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Dancing on Tisha B'av [Paperback]

Lev Raphael
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Tisha B'Av (the Ninth of the Hebrew month of Ab), which commemorates the destruction of both Jerusalem temples, is observed by fasting and public mourning. In the title story of Raphael's first collection, a gay student has been publicly humiliated in a university synagogue. Furious and frustrated, he lashes out at God and his own commitment to Judaism by dancing on the holiday. Raphael's characters, struggling to find identities as Jews, gays or children of Holocaust survivors, are angry, humorless and largely self-absorbed. Although message dominates plot in most of the tales, when the author permits personalities and events to play themselves out, he creates a more natural and sympathetic setting for his themes. In "War Stories," a remote, morose New York cab driver believes he is his family's sole survivor. When a cousin long thought dead enters his cab, he is transformed; he can finally break down and express his emotions. In "Abominations , " on the other hand, in which the characters in the title story are reencountered, Raphael errs into overemphasis: the torching of the gay student's dormitory room is compared by his sister to the Holocaust's conflagrations. Here as in other stories, Raphael forgets that people's lives can be interesting, instructive and important without the explicit ascription of cosmic significance.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

The 19 short stories in this first collection give the reader a glimpse of what it's like to be gay and Jewish, probing the problems encountered when trying to reconcile seemingly incompatible sensibilities. The author draws interesting parallels between the treatment of Jews in Europe before and during the World War II; several stories include concentration camp survivors parenting gay children, with each generation painfully aware of the discrimination and suffering experienced by the other. The title story begins with a sister admiring her brother's devotion to Orthodoxy, while refusing to confront his homosexuality; it concludes with his expulsion from his religious minyan, the torching of his dorm room by bigots, and her new understanding and sensitivity to another potential holocaust. Recommended.
- Kevin M. Roddy, Oakland P.L., Cal.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Brenda was already used to the men, sitting across the chest-high wooden mehitzah that separated them from the women, saying they needed one more "person" to make the minyan of ten, while she and sometimes as many as six other women might be there. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Moving and so close to the truth April 2 2003
By ESM517
Format:Paperback
As a fellow gay Jew, I was very interested in reading these short stories. And I was not disappointed. Each story was so well-written and really hit home. The impact of the Holocaust on our generation is not to be underestimated and as a gay Jewish man, this seems all that more powerful. The most moving story was that of Great Aunt Rose (ironically I also had a Great Aunt Rose). That reallz made me think, espeiallz how Raphael says that Americans always want to analyze. I really thought that the story written for class was so wonderful. Imagine my surprise when Rose is just devastated.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Stories from being Gay & Jewish March 20 2000
Format:Paperback
Snippets of day to day life, told from the viewpoint of being both Gay & Jewish, with which any Gay man can identify regardless of his religion. Enlightening for anyone Jewish who believes Gays must be different from straights; comforting in its affirmaton that we are not unique in our feelings.
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stories from being Gay & Jewish March 20 2000
By Liam Sauer-wooden - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Snippets of day to day life, told from the viewpoint of being both Gay & Jewish, with which any Gay man can identify regardless of his religion. Enlightening for anyone Jewish who believes Gays must be different from straights; comforting in its affirmaton that we are not unique in our feelings.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Moving and so close to the truth April 2 2003
By ESM517 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As a fellow gay Jew, I was very interested in reading these short stories. And I was not disappointed. Each story was so well-written and really hit home. The impact of the Holocaust on our generation is not to be underestimated and as a gay Jewish man, this seems all that more powerful. The most moving story was that of Great Aunt Rose (ironically I also had a Great Aunt Rose). That reallz made me think, espeiallz how Raphael says that Americans always want to analyze. I really thought that the story written for class was so wonderful. Imagine my surprise when Rose is just devastated.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Short Stories, Mediocre Collection Feb. 18 2009
By Robert D. Shull - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Lev Raphael is a talented author. The book, Dancing on Tisha B'Av, brings together nineteen short stories. Throughout his writing, Raphael interweaves his own life story into the stories of his characters. In many of the stories, Raphael's characters explore the intersection and interplays of their Gay and Jewish identities.

This collection was compiled in 1990. Throughout, you can feel the alienation and exclusion of the characters, but also the tremendous sense of happiness and peace that comes from a knowledge of self and personal integrity. The stories offer lessons to all readers, Gay or Straight, Jewish or non-Jewish.

The strength of Dancing on Tisha B'Av comes from the short-story format. Each of the stories is a relatively quick read, so readers with limited time will be able to progress through the book with ease. While themes are repeated throughout the book, each story is self-contained. The reader will be able to put the book down and come back to it later without feeling compelled to re-read.

This collection does suffer from monotony after a while. Each story places the characters in similar circumstances that begin to seem rote and uninteresting. For example, in nearly every story the main character is either a graduate English student or on the English faculty at one of a handful of universities. After a while, a sense of re-reading the same story over and over begins to develop.

Perhaps the most powerful story in this collection was "Abomination" which tells the story of a temporary Professor of English whose reactions to homophobia on campus are influenced by her parent's experience in the Holocaust and her gay brother. This story is unique in that it explores the emotions and feelings of those around the gay person, rather than the gay person themself. This theme is also explored in the story "Dancing on Tisha B'Av" for which the book gets its name.

Raphael's Dancing on Tisha B'Av is worth a read, particularly for gay Jews and those around them who are struggling to reconcile their Gay and Jewish identities. As individual stories the writings are wonderful reflections on identity and the reactions of others to those identities. As a collection, however, the stories become repetitious and lose some of their power. Take your time and enjoy each story for its own contributions and merits.
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