Fore­skin’s Lament

  • Review
By – November 15, 2011
Is life more fun with a fore­skin?” It is ques­tions like this, which have plagued Jew­ish men and women for cen­turies, that Shalom Aus­lan­der seeks to answer in his hilar­i­ous new mem­oir, Foreskin’s Lament. In Auslander’s sec­ond pub­lished work, the author takes a bru­tal­ly hon­est look at his child­hood in an ultra Ortho­dox home in New York and the effect that upbring­ing had on his adult life. In the work, Aus­lan­der strug­gles with Judaism and many of the ways he was raised, grap­pling with Judaism’s rules and tra­di­tions and the ratio­nale for fol­low­ing them. Aus­lan­der uses many of the sto­ries in the book as a form of ther­a­py to work through and make sense of his dys­func­tion­al fam­i­ly. It is to be not­ed that in his adult life, Aus­lan­der has cut off ties with his fam­i­ly and left the world of ultra-Ortho­dox Judaism. Because of this, some of the lan­guage might seem harsh or bit­ing in ref­er­ence to Jew­ish tra­di­tions that more tra­di­tion­al Jew­ish read­ers may still con­sid­er impor­tant and mean­ing­ful. How­ev­er, many read­ers will be able to relate to Auslander’s voice, hav­ing at one point or anoth­er also strug­gled with reli­gion and its guide­lines. Over­all the book is an extreme­ly fun­ny work, with scenes that depict every­thing from Auslander’s strug­gle with mas­tur­ba­tion and God’s ret­ri­bu­tion to his pre­co­cious desire to under­stand what exact­ly goes on at the mall on the Sab­bath when he is told he must stay at home. While Aus­lan­der seems unnec­es­sar­i­ly bit­ter in cer­tain anec­dotes, Foreskin’s Lament is a laugh-out-loud look at one person’s strug­gle to come to terms with his past from a promis­ing new young Jew­ish voice in the lit­er­ary world.
Adam Teeter is the direc­tor of audi­ence devel­op­ment at Tablet Mag­a­zine and the co-founder of VinePair.

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