November 1, 2007
Books: Brits behaving badly
(Page 2 - Previous Page)She lives with her partner, the novelist and journalist Joanna Briscoe, and they have two children. Now, she says that she's shyly feeling her way "toward a slightly more involved level of Jewishness, which is exciting, but terrifying."
"I'm infinitely more comfortable with American Jews, or American Jew-friendly non-Jews, than with many Brits, Jewish or non-Jewish -- someone once told me that in New York my hand gestures get more expansive, and it's true. In Britain, because it's not the most relaxing place to be Jewish, it's easy, I think, for Jews either to stick mostly with similar Jews, or assimilate to the point of invisibility. In the U.S., it seems easier to be comfortably Jewish without fear of minor, or major, tension."
While she admires many American Jewish writers, she tried to avoid reading their works while writing this -- except for "The Joys of Yiddish," which was a source. "I wanted it to be a novel about interesting difference, not familiarity," she says.
"There is nothing I like more than writing about families. They're little crucibles of all our fears and loves and fury; we've all had one, and we're all our strange, secretive, messed-up selves because of them. There's also the fascinating fact that most of us, to be truly happy, need to make a choice in adulthood: either to stay with the world our family has chosen for [us] or to branch out in search of happiness. I wanted to call this novel 'Fifty Ways to Leave Your Mother.'"
For more information about the San Gabriel and Pomona Valley Festival, visit For more information, visit http://www.jewishsgpv.org.
Sandee Brawarsky is book critic for The Jewish Week.
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