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Beyond the Pale

Beyond the Pale by Elana Dykewomon Press Gang Publishers, $15.95 

Beyond the Pale is the literary equivalent of a warm kitchen, redolent with mouth-watering smells and bathed in the gentle light of Shabbat candles. It speaks to the Jewish woman (this one, at least) in a profound and poignant way.

From the pogroms of Tsarist Russia to the hustle of the Lower East Side, we are swept into the hves of women who face then’ demons with strength and dignity, women whose hearts are as deep as the oceans they tumultuously cross. As lesbians in the 19th century, Gutke, Chaya, Rose and Dovida are women who prefer to write their own histories rather than suffocate in the choke hold of convention.

With the grace and elegance of a master composer, Dykewomon creates prose that is by turns passionate aria, soothing lullaby, joyful chant and haunting kaddish. Dykewomon’s attention to detail is the key to the novel’s credibility and beauty, its intimacy and emotion. “America is a balloon filling up with the sighs of women,” she writes. The balloon expands when one thinks about turning the last page of this magnificent novel.

Paula Margulies, a former Lilith intern, is a student at Cornell University