When did writing Jewish kidlit become an act of resistance?
What’s the value of Jewish narratives at a time when it feels like no one is listening?
Since 7 October it feels like, as Jewish creatives, we’re all screaming into a void or, at best, an echo chamber.
The last picture book manuscript I submitted was about a turtle that celebrates Shabbat – sort of. There’s an ongoing war, there are 136 hostages (some no longer living), terror attacks against Jews have been plotted all over the world, antisemitism is rampant – and I’m writing about a turtle?
It’s hard to navigate the upside down world that we’re living in. I’ve stepped away from kidlit to focus on my family and fighting antisemitism. I’ve written letters to the editor of the local paper. I’ve gone to Rome and met the pope (and think I also found a picture book idea or two while I was there). I’ve posted on social media. I’ve felt guilty about taking small pleasures like writing in a world where there’s so much pain and suffering. Writing anything outside of opinion pieces and petitions has felt trivial.
After finally hugging my children in Israel, I submitted my first manuscript to my agent in months. It had been in my head for a long time, but getting it down onto ‘paper’ was a struggle.
But now I’m back to putting more Jewish stories out into the world. I’m writing about turtles and rabbis and trumpets and children. Writing these stories feels like an act of resistance. Maybe no one will read them and maybe only Jewish children will, but I’m going to keep on writing.
I’m logging new story ideas with Storystorm. I’m going back to my critique group for the first time in 3 months. I’m picking up my middle grade manuscript and starting to work on edits again. I even started etegami again.
I think back to a conversation with my mother from many years ago. For context, I grew up in a household with the rule, common among many other Jewish families, that anything Nazi/ German was banned. My mother loved Chanel perfume. When I told her that Coco Chanel was a Nazi collaborator, she responded, “I don’t want to hear it. Haven’t they taken enough from us already? This is my pleasure. I’m not letting it go.”
I have stories to tell. October 7 can’t take that from me so I spray myself with my mother’s Chanel perfume and begin to type away. I’m writing those Jewish stories. This is my pleasure. This is my passion. I’m not letting it go.