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Mama Deb
mamadeb
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Mama Deb [userpic]
Frum books and so on.

I've been reading a lot of "frum" books lately. "Frum" means Orthodox Jewish - usually a bit more to the right than the modern Orthodox. The yeshiva and Chasidic crowd, the "black hat" and "sheitel (wig)" crowd. Most of them are geared to junior high school girls, some are meant for older girls and some clearly meant for adults, usually for women and focussing on the women. There are books clearly meant for men, but those tend to be mysteries and technothrillers (seriously!) and therefore not my style.

I've been reading them for a bunch of reasons - anthropological - I live half in this world and I don't know it very well, and these are a way to see the idealized (and often not so idealized) way they see themselves, and because they're sometimes good books and because maybe I could write one. The writing is workmanlike, but not spectacular,and that pretty well, I think, describes mine.

But this world is too alien. I don't have the right reactions to things. 18 is too young to get married, two months is too short for an engagement, a young man should aspire to support his family, both young men and women should aspire to college...these are my values and they're good ones, I think. And television is not an evil thing, and while I believe in the codes of modesty, there are times when pants are definitely indicated. And.

But the latest such book I read was interesting. Not in the subject matter, which was the typical round of parents/children and matchmaking, with a touch of danger, but in the blurb. "Gila's prospective new marriage is put in peril by her son's dark secret." The secret turned out to be that Yudi had witnessed a murder, but you know where *my* mind went. And even as I went there, I knew that I was wrong. These books *never* touch on sex or sexuality. Babies just...happen, and always to nice, religious married couples. The only books of this ilk that ever touch upon sex are the Naomi Ragen books, which are sold in mainstream bookstores.

BTW, she's good.

The thing of it is, I probably *could* write a book about homosexuality in the frum world. Except I know so many stories, and all of them are more interesting than what I could write about.

There's the man who moved to the other side of the planet, ending up in a neighborhood adjacent to one with a great many of his relatives, but not *in* it. There's the scion of the major Modern Orthodox family who found he was happier with a non-religious Jewish man than a non-Jew. There's the man who converted to Judaism and became a Chasid to run away from his sexuality, who married, had five children and then realized he couldn't lie anymore. He's still Jewish, still more or less religious, but his married daughter won't let him near his grandchildren. I saw him a few weeks ago.

There's the very sweet love story between the then shul president and the man he met in Boston. Peter, who was not particularly religious, left his home and his job to move in with Alex and embrace both the religious life and the synagogue, becoming an indispensable person almost immediately. Alex was raised religious, and left it when he grew up, only to come back because he had to say kaddish for his mother. We barely got to know his then lover at that point, and Alex was very closeted (or thought he was. I model Queen Jim after him), but since Peter came into his life and someone else has taken over the synagogue presidency, he's relaxed and gotten much happier. I hope they have a long life together.

And there's the mtf tg who left a wife and family to become a woman and get a...wife and family, and had a very difficult time of it.

The Lesbian couple who came to our old synagogue a couple of times to find themselves entirely welcome, until they outed themselves in a Jewish paper and disappeared.

And these are just the people I know personally, the people I know for certain are gay. There are others. I spoke of them in one of my first entries, Trembling Before G-d.

So, I could write a novel, I think, about being gay and being Orthodox and not being able to give up either. Except, I know too much. I know the reality, and I'm afraid of hurting the people I know and love.

Comments

So, I could write a novel, I think, about being gay and being Orthodox and not being able to give up either. Except, I know too much. I know the reality, and I'm afraid of hurting the people I know and love.

Some of us would welcome it though. I mean I migrated to Conservative Judaism and am, for the most part, happy with that choice. But it's NOT the same thing. Not by any stretch of the imagination.

J.

I know the reality, and I'm afraid of hurting the people I know and love.

Do you not think they would be honoured? At the very least, that someone is acknowledging their trials and tribulations.

I don't think they'd be honored. Orthodox gays are, for the most part, extremely closeted. In the movie Trembling Before Gd, most of them were hidden in some way - we didn't see faces, or the entire body was shadowed, sometimes even voices were distorted. Some of my gay friends are out, some are very closeted (out to us) and some are...well, it's don't ask, but we know.

I'd have to find someway to tell these stories without too many identifying features - one friend's country of origin, the various Chasidic groups involved, and so one.

I think I could.

And then I'd have to deal with the backlash.

(no subject) - (Anonymous)

It doesn't invalidate my views, but it's a very narrow market with maybe two publishers. And these publishers are looking for works that uphold their standard worldview, not show that others are possible even in the world of Orthodoxy. On the other hand, with the exceptions of Naomi Ragen and Faye Kellerman, I have not seen any positive books about the Orthodox world - most such books are about people "breaking free" of that mindset.

And the reaction can be...interesting. Ragen's books are not entirely flattering to the communities they portray, for example. I find them well-written and well-researched, and the characters realistic *and* done with a great deal of love, but I've seen her blasted by the more small-c conservative Jewish papers for showing the warts. Kellerman writes murder mysteries, and the religious aspects of her books often take second or even third place in them.

To me, it's like my other big community, fandom. When you love something, you love it despite, or maybe even because of, it's faults. The faults themselves don't disappear, and there are a lot of problems in this strange world I've partially entered. It's just that, for me, the good things outweight them.