All I Love and Know

By – April 30, 2014

All I Love and Know, Judith Frank’s lat­est nov­el, com­bines the expe­ri­ence of being gay and Jew­ish with grief, and the polit­i­cal Israeli-Pales­tin­ian con­flict. Some of the best parts of the book are Frank’s depic­tions of how a gay Jew­ish cou­ple copes with becom­ing guardians to chil­dren whose par­ents have died in a ter­ror­ist attack.

The nov­el skill­ful­ly pulls the read­er into the sto­ry of Matthew Greene and Daniel Rosen, a gay cou­ple who were enjoy­ing a qui­et domes­tic life in Mass­a­chu­setts. Sud­den­ly their life is turned upside-down when Daniel’s twin broth­er, Joel, and sis­ter-in-law, Ilana, are mur­dered in a ter­ror­ist sui­cide bomb­ing at an Israeli café. Ten­sions esca­late when the grand­par­ents on both sides learn that Daniel was willed to adopt the chil­dren, a six-year-old girl, Gal, and a baby boy, Noam.

Frank explores many ques­tions: What is Matthew’s place in an extend­ed fam­i­ly that does not com­plete­ly accept him or the com­mit­ment he and Daniel have made? As Daniel ques­tions his iden­ti­ty as a Jew­ish man, how does that affect his life as a gay Amer­i­can? What is it like for a Jew and a non-Jew to enter into a part­ner­ship and raise two chil­dren in the Jew­ish reli­gion? How do peo­ple han­dle grief differently?

The most pow­er­ful part of the nov­el is when the author delves into how a sin­gle event can change someone’s life for­ev­er. The grief scenes were heart wrench­ing and potent. Any read­er will feel for Daniel, Gal, Noam, and the par­ents of those who have died. Frank writes these scenes with an empha­sis, not on being gay, but on how any­one would deal with such a trag­ic cir­cum­stance. She shows that Ilana’s par­ents, Holo­caust sur­vivors, must yet again go through great hard­ship and tragedy.

While read­ers can per­son­al­ize the grief scenes, some will have a hard time com­ing to grips with the char­ac­ters’ polit­i­cal state­ments. The Author fre­quent­ly refers to the fact that the US media only shows the tragedy of the Israeli vic­tims and nev­er the Pales­tin­ian vic­tims. Frank has Daniel say­ing, So Pales­tini­ans pro­duce the stone that’s designed to make Jerusalem Jew­ish for­ev­er, and get sick doing so.” Or Matt say­ing, It sure sucked for those Pales­tini­ans to be dri­ven from their homes, didn’t it?” Or the tra­di­tion in a Jew­ish wed­ding of break­ing the glass, to sym­bol­ize the shat­ter­ing of their lives when Joel and Ilana died, and the con­tin­ued shat­ter­ing of Pales­tin­ian lives.”

Many of these polit­i­cal quotes are one sided, lean­ing heav­i­ly toward the Pales­tin­ian point of view and seem to be tak­en out of con­text, for exam­ple, an Israeli law that Daniel describes as stat­ing If a Pales­tin­ian liv­ing in Jerusalem mar­ries some­one from the West Bank, they can’t live legal­ly togeth­er in either place.’s Even though the books is a nov­el, there is nev­er any expla­na­tion that the Pales­tini­ans between 1967 and 1987 were allowed to trav­el rel­a­tive­ly freely between the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Israel. The law came about once the Pales­tini­ans start­ed killing many Israelis in ter­ror­ist attacks, dur­ing the Intifada.

The polit­i­cal dis­cus­sion by the char­ac­ters def­i­nite­ly dis­tract­ed from the pow­er­ful sto­ry­line. How­ev­er, All I Love And Know is a riv­et­ing book that cap­tures the essence of a griev­ing family.

Elise Coop­er lives in Los Ange­les and has writ­ten numer­ous nation­al secu­ri­ty arti­cles sup­port­ing Israel. She writes book reviews and Q and A’s for many dif­fer­ent out­lets includ­ing the Mil­i­tary Press. She has had the plea­sure to inter­view best­selling authors from many dif­fer­ent genres.

