A series of riveting essays about growing up Jewish in a Gentile world by the accomplished memoirist Silverman.
Having written haunting memoirs about being sexually abused by her father throughout her childhood (Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You, 1996) and her subsequent sexual pathology (Love Sick: One Woman’s Journey Through Sexual Addiction, 2001), the author returns to another troubling theme that caused an early self-splintering. Moving between the Caribbean and New Jersey as her father pursued high-powered jobs as a government official and banker, Silverman fixated on Pat Boone as a kind of immaculate other, a talisman that would keep away all the unpleasantness from her life, such as an abusive father, stifling Christian community and Russian refugee grandmother with her strange shtetl ways. Comparing herself to a gefilte fish (not even a real fish but a “ball floating in jelly, stuffed in fish skin….All evidence of its fishness—its true identity—gone”), Silverman addresses readers in missives between chapters, imparting cohesiveness to the discrete, elliptical essays. For example, in the first essay, she writes of tracing her finger over an arresting photograph in Life magazine depicting Boone and his happy family of four daughters on a tandem bike; she was fascinated by the photo’s “whiteness,” how its “immaculate universe was safe, far away from my father’s all-too-real hands, hands that hurt me at night.” In “Endless Possibilities of Youth,” the author discusses how, as a young adult, she was told of the suicide of her Christian rival, which plunged her into a maelstrom of memory about their fickle high school boyfriend, the first of many non-Jewish men she was attracted to and who couldn’t quite accept her Jewishness.
A masterly stylist continues her uncompromising examination of the inner life.