Reading and writing are two of my fave things. My last read was Frankly Feminist: Short Stories by Jewish Women from Lilith Magazine, edited by Susan Weidman Schneider and Yona Zeldis McDonough. Here are my thoughts, in this latest book review.
Disclosure: I was given a copy of this book in return for an honest review. As an Amazon Associate, I receive a small amount from purchases through the links below at no extra cost to you.
Learning ahead, for me
I am Christian. I am not familiar with many Jewish traditions and practices. This book Frankly Feminist offered the opportunity for me to learn more about Jewish cultures, and I am glad for it. There are different types of Jewish religious identities, each with distinct cultures and customs, as I began to understand while absorbing the stories within this collection.
I realized how much I have still to learn about people, how they grew up, and the differences in the treatment they continue to receive today.
This book opened my eyes to Shabbos, for example, and how applying makeup is forbidden then. The Jewish ritual mikvah is also something I did not know about, and the rules for this bath.
These are only two of many things that I am now more aware of. In the world, I strive to know more, but realize how little I really know in the totality of information out there.
By understanding more about religions different than my own, I am better able to understand other people alongside me in this complex experience called life. I can appreciate more, improve my comprehension of differences in religious expression, and ultimately better understand my own beliefs.
Frankly Feminist features 44 short stories by Jewish women
This short story collection features 44 authors. Each story was chosen from those published over 45 years of Lilith Magazine. Editors Susan Weidman Schneider and Yona Zeldis McDonough put together the collection in a thoughtful way, grouping them by themes, such as “Transitions” and “Body and Soul.”
As some stories date back to the ’70s and others are more current, there is quite a variety of situations that the fictional characters in the short stories experience. While diverse, each author shares a feminist perspective on Jewish history, culture, religious practices, identity, and more.
As with so many great works of fiction, the underlying themes of the stories in Frankly Feminist speak to real-life experiences. They highlight important themes, including abortion, poverty, illness, and sexuality. Reading about themes I’ve thought about so much over the years through the lens of each Jewish writer, I realized I have a lot more to learn.
It has been a long time since reading a book made me cry. I read before going to sleep, and there were many nights I found my eyes wet with tears as I read one of the stories in this collection. Quite often, I could only read one story during one sitting because my heart ached for that character, and I wanted to think more about their experience.
For example, the first story The New World, written by Esther Singer Kreitman, had me bawling for the baby whose perspective the story is written from. A baby girl who feels she is not wanted as she is not a boy breaks my heart.
I felt like I was dropped into so many lives as I turned the pages of Frankly Feminist. My soul aches thinking about what some Jewish women have and do go through. The stories that touch on living under German occupation and deportations during the Holocaust are ones that will forever stay with me.
The story Road Kill by Miryam Sivan centers around a woman who receives a cancer diagnosis while pregnant. There is the story Boundaries by Ilene Raymond Rush that takes a thoughtful look at a therapist and her patient asking her on a date. The range of story topics is broad and poignant.
Takeaway on the book, Frankly Feminist
Perhaps you are a feminist. Maybe you are Jewish. You might be a woman. You definitely are human.
We benefit from knowing more about one another through powerful storytelling that, at its heart, is a sharing of experiences that reflect reality. With that in mind, I recommend reading Frankly Feminist: Short Stories by Jewish Women from Lilith Magazine.
Please share what you are reading today. Or, something you recently learned through a book. The comments section is open!
Looking for more book reviews? Here is a review of Where Do You Spend Your Heartbeats?
Top photo: My copy of the book Frankly Feminist. Photo by Christy Birmingham-Reyes.