Discussion Questions

Cour­tesy of HarperCollins

  • The first 45 pages of are nar­rat­ed from Matt’s point of view. Why might Frank have cho­sen him as the ini­tial point-of-view char­ac­ter in this nov­el? How does Matt’s out­sider sta­tus – as a young gay man, as a non-Jew, as the goyfriend” – put him in an awk­ward or advan­ta­geous posi­tion as Daniel’s part­ner in this cri­sis? What about as a par­ent to Noam and Gal?

  • In what ways is All I Love and Know about the expe­ri­ence of being a twin? What does being a twin mean to Daniel, and how does it affect his think­ing about rebuild­ing his life after Joel’s death? We’re told that he and Joel invent­ed the semi­fac­e­tious idea of twin­sism: the act of stereo­typ­ing or fetishiz­ing twins”. What does that run­ning joke tell us about their feel­ings about twinship?
  • All I Love and Know can be read as a nov­el about par­ent­ing and being par­ent­ed: as these gay men become sud­den par­ents, they are thrust into con­tact with their own par­ents and con­front their feel­ings about being their par­ents’ chil­dren. What are the aspects of par­ent­ing that the nov­el asks you to think about? What do you think Daniel and Matt’s rel­a­tive strengths are as par­ents to Gal and Noam?

  • Matt moved to Northamp­ton after his best friend Jay died of AIDS. How does Jay’s death change the way he han­dles this new cri­sis? How does this AIDS sto­ry relate to the cen­tral nar­ra­tive of ter­ror­ism and trau­ma? What is at stake in the fight Matt and Daniel have over the rel­a­tive inno­cence” of Jay’s and Joel’s deaths?

  • Why do you think Frank decid­ed to make Mal­ka and Yaakov Holo­caust sur­vivors? What does their expe­ri­ence add to the novel’s sto­ry of sur­vival? At the mil­i­tary ceme­tery, Mal­ka sur­pris­es Daniel by com­par­ing vic­tims of ter­ror to Holo­caust sur­vivors and claims that Israelis despise them both. What is the con­nec­tion, in her mind? Does her bit­ter­ness make you think dif­fer­ent­ly about her?

  • Israel is very impor­tant to many Amer­i­can Jews, and it appeals to the Rosen sons in dif­fer­ent ways. What does Israeli cul­ture have to offer Daniel and Joel as young men from an afflu­ent Jew­ish-Amer­i­can family?

  • In a cen­tral event of the nov­el, talk­ing to a reporter, Daniel says of the ter­ror­ist who killed his broth­er, “…I can under­stand try­ing to vio­lent­ly place your­self with­in the Israelis’ field of vision, in a way they can’t ignore. I don’t con­done it, but I do under­stand it”. He receives hate mail in response, and won­ders whether he has breached an impor­tant code of con­duct, or failed at some response cru­cial to the com­mon human enter­prise”. What do you make of Daniel’s response to the ter­ror­ist attack? Is he doing some­thing wrong? Does the nov­el make you think any dif­fer­ent­ly about terrorism?

  • Daniel has a left-of-cen­ter posi­tion about the Israeli occu­pa­tion. From what kinds of sources does he get his infor­ma­tion? What fac­tors from his per­son­al life con­tribute to the way he feels about Israel’s poli­cies? And con­verse­ly, how does his polit­i­cal posi­tion impact or impede his mourn­ing process? What do you think the nov­el is try­ing to say about the ten­sion between the per­son­al and the political?

  • Daniel grieves through­out the nov­el, some­times in alien­at­ing ways. He believes Matt and his friends are pres­sur­ing him for griev­ing wrong,” and feels they’re try­ing to push him into ther­a­py. Matt believes that Daniel has become frozen” and dif­fer­ent”. What are the fac­tors that have made Daniel’s process espe­cial­ly gru­el­ing? How did you respond to the ways in which he becomes frozen”?

  • Does Gal get lost acci­den­tal­ly or on pur­pose in the Jerusalem shuk? What kind of inter­nal dra­ma is being enact­ed as she races away from the sus­pi­cious box, feel­ing her par­ents at her heels? What kind of fig­ure is Chezzi the fish­mon­ger? What does this fright­en­ing event express about Gal’s rela­tion­ship with Daniel?

  • The idea of gay mar­riage comes up in this sto­ry, and it takes one char­ac­ter some time to warm to the idea. In this era of vic­to­ry for mar­riage equal­i­ty in many U.S. states, why do you think some gay and les­bian peo­ple might be ambiva­lent about get­ting married?