Bloodletting: A Mind at Midlife

“I was the Nile rising up and fertilizing the ground,” writes Lois Silverstein in Bloodletting: A Mind at Midlife (Red Shoes Press, 2314 Derby Street, Berkeley, CA 94705), an onrushing, compelling, intimate and chilling journal of a woman’s profundity, longing and fury unleashed when she hits age 50. Here is an excerpt:

I take my mother to the hospital and she is angry
the hospital’s where
cousin Yitzy died age 32 after changing a tire in the road
where Papa died age 46 after a slight cold
where Stanley died age 10 after acting somewhat odd
where Brian died age 29 from nothing they could see
and where
she smiles
at the Admitting Nurse
Cardiac Nurse
and the
and where
she tells me
I am mean and stupid and have no heart
I am mean and stupid and have no heart

…and the guy at the desk asks questions like
when is your birthday and what is your real address

78 not 72
101 not 84
Mother you cannot lie at a time like this
Mother how can you lie at a time like this

I come at last to take her hand
stand beside the gauge strapped to her up
going up going down going east going west
and the first thing she says is

Why did you have to tell them my real age
Even the driver said What kind of a daughter is that

A Jew can come to symbolize (to a non-Jew) not just the idea of exile, but of self-exile, too. Here, in REBELLION: ESSAYS 1980-1991 (Firebrand Books, 1991), Minnie Bruce Pratt, a Christian-raised Southerner, writes about her father and anti-Semitism:

I think of how my father’s friends down at the drugstore used to tease him about his supposedly Jewish features, his big nose, his long fleshy ears; they’d joke and call him Mr Ginsberg. I think of how when he was in his last illness, barely coherent, he would rouse enough to joke in a sweetly self-deprecating way that, of course, he knew who he was: he’d smile and say “Mr. Ginsberg.” What it meant to him, I don’t know; but to me this memory brings enormous grief the tragedy of my father estranged from himself all his life, a conflict that he attempted to resolve through whisky, through theories of Blacks and Jews who were “trying to take over,” and, finally, through some small knowledge that he held of a secret other self a self he could not name as his own, but had to name as “Jew,” the one forever apart.