pictures of who

going through some old albums at my mom’s house a while back, i found this photo of myself.

i assume it was purim.


now i love this picture for obvious reasons.  it’s me in drag!  as a KID!

i could make up all kinds of things about this picture.  hindsight can sometimes hurt but it can also be really fun.  or totally false.  i’d love to be able to say about this photo: “well look at that.  i subconsciously knew all along that i was genderfucking dyke.”

but no.  i know that’s not true.  i’m not one of those queers who’s known their whole life that they were gay.  i didn’t know what gay was until i was just out of high school.

there are a million other pictures, i’m sure, of me putting on costume jewelry or bright red chap stick, twirling around in a pouffy dress.

i look at this picture and make up stories about myself.

lately i have been so sick of my own stories.  i’ve desired to tell something else about myself other than the pivotal moments of my life, the most narrative-friendly anecdotes, and memory-solidified stories that make me who i am.  who i think i am.

looking at this picture, i want to say something completely different.  i want to tell stories of a different mother and father.  i want to have been raised by the neighbors.  i want to have lived my formative years on a farm.  i want to have played tricks on people just for fun instead of being good and quiet.  i want to have been a backtalker and a loose-cannon kid-cad.

i want to have been this boy.

Title Party!

Thanks to my cohort of juicy friends with their spicy ideas, my book has a new title…

Infringe: A Queer Jewish Memoir


Now for another round of queries, Indigogo campaign, and project-planning galore…

Ohio Charter School Unlikely Paradise

Farms linked by 2-lane roads snaked across the rural Ohio landscape.   Brown and gray clouds flattened the scenery and cast their melancholy over silos, fields, and farmhouses.  The ticker board in front of a roadside church reads “Stop Drop and Roll Does Not Work In Hell.”

This is the landscape in which The Arts and College Preparatory Academy in Columbus hides.

My brother, who lives in Columbus and teaches 10th Grade English at ACPA, wove us through this meandering, rustic terrain and pulled into the parking lot of what looked like an office building with tinted windows. The school is located between a gravel factory and a run-down water park.  My brother drove around the lot before pulling into a spot.  Train tracks ran behind the grounds. He pointed to an old trucking container near the building.  “That’s where they store extra supplies,” he said.

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Recent Reads

I don’t want to write reviews here – just some short thoughts on a few books I’ve recently read. 

“Foreskin’s Lament” by Shalom Auslander — I listened to the audiobook version read by Auslander himself.  He’s like a cross between Philip Roth and David Sedaris.  Seems like Auslander and I have drunk from the same spring.  There were several moments in the story, which were, narrative-wise, similar to my story.  For instance, in both mine and Auslander’s books there is an episode in which someone spills hot soup at the Shabbos table, angering the cruel father character.  Scenes including watching people walk around the neighborhood on Shabbos.  Where the protagonist doesn’t know how to situate their body.  The strange feeling of breaking rules for the first time.  while i didn’t write about it in my book, Auslander describes his preparations for and participation in his school’s blessing bee (bracha bee — like a spelling bee except students have to know which blessings to say on which foods).  i also took part in a bracha bee in yeshiva as a kid and have my own story around that event.  i can even remember which food stumped me out of the competition: Twizzlers licorice (i’d said the blessing was “shehakol,” but the main ingredient in Twizzlers is wheat (who knew?!), so the blessing is actually “mezonos”). 

The point is, at first I thought, “oh crap.  my story has already been written.”  but as I continued listening, the differences and similarities came more into perspective.  my story is very much NOT Auslander’s – his is the perspective of a straight boy, mine of a queer girl.  while the world, the context is the same, the embodied experience is completely different.  Image

I also just finished the anthology “Love, InshAllah: the secret love lives of American Muslim Women” ed. Nura Maznavi and Ayesha Mattu.  what an awesome book.  important, relevant stories.  we need this book not just because of post-9-11 American panic about terrorist threats and its oppressive effect on numerous racial and religious minorities, but because the contributors of this book help us understand the complexities and intersections of being independent, successful, baddass women AND being extremely pious women, devout to a restrictive, patriarchal faith. 

