A Let­ter to Har­vey Milk: Short Stories

  • Review
By – October 11, 2011

This col­lec­tion of nine short sto­ries focus­es on les­bian issues as they relate to Jew­ish iden­ti­ty. The title sto­ry is about Har­vey Milk, the may­or of San Fran­cis­co who was mur­dered in 1978 for being an open­ly gay politi­cian. New­man writes of Milk’s plight from the per­spec­tive of a 77-year old man, Har­ry Wein­berg. Mr. Wein­berg takes a writ­ing course from a Jew­ish les­bian who asks him to write a let­ter to some­one from his past. While in the process, Har­ry begins to think about Milk and some of his own sto­ries, uncov­er­ing many wounds sur­round­ing his own life as a Jew. Oth­er sto­ries include Only a Phase,” about a moth­er and daugh­ter, and the sim­i­lar reac­tion each has when the daugh­ter dis­clos­es that she is a les­bian. The World to Come” is a per­son­al sto­ry that cel­e­brates being a Jew, a les­bian and feel­ing tru­ly alive.

New­man mix­es many Yid­dish words in with Eng­lish, com­bin­ing echoes from the world of the shtetls with the con­tem­po­rary issues that face many Jews today. These are moral­i­ty tales about liv­ing and lov­ing oth­ers for who and what they are rather than for who we want them to be. Newman’s voice is com­plete­ly orig­i­nal, but feels com­fort­able and famil­iar. This author seems right at home with the pow­er of her own words.

Bar­bara S. Cohen is a tri­al attor­ney in Los Ange­les who spe­cial­izes in child abuse cas­es. She is a mem­ber of NAMI and a sup­port­er of NARSAD, and is an advo­cate for those who suf­fer from men­tal illness.

Discussion Questions