The tension between the ideas of home and exile is a central theme in much of Jewish writing throughout history, for both male and female Jewish writers. This collection attempts to look at issues of home that specifically relate to the experience of contemporary Jewish women. The editors of Where We Find Ourselves have tried to collect a wide array of material that speaks to the question posed in the title. This volume includes fiction, essays, and poetry from both well-known professional and avocational writers. The background of the writers is diverse as well, representing voices that draw on the experiences of coming from or sojourning in places as wide-ranging as Shanghai, China, Poland, North Africa, South Africa, North America, Israel, and Romania.
What “home” means is a question that lends itself to rich, complex answers, and many of the pieces in this collection address that question in interesting ways. Can we ever, as Jews and as women, truly be at home anywhere? Are we forever marked as outsiders, destined to always be in exile even when we are second, third, or fourth generation citizens of the country whose passport we hold? Or is home not a place at all but rather a way of being? These questions are compelling and allow for the possibility of material that pushes and moves the reader.
Yet in the end, this collection is disappointing. The quality of the material included in the collection is uneven. The poetry is the strongest material in the book overall, drawing in part from the work of established poets like Elsa Lasker-Schuler and Linda Zisquit. However, the fiction excerpts often feel out-of-context, and the essays range from fascinating to mundane. In the end, it feels like the editors worked too hard to fit material into their theme and strove too hard to achieve diversity without considering overall quality. The collection thus lacks real cohesion.