Nice Jewish Girls: Growing Up In America

edited by Marlene AdIer Marks
Penguin Books, $12.95

Marlene Adler Marks may have intended irony in the title of her new anthology of fiction, poetry and memoirs about the Jewish-American-female experience, but the disappointing truth is that the girls described in these pages really are “nice.”

They’re not nice in the crossed-legs, lowered-voice sense. They have sexuality and anger and rebellion. But the writers’ reverence for the archetypal bubbe— described with child-like, wide-eyed nostalgia—takes the edge off many of these pieces.

It fact, so dominant is the bubbe in the consciousness of some of America’s most accomplished Jewish women writers and a whole cast of lesser-knowns, they seem unable to craft identities for themselves that are at once modern, Jewish and female. The painful realization in these pages is how concentrated was the Jewish past, and how dilute the Jewish present.