A Letter to Harvey Milk: Short Stories

Firebrand Books  1988


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.

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