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It's A Whole Spiel, edited by Katherine Locke and Laura Silverman - Review

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

I'm going to use these questions to review this book even though it's an anthology of short stories, they mostly fit so I'm going to do it, I hope that makes sense. 

The subtitle for this book is "Love, Latkes, and Other Jewish Stories", showing that all fourteen of the stories in the book are about Jewish characters. Yay!

Where did I get it? I ordered it a few weeks back, I had seen someone talk about the book on Twitter and wanted to read it as it's not often that I read books about Jewish characters, and I would like to change that. 

What's it about? All kinds of things! The stories range from someone meeting their girlfriend or boyfriend's family for the first time, to going to Israel and swimming in a spring after severe trauma, to making friends online, to starting college, to falling in love with your fellow counsellor at camp. 

I liked all the stories. I think David Levithan's is a real essay about his own experiences, but the rest are fiction. There's a whole spectrum of different Jewish experiences, from kids who are "technically" Jewish but whose parents aren't religious, to the frum girls who have to walk up to the eighth floor of an apartment block on Shabbos to avoid the lift. There are observant Jews and Jews who don't know the story of Hannukah and straight Jews and queer Jews and basically, a lot! I loved the spectrum. 

I genuinely don't think there is a bad story among the fourteen, but my favourites were Aftershocks by Rachel Lynn Solomon, Some Days You're the Sidekick; Some Days You're the Superhero by Katherine Locke, and Neilah by Hannah Moskowitz. I liked David Levithan's essay, as I said above. I really liked the fan references in some of the stories. I loved the plethora of characters and I now want to read books by all these authors! 

What age range is it for? 14+ I think 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Yep! There's at least seven who are explicitly queer, and I read queerness into the last story too. There's a story about a boy with a genderqueer sibling, and I LOVED how he stood up for his sibling, I thought theirs was a very nice relationship. 

Are any main characters people of colour? I don't think there are any black characters (and black Jews do exist) but there is some racism and anti-semitism, although not a lot. The book as a whole is more of a celebration. 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? There's a couple of characters with mental health illnesses but I don't think there's any physical disabilities. 

Is there any sex stuff? No 

Are drugs mentioned or used? Weed, but I think that's all. 

Is there any talk of death? Yes but nothing graphic. There is one story with some magic in it, which has some discussion of death and of ghosts. 

Are there swear words? No I don't think so.

What criticisms do I have? If anything, I would have liked one more story about a more Orthodox or observant Jew. That there isn't many be due to the authors involved, which is obviously fine, but that is one thing I would have liked. 

Would I recommend the book? Yes absolutely 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? It arrived and I really wanted to read it! 

What do I think of the cover? I love it, I think it's vibrant and exciting and I love the subtitle. As a side note, none of the Jewish phrases are explained in the book, which I like - it's not for Gentiles, and if we want to understand the lingo, we'll have to google it. Which I did! I learnt that the Hebrew for the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem is Kotel, which I'll remember from now on! 

What other books is it like? It's like other anthologies, like Proud

How many stars? Five out of five, for sure. I loved the book as a whole. 

Where is the book going now? I will definitely keep it.

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