My name is Sarah Aronson and this is my first post on the Lilith blog. Thanks to Mel for inviting me!
A quick bio: I am living the dream in Hanover, New Hampshire. I have two kids. I recently got married. We are an interfaith family. We drink coffee and eat more chocolate than the daily allowance. We have one bathroom.
I write novels for middle grade readers and adults. My first novel, Head Case, published by Roaring Brook Press, came out last September. It is about a seventeen-year-old boy named Frank who causes a terrible car accident, leaving two people dead. He sustains a complete cervical spine injury. The novel begins after he is released from the hospital. I like to think of him as a modern Hester Prynne of Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter.
Beginnings are hard. Like any Chapter One, this entry needs to tell you who I am. What I want. And where will we be going. You need to hear my voice.
I need to hook the reader.
Here’s a story:
I grew up in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, aka The Christmas City. Even as a young girl, I felt like the token Jew. Every December, my friends joked that ours was the “dark” house. They called me Matzoh Girl, Menorah Girl, and my favorite, The Beak. I was the Barbra Streisand of my class, a girl with a lot of drama and a lot of opinions. It wasn’t easy.
Otherness never is. And being Jewish made me different. It made me other. It made my ethnicity an issue that some found interesting, others feared. I knew this as early as first grade. I lived close enough to my school to walk. There was only one main street to cross, and that was manned by a sixth grade crossing guard. A guy with a flag. And authority.
He decided not to let me cross. He held the flag at my chest. “You have to wait,” he said. “Because you are Jewish.”
This was the late 60’s. It was a time when everyone—especially the adults—wanted to fit in. I wanted to fit in. We ate at chains and all bought the same clothes. People said: “Don’t make waves. Go another way. Cross the street somewhere else.”
That kind of advice has never worked for me. Instead, I stood my ground. I was late almost every day that year. Today, I’m more of a compromiser. Living in a rural community does not make being Jewish easy. There are many issues that bump up against my Jewish needs. I often think of Hester Prynne—how she did it. How she grew into a member of her community without giving up her identity. And I look to my children and the children of our local Jewish community and ask how best to foster a Jewish identity in a place like this.
That’s what this blog will be about. I’d love to hear your thoughts.