The two dozen stories in Jewish Gentle (many previously published in magazines, journals, and literary anthologies) share common traits, but needn’t be read all at once, sequentially. In fact, cherry-picking a few at a time proves more rewarding. “At Blumberg & Fong’s” expertly weaves a tale of adolescent longing around recollections of a family trip to Israel, while “In the Canoe” adds an unexpected ending to a narrative about AIDS. There are terrific tales, too, about sex (the refreshingly matter-of-fact “The Four of Us,” plus the thoughtful title story), coming out as a gay Jew (“Finding Home”), and dealing with family (“Telling Dad”). Taken together, this is the most powerful collection of short stories about gay Jews since Lev Raphael’s Dancing on Tisha B’Av blazed the trail more than twenty years ago.
Jewish Gentle and Other Stories of Gay-Jewish Living
1. Which of the 24 stories here are your favorites? Why?
2. What role does Jewishness play in the way the main character thinks about his gayness in the story, “At Blumberg & Fong’s”?
3. What role does Jewishness play in the way parents react to their gay sons in the stories, “Telling Dad,” “Kaddish,” and “Happy Birthday to…”?
4. Do the emotions in the stories “Abscents,” “The Axe,” and “Dear Marty” feel true to the nature of romantic break-ups?
5. What’s particularly Jewish about the main characters’ worldviews in the stories “One-Foot Lover” and “That Boy This Day”?
6. What do you think about the way various characters respond to HIV/AIDS in the stories, “The Kiss,” “In the Canoe,” and “Bless the Blue Angel”?
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