by S.L. Wisenberg, Bison Books ($15.95)
This collection of essays — on “history, memory and other obsessions” — zeroes in on disparate aspects of what it is to be a Jewish American: liberal, conscious of difference, frequently unmoored. Wisenberg demonstrates an acute awareness of the absurdities of collective histories as well as individual human lives. (The girls of the titular essay have fetishized history, dragging it around with them into and through the present.) The beauty of these essays lies both in their taut, fraught language and the understated punchlines that purposefully upset the balance towards which the author has so artfully striven.
Edited by Lisa Jervis and Andi Zeisler, FSG ($16.00)
A veritable “best-ofs” from Bitch magazine’s last decade, the essays in this book, covering everything from the “perils of feminist fame” (especially difficult for a movement that eschewed hierarchies in any form) to an in-depth analysis of the gendered expectations of public restrooms (there’s a reason we females wait so long for the toilet, you know), this volume leaves no segment of modern life unexamined. Introductions to each section by the editors constitute bonus tracks.
The Family Flamboyant: Race Politics, Queer Families, Jewish Lives
by Marla Brettschneider, Suny Press ($24.95)
A welcome addition to the relatively small body of academic literature that is avowedly queer and proudly Jewish, Brettschneider’s account focuses simultaneously on issues of race, ethnicity, religion, class, politics and gender. Readers willing to work their way through dense and frequently polysyllabic musings will find a wealth of ways to challenge even the most basic assumptions about what makes a family.
Melanie Weiss is Lilith’s Assistant Editor.