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Too Jewish?: Challenging Traditional Identities Hardcover – October 1, 1997
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From Library Journal
In this companion volume to a major exhibition currently on display at the Jewish Museum of New York, artists, including Deborah Kass, Rona Pondick, Archie Rand, Art Spiegelman, and Hannah Wilke explore Jewish identity through contemporary art and pop culture. The illustrations are thought-provoking, sometimes quite humorous, and usually very off-beat. The illustrations aim to make the viewer uncomfortable enough to reflect on identity. Like any minority, American Jews have never felt completely at peace in the host culture. They have often used humor to deal with the conflicts and pressures involved in conforming to the dominant norm. Editor and curator Kleeblatt also offers incisive essays by cultural critic Maurice Berger, sociologist Sander Gilman, playwright Tony Kushner, and other major voices about being Jewish today. The book is ably produced with a clean, easy-to-read layout. There are copious notes and bibliographies after each essay to point the way for readers interested in further research. Recommended for libraries strong in the arts or serving a Jewish clientele.
Paul Kaplan, Lake Villa Dist. Lib., Ill.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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The cover illustration is a detail from artist Deborah Kass' ironic silkscreen of multiple Barbra Streisands as Yentl, in "Triple Silver Yentl (My Elvis)." It's the tip of the iceberg. Other pieces (pictured in color) are similarly trenchant commentary. Art Spiegelman's "Preliminary Sketch for Maus: A Survivor's Tale"; Ilene Seagalove's "Jewish Boys," Kenneth Goldsmith's memorial plaque - to Bob Dylan (also Allen Ginsberg and Abbie Hoffman), and more. There are eight essays, accompanied by color and black and white illustrations, and 36 color plates - photos of the artwork of the exhibition -at the book's end. It can hardly be considered only a catalogue. Norman Kleeblatt's overview, "'Passing' Into Multiculturalism" is a great long essay that uses loads of examples from visual art and literature to make its points about the effect of perceptions of 'otherness' and its companion, assimilation. Art historian Margaret Olin writes on Clement Greenberg, formalist criticism, and Jewish identity. Dr. Riv-Ellen Prell contributes a powerful essay on desire, female body image and the effects of stereotyping, and Rhonda Lieberman's "Jewish Barbie" also addresses (funnily) the struggle for self-esteem and self-worth within a culture that so powerfully values - insists upon - conventional notions of consumerism, beauty, and sexuality. Maurice Berger's comprehensive and insightful "The Mouse That Never Roars: Jewish Masculinity on Television," though ending pre-"Seinfeld," has much to offer. Students of television and pop culture should take note. Many writers, thinkers, and artists have a say in this book. Wendy Wasserstein, David Mamet, Jackie Mason are here, along with hundreds more. Essays and graphics address issues of beauty, pleasure, the body and sexuality, conformity, religion, consumerism and material culture. Beneath the surface is the Yiddish world of the past, its physical and psychic persistence in the present - and much more. The art is often funny, and always articulate - and brave.
There are artists' biographies and an extensive bibliography. A terrific contribution to Jewish studies, gender studies, 'multicultural' studies.