Locke and Laura Silverman

High School    Knopf    311 pp.    g

9/19    978-0-525-64616-7    $17.99   

Library ed.  978-0-525-64617-4    $20.99   

e-book ed.  978-0-525-64618-1    $10.99

In this anthology of fourteen short stories by Jewish authors and about Jewish teens, youth trips, camp, and other group activities are fertile ground for stories of social dynamics. Variations in religious background and practice provide plenty of fodder for fish-out-of-water tales, and the stories matter-of-factly reflect details of Jewish life rarely seen in mainstream YA (for example, a character in Goldy Moldavsky’s “Good Shabbos” must memorize a lengthy street address because she can’t write it down on the Sabbath). Dilemmas related to religious identity range from Orthodox teen Amalia’s failed attempt to limit how often she mentions her Judaism during college orientation (Dahlia Adler’s “Two Truths and an Oy”) to “not-really-that-Jewish” Rye’s inability to fake his way through the Hanukkah story (Lance Rubin’s “Jewbacca”). Though most of the tales are contemporary realism, there’s some variety in genre—Adi Alsaid’s “Ajshara,” for instance, is a fantasy that follows Tzvi, who sees ghosts, from Mexico to Israel. The stories also acknowledge the variety of Jewish experience, including some diversity beyond religion, mostly in terms of sexuality. This collection provides a refreshing opportunity for Jewish teens of many beliefs and backgrounds to see themselves—and for others to see them—in stories that are as much about entertainment as they are about Jewishness.

From the September/October 2019 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Shoshana Flax
Shoshana Flax

Shoshana Flax, associate editor of The Horn Book Magazine, is a former bookseller and holds an MFA in Writing for Children from Simmons University. She is a current member of the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award committee, and has served on the Sydney Taylor Book Award committee.

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