My only complaint about this book is one I have with so many other anthologies, which showcase the experiences of a sub-sub-culture or group of people: the writing is mediocre.  of course there were a few stories in the collection that stood out for their style as well as their content (Tanzila Ahmed’s “Punk Drunk Love,” and Melody Moezzi’s “Love in the Time of Biohazards” to name two).  but for the most part, i was unmoved.  

lastly, not having to do at all with religion (not exactly), i am about to finish Jeanette Winterson’s “Lighthousekeeping.”  what can i say about it?  Winterson is always a treat.  she doesn’t just write about love.  she makes you feel it: aching and rapturous altogether so you don’t know, at any given moment, whether to moan or cry.


i’m making some new commitments, one of which is to let myself be inspired.  i think i have been scared of inspiration, even though there has been so much of it this last year, because i worry if give it the full attention i want to, i’ll end up not paying enough attention to those basic needs (like making rent), which i neglected while writing my first book.

but no more.  Image

i am putting the fear aside.  i’m sure it’ll be right there waiting for me when i come back from kicking some ass.

first, i picked one day in the week to spend only on my own writing and reading.  i can afford to do this not because i have shitloads of money (ha!) and don’t need to earn income every day, but because my writing is work, too.  i chose a weekday so as not to slip into the false impression that writing is just a hobby i do on the weekends.  it is part of my livelihood.

also, i am recommitting myself to my meditation practice.  i am going to start with a hour a day.  i can do half an hour in the morning and half an hour at night, or i can do one full hour sitting.  until i am able to get to a proper 10-day vipassana course (which i’ll have to wait till Spring to do), i will practice on my own.

lastly, i am working on making tutoring/teaching my one and only job because just trying to juggle my calendar has been enough to give me a panic attack – not exactly conducive to staying focused on what’s really important to me.

other steps i’d like to take in the future to improve my focus and production: invest in a writing computer, which will be a different machine from the one i use for internet and everything else; forgo any reading and writing for money, which shrinks the amount of energy and time i have for my own reading and writing needs; find a writing group.

and speaking of inspiration, this artist has me awestruck.  his blog is pretty neat, too.

outsourcing tasks

i have the feeling i’m going to be outsourcing a lot of tasks.  while this means more fundraising to pay folks, it also means i get to concentrate on the parts of the project i am most excited about such as publicity and working on the actual manuscript. 

here are the jobs i am trying to outsource:

— website creation

— typesetting

— cover and book design

these are things i do not know how to do and rather than spending hours upon hours, and days upon days (weeks upon weeks?) learning how to do these things, i’d rather find professionals who will make the process move more smoothly and who will be able to produce better quality work than i would be able to.  

this list, of course, does not include finding an editor.  here is what i am looking for in an editor:

— someone with an eye/ear/heart for poetry and word music

— someone with a stronger narrative sense than i have

— someone willing to work *with* me (regarding both my financial situation and my writing style)

— someone versed in judaism and yiddish/hebrew terms   

i’m still looking.

my anniversary present to/from the Bay

i’ve decided to self-publish my book.

since moving to the bay area a year ago i haven’t made a decision that has excited me as much as this one does. it came to me in a moment of complete hope and gratitude.  (forgive me, i have been in the Bay for a year now, so some “woo woo” language has inevitably infiltrated my vocabulary.)


i had been reflecting for several weeks on the last year of my life here – the experiences i’ve had, the people i’ve met, and the generosity of the city i’ve felt. and it was in this state of appreciation and general happiness, and on my one-year anniversary with the Bay Area, that i received a really beautiful and encouraging rejection letter from a press i was looking forward to publishing with.  a small, lesbian press.  a press whose philosophy about queer lit is so harmoniously in line with my own.

essentially, what the editor wrote to me was that my manuscript is intelligent and important, beautifully written, totally up their ally, worthwhile on so many different levels, etc…. but that unfortunately, they’d have to pass since they’d not be able to make a profit off the book.

now i understand this completely and i have no hard feelings at all about it.  i know that small presses more than any are suffering in this economy and in the changing face of publishing.  i get that. my book is a risk most publishers are not willing or able to take.

when i got this email, though, i didn’t feel disillusioned, insulted, or upset in any way.  in fact i felt very peaceful.  i had received a number of other emails like it.  i had been considering self publishing already, but something about getting this letter from this particular publisher on this particular day made me realize what i needed to do.

i wrote this book mostly in solitude.  the process was inward-looking, hermetic, lonely.  but now, i have community.  access to new places and people, another year’s worth of knowledge about myself and about publishing, and renewed enthusiasm for creative work, which i’ve been neglecting in order to focus on setting up shop for myself in a new city.  now, as i begin the publication process, this new adventure, i am looking forward. outward. upward.  !!!

i am self publishing not only so that my book can have a life of its own, but also so that i can continue to build my life in this place i love.

