Part Stripes, part Camp Ramah, comedian Joel Chasnoff presents a new kind of coming- of-age story in his memoir and first book, The 188th Crybaby Brigade. Chasnoff had a typical Jewish American adolescence; he grew up in Chicago, got an Ivy League education, and lived in Brooklyn in his early twenties. After a failed attempt at a career in stand-up comedy, he moves to Israel to fulfill his lifelong yearning to serve in the Israel Defense Forces. Underneath his skinny frame, weak stomach, and lack of athleticism burns a long-running love of Eretz Yisrael. Chasnoff is assigned to the Armored Corps and trains as a tank gunner. But stop right there; this is not an all-out slapstick, silly-American-goes-to-Israel, missile hijinks tale. The author illuminates the relatively unknown side of the IDF and shows us from the inside how an army made up of teenagers and run by twenty-something officers actually functions. Along with Chasnoff, we bond with his platoon mates, who all call each other achi, “my brother.” Chasnoff’s comedic timing and honest heart shine throughout the narrative as we follow his journey from supposed zero to Israeli hero. Glossary of Israeli military slang, south Lebanon security recipes.
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Jessica B. Horwitz lives in Minneapolis, MN and works in public media.