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Reflections of a Jewish Southerner

by Eli N. Evans

Pub Date: July 31st, 1993
ISBN: 0-87805-627-0
Publisher: Univ. Press of Mississippi

 An uneven--and even self-indulgent--mÇlange of autobiography and reportage from a Jewish writer with deep southern roots. Although Evans (Judah P. Benjamin, 1988, etc.) writes movingly in spots about the peculiar history and contemporary lives of Jews in the South, as a whole this collection of essays, most reprinted (from The New York Times, etc.), lacks depth and thematic cohesion. Evans possesses unassailable southern credentials: He writes of smuggling a vial of his native North Carolina soil into an N.Y.C. delivery room, holding it close to his wife to prevent their son from being ``born altogether as a Yankee....'' The author shines brightest when he writes personally about the lives of Jews in the ``mysterious underland of America.'' At the 1972 Miss America contest, he meets the first-ever Jewish Miss North Carolina, the daughter of Nazi concentration-camp survivors. Here, the distance between cultures and histories comes into focus as Miss North Carolina says painfully of her Jewish family, ``We cannot have family reunions...and that's a tradition in the North Carolina mountains. There are only four or five of [our relatives who survived the camps].'' But this story is a rare moment of poignancy in an otherwise punchless collection. Evans, a longtime freelance journalist and social/political activist, includes pieces on an unwieldy array of subjects, from fashion to politics to sports to Israel. Many of the essays seem little more than Evans's favorites on pet subjects, roaming far from the world of southern Jews, roped together with scant attention to balance. In one, we get advice on researching one's family history; in another, a long reprint of Evans's mother's obituary; and, in another, a laudatory interview of the author conducted by a Jewish academic and reprinted in its tedious 16-page entirety. A disappointing scrapbook seemingly designed more for the author than the reader.