What does it mean to be Jewish? I have never contemplated this question, because I am not Jewish. But I am trying to read about diverse faiths and cultural perspectives, particularly when they intersect with other identities. It’s a Whole Spiel caught my eye at my library (which is now open for limited in-person browsing, thank goodness!), and I was happy to devour it over this weekend.
This anthology of short stories features all kinds of Jewish voices and perspectives, from people who are culturally Jewish, to folx who are contemplating faith and sexuality, to folx who *want* to be more spiritual and come from families who did not give them a Jewish faith or culture. I enjoy learning about other faiths and cultures, and this book reminded me that there is no ONE Jewish identity.
As with all short story collections, this book is varied in tone and style. I may have unfairly compared it to Once Upon an Eid, which is a middle-grade book more unified in tone and not trying to achieve quite the same broad goals as this collection. Some short stories are better than others, but all have some kernel to contemplate, even if the quality is not the same. My personal favorites are David Levithan’s “The Hold,” Katherine Locke’s “Some days you’re the sidekick; some days you’re the superhero” (which reminded me in some respects of Will Grayson, Will Grayson and made me want to read it as a novel), and Laura Silverman’s “Be Brave and All.” The nice thing about short story collections is that you can pick it up and put it down pretty often and read through the book fairly quickly. I’m looking forward to more faith-based fiction for my own edification and potential teaching opportunities!