Letter to Temp Agency About First Day at a New Gig

Hi ____________,

Sorry I didn’t have a moment to call today to check in with you as you’d asked.  Today was just fine, if not a bit challenging.

After receiving instructions for completing my assigned tasks, I went to work earnestly, filling out the empty fields of a database for what seemed like a start-up.  I suspect it was a start-up because Ludicrous played at a reasonable volume over speakers throughout the day.  And because there was no one over 35 there.  And because out of a group of 30, there were only 4 women.  Including me.  And because there was a ping pong table.

Two people watched my work from remote screens — every click and keystroke, making sure I was doing things correctly and in an efficient manner.  The work was equal parts research and data entry.

At regular intervals, one of these two men would offer advice for completing the tasks faster, urging me to move faster, asking what it was I was “getting hung up on.” I began to feel inadequate because I am human and not a machine.  Were I am machine, not only could I have completed my assigned tasks without any learning curve, but I could have impressed the supervisor enough to offer me a full time job after the first day.  A machine can offer it all without sacrificing anything in the giving.  A human, however, has to choose between quantity and quality.

I am not a machine.  I am pitifully human.  The same way I know I will never be a prolific writer, I know I will never be a data entry specialist.  I suspect I will write a small handful of slender books in my life.  That is all, and that is fine with me.

At the end of the day, _________ challenged me to work faster tomorrow.   No, strike that word “challenged” and replace it with “dared.” _________ asked what I could do to turn my 10 entries an hour into 20. “IF we try this again tomorrow,” he said. I told him I could work faster.  But specifically, he wanted to know.  How could I make the process go faster.

The only reasonable reply that came to mind was “do it yourself.” I realized immediately that sounded indignant and I surely would not be allowed back tomorrow if I said it aloud.  But the only other honest reply I could think of was “figure out how a rig a computer to do it.”

I assured him I was working as fast as I could in order to maintain a certain level of accuracy, and also given that is was my first day.  I told him I was sure my speed would continue to improve as it did throughout the course of today.

__________, you interviewed me for your temp agency, but I’m not sure if you grasped the extent to which I am adaptable by nature.  It is one of my strengths (though some might say it’s really a weakness).  Even if I can’t give a person what they want, I will try like hell anyhow.  I understand “the impossible.”

I’m tired from a hard day’s work.  Especially my eyes.  I’d say it’s from staring at a computer screen without pause for a continuous 7 hours, but really I was staring at 2 computer screens — they were hooked together so the cursor could transmigrate between one domain and the other.  So I could preside over two worlds at once.

Tomorrow, I’m going to ask for a short lunch break.  Perhaps eating at some point during the day will improve my speed.

I promise to check in tomorrow after 5pm.



twice blessed

i’m having a pang of queer jewish guilt.  in case you’re wondering, that’s like garnishing my pre-existing heap of chronic jewish guilt (if you’re jewish, you don’t need a reason to feel guilty.  it’s just your default state of being) with a generous sprinkling of fairy-dust-guilt .

here’s the issue:

i went to Congragation Sha’ar Zahav, the gay shul in San Francisco… and… i… didn’t like it.

it left me with the following question: when does a politically and religiously progressive, Reform, queer-friendly jewish community cross over into something other than judaism?

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new york has such a vibrant literary scene it seemed tragic that the litcrawl, which took place in the city on september 10th, was less than inspiring.  the event spanned various locations around the east village during one evening.  venues were so spread out, it was difficult to navigate the event in a timely manner, or to make a workable plan of action for a smooth crawl.

i only realized just how disorganized the ny litcrawl was when i arrived in san francisco earlier this week and perused the program for the event here.  a super user-friendly map of all the locations adorn a centerfold in the booklet that shows all the events in all their color-coded glory.  not only that, but the three phases of the SF crawl have been placed on a geographical progression along valencia street in order to minimize chaos, save time getting from one event to another, and, i imagine, create a sense of community as folks move between venues.

ok, so i haven’t been to the SF crawl yet (it’s not until tonight), but it seems to be arranged in a way that, as a non-SF-native at least, i appreciate.  and i can’t wait!