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Argues that debates about Jewish identity and assimilation are signs of creative potential rather than crisis.
Identity Papers argues that contemporary Jewish American literature revises our understanding of Jewishness and Jewish difference. Moving beyond the reductive labeling of texts and authors as “too Jewish” or “not Jewish enough,” and focusing instead on narratives that portray Jewish regeneration through feminist Orthodoxy, queerness, off-whiteness, and intermarriage, Helene Meyers resists a lachrymose view of contemporary Jewish American life. She argues that such gendered, sexed, and raced debates about Jewish identity become opportunities rather than crises, signs of creative potential rather than symptoms of assimilation and deracination. Thus, feminist debates within Orthodoxy are allied to Jewish continuity by Rebecca Goldstein, Allegra Goodman, and Tova Mirvis; the geography of Jewish identity is racialized by Alfred Uhry, Tony Kushner, and Philip Roth; and the works of Jyl Lynn Felman, Judith Katz, Lev Raphael, and Michael Lowenthal queer the Jewish family as they reveal homophobia to be an abomination. Even as Identity Papers expands Jewish literary horizons and offers much-needed alternatives to the culture wars between liberal and traditional Jews, it argues that Jewish difference productively troubles dominant narratives of feminist, queer, and whiteness studies. Meyers demonstrates that the evolving Jewish American literary renaissance is anything but provincial; rather, it is engaged with categories of difference central to contemporary academic discourses and our national life.
“Ultimately, Meyers offers not only nuanced readings of many texts, but also a cogent argument about the generative possibilities for American Jewish futurity through an undoing of what constitutes normative understandings of Jewish bodies, families, and relationships.” — Journal of Jewish Identities
“Identity Papers is an important, thoughtful text that will appeal to those with an interest in postmodern inquiries into multiculturalism, identity theory, and selfhood.” — MELUS
“This is a sophisticated, nuanced critical study of contemporary Jewish (American) literature … Taking an anthropological approach to Jewish and Judaic cultural expression, Meyers provides probing, subtle analyses … Highly recommended.” —CHOICE
Helene Meyers is Professor of English and McManis University Chair at Southwestern University. She is the author of Femicidal Fears: Narratives of the Female Gothic Experience, also published by SUNY Press, and Reading Michael Chabon.