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Hot Chicken Wings

HOT CHICKEN WINGS
Jyl Lynn Felinan, Aunt Line. 1992, $8.95

This eclectic collection of stories by lesbian feminist writer Jyl Lynn Felman is funny, painful, revealing, and very Jewish. As they explore what it means to be a woman and a Jew. Felman’s stories cover a lot of ground, exposing rabid anti- Semitism (sometimes in the form of Jewish self-hatred), exploring sexuality, and embracing the joys of Jewish family life. “The Forbidden,” Felman’s introductory piece, strongly articulates her political views: “Ask me about the cost of white skinned privilege and Jewish invisibility. I seek recognition and dialogue from assimilated, religious, secular, culturally identified and politically active gay and lesbian Jews: straight, heterosexual mainstream Jews: white gentiles: the working class: women and men of color; Israelis and Palestinians.”

The narrator of Felman’s chilling “Absence” grows up assimilated in prewar Germany, where her parents embrace the Church and send her to Catholic school, despite their Jewishness. Two of her wealthy aunts remain Jewish: Sometimes I saw them carrying freshly slaughtered chickens under their arms. They always carried their own chickens, Mother said, because they did not trust their cooks to walk the extra mile to the kosher butcher. Later I laughed under my breath at those two women, all dressed up in fine, black leather gloves, and white silk blouses with lace sleeves, carrying bleeding chickens down der Hauptstrasse. They always held their heads so high. I wondered when I was young what they were looking at, all the way up there.

In the title story, eating treyf chicken wings serves as a metaphor for having a lesbian encounter; “Crisis”” pits a Jewish lesbian against a gentile therapist who displays outrageous ignorance of her client’s Jewish background.

The twelve stories in this well-written collection enervate and unnerve the reader, making her painfully aware of the disparities and the connections— sources of great literary tension—which exist among Jews today.