- Hardcover: 166 pages
- Publisher: Faber & Faber; First Edition edition (March 1, 1996)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0571198821
- ISBN-13: 978-0571198825
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,107,312 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Journeys & Arrivals: On Being Gay and Jewish Hardcover – March 1, 1996
In his nonfiction, as in the stories of Dancing on Tisha B'Av (1990) and the novel Winter Eyes (1992), the dual identity of being gay and Jewish is Raphael's grand theme. No one excels him at writing the stories and considering the issues of that twin self-realization. This collection reprints his autobiographical contributions to Wrestling with the Angel and Hometowns (1991) and 11 fugitive pieces, including two letters reporting progress and setbacks for gays in Israel, four more autobiographical writings, an extended reply to letters in Raphael's hometown newspaper objecting to comparisons between anti-Semitism and homophobia, and a superb response to criticisms of the classic modern gay novel Dancer from the Dance (1978) by Andrew Holleran. Any of these essays may well become a future anthology piece, for each is that perspicacious and artful, whatever the particular subject. Perhaps, though, the best of them is the last, "Empty Memory? Gays in Holocaust Literature" ; anyone concerned with bringing genuine discernment to discourse about gays and the Holocaust simply must read it. Ray Olson
From Kirkus Reviews
Raphael's ``greatest hits'': This collection of 13 essays offers remixes and reprises of some of his better-known material. Raphael's struggle to claim both his religious and sexual identities, and the happiness he subsequently found, form the basis of the journeys and arrivals he recounts. Until the author reached his mid-20s, he felt alienated from other Jews, ambivalent about his homosexuality, ``twice strange . . . in each [community], different, lesser, ashamed.'' A son of Holocaust survivors, novelist Raphael (Dancing on Tisha B'Av, 1990; Winter Eyes, 1992) grew up in an unmistakably Jewish but nonreligious home. However, as an adult he initiated his own affiliations with Judaism: He had a bar mitzvah at age 30, went to Israel twice, and fell in love with a Jewish man. It was ``coming out as a Jew,'' he writes, that ``ultimately made it possible for me to come out as a gay man and then work at uniting the two identities.'' Attesting to his journey is the contrast between his confused childhood and the joyful domestic life he now shares with his lover, Gersh, and with Gersh's two sons. Raphael's arrival is marked by such confidently argued essays as ``Dangerous Men'' (on antigay Republicans) and ``Why Are They Bashing Dancer from the Dance?,'' a passionate defense of Andrew Holleran's much-maligned gay novel. Raphael's unique vantage point informs and enriches every essay--from his brief history of homosexuals in the Holocaust and in the literature of the Holocaust to an overview of contemporary gay life in Israel. However, the collection's two finest pieces, ``To Be a Jew'' and ``Okemos, Michigan,'' have already appeared in anthologies that readers interested in Raphael's subject matter are likely to have encountered. Worthwhile if you haven't journeyed with Raphael before. -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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In an excellent essay, "Empty Memory? Gays in Holocaust Literature", Raphael addresses the question of gays in Nazi Germany, and has it right, I think, when he says that it is wrong to ignore or belittle the persecution of gays, but that it is also wrong, and historically inaccurate, to not understand the difference between the treatment of gays and the treatment of Jews, and the policy differences between them.
He does not allow himself, however, to separate his Jewishness and his gayness. He mentions speaking at a Jewish community center, along with a lesbian who is also the child of survivors, and being asked by other children of survivors why they "had to be gay" that evening! They could not understand his and Beck's "multiple identities as Jews, children of survivors, and homosexuals".
Here he says something important for all communities of faith, who ground their hatred of gays in the phrase, "It's religion". "Lies are lies. Hatred is hatred. As Jews we know what it sounds and feels and smells and tastes like. " When, at Yad Vashem's Hall of Remembrance, a ceremony to remember the gay and lesbian Jews who died in the Holocaust is interrupted by right-wing demonstrators calling the group "evil" and accusing them of blasphemy, this is no less hatred than the the demonization of Jews as Christ-killers, and the anti-Semitism of the Pat Buchanans of the world.
Not everything is this book is so intense, though. "Okemos, Michigan" is a heart-warming essay, describing how he and Gersh bought a house together, and how the house became a home. A humorous essay, "Selling Was Never My Line", will be appreciated by any author who has ever done a book tour.