JOURNEYS AND ARRIVALS: On Being Gay and Jewish by Lev Raphael

JOURNEYS AND ARRIVALS: On Being Gay and Jewish

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Raphael's ""greatest hits"": This collection of 13 essays offers remixes and reprises of some of his better-known material. Raphael's struggle to claim both his religious and sexual identities, and the happiness he subsequently found, form the basis of the journeys and arrivals he recounts. Until 0the author reached his mid-20s, he felt alienated from other Jews, ambivalent about his homosexuality, ""twice strange . . . in each [community], different, lesser, ashamed."" A son of Holocaust survivors, novelist Raphael (Dancing on Tisha B'Av, 1990; Winter Eyes, 1992) grew up in an unmistakably Jewish but nonreligious home. However, as an adult he initiated his own affiliations with Judaism: He had a bar mitzvah at age 30, went to Israel twice, and fell in love with a Jewish man. It was ""coming out as a Jew,"" he writes, that ""ultimately made it possible for me to come out as a gay man and then work at uniting the two identities."" Attesting to his journey is the contrast between his confused childhood and the joyful domestic life he now shares with his lover, Gersh, and with Gersh's two sons. Raphael's arrival is marked by such confidently argued essays as ""Dangerous Men"" (on antigay Republicans) and ""Why Are They Bashing Dancer from the Dance?,"" a passionate defense of Andrew Holleran's much-maligned gay novel. Raphael's unique vantage point informs and enriches every essay--from his brief history of homosexuals in the Holocaust and in the literature of the Holocaust to an overview of contemporary gay life in Israel. However, the collection's two finest pieces, ""To Be a Jew"" and ""Okemos, Michigan,"" have already appeared in anthologies that readers interested in Raphael's subject matter are likely to have encountered. Worthwhile if you haven't journeyed with Raphael before.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1996
Page count: 166pp
Publisher: Faber & Faber