Kiss­ing Girls on Shab­bat: A Memoir

  • Review
By – June 18, 2024

Dr. Sara Glass begins her mem­oir by relat­ing a mem­o­ry: she and her friend Das­sa, who on the out­side” looked like the oth­er col­lege-aged Ortho­dox Jew­ish young women in Bor­ough Park,” fell in love with each oth­er as they par­tic­i­pat­ed in the shid­duch process. Glass writes with ten­der­ness, great care, and affec­tion. She ren­ders the ear­ly sto­ry of her rela­tion­ship with Das­sa beau­ti­ful­ly. The inti­ma­cy and yearn­ing between the two young women is pro­found and moving.

Although struc­tural­ly Kiss­ing Girls on Shab­bat is a com­ing-out nar­ra­tive, open­ing with a teenage love sto­ry and con­clud­ing with being out in the world, what makes it unique is that it places queer­ness in a broad­er con­ver­sa­tion about the con­straints that peo­ple encounter in the world and how they nav­i­gate them. At its heart, this mem­oir is a sto­ry of a woman and her fam­i­ly, and where and how their Ortho­dox com­mu­ni­ty serves and fails them. Glass explores her sister’s strug­gle with man­ic depres­sion, an ulti­mate­ly incur­able dis­ease that takes her in and out of hos­pi­tals from a young age. She also writes about her mother’s strug­gle with depres­sion, observ­ing, I knew that she did not mean to live inside of tombs, that she did not choose to have a mind that was shroud­ed by demons.” Both les­bian­ism and men­tal ill­ness dri­ve a wedge between Glass and her Ortho­dox communities.

The rich­est nar­ra­tives in Kiss­ing Girls on Shab­bat are the ones that inves­ti­gate the effects of silences and taboos in fam­i­lies. In the final third of the book, Glass writes, I was so over shov­ing entire parts of the human expe­ri­ence under the rug, out of sight.” This call for open­ness, for a life unshroud­ed and exam­ined, is the emo­tion­al heart of the book. Kiss­ing Girls on Shab­bat is a sto­ry about find­ing the courage to be one­self and live open­ly in the world — but it is also a sto­ry about Glass’s com­mit­ment to rais­ing her chil­dren to be open, lov­ing, and thought­ful human beings. The mem­oir leaves us with a num­ber of ques­tions: how do reli­gious com­mu­ni­ties build more space for a diver­si­ty of human expe­ri­ences? And how do peo­ple who have life expe­ri­ences out­side of what is nar­row­ly pre­scribed engage with reli­gion and reli­gious com­mu­ni­ties? Glass offers some insights and reflec­tions, but she leaves plen­ty of room for fur­ther exploration.

Julie R. Ensz­er is the author of four poet­ry col­lec­tions, includ­ing Avowed, and the edi­tor of Out­Write: The Speech­es that Shaped LGBTQ Lit­er­ary Cul­ture, Fire-Rimmed Eden: Select­ed Poems by Lynn Loni­di­erThe Com­plete Works of Pat Park­er, and Sis­ter Love: The Let­ters of Audre Lorde and Pat Park­er 1974 – 1989. Ensz­er edits and pub­lish­es Sin­is­ter Wis­dom, a mul­ti­cul­tur­al les­bian lit­er­ary and art jour­nal. You can read more of her work at www​.JulieREn​sz​er​.com.

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