“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.