Lev Raphael’s memoir consists of ten chapters, and is distinctly reflective of the Ten Days of Penitence, for each chapter results in a rich discussion of his search for self, sexuality, place, and spirituality. The chapter titles in these memoirs reveal Raphael’s careful consideration of his thoughts and feelings, especially when faced with unintended consequences of his innocence and passion. The first chapter, Writing a Jewish life, describes Raphael’s upbringing as a child of Holocaust survivors and his attempt to deal with Jewish identity. In Letters from Israel I, Raphael comes to terms with his homosexuality and with the idea that Israel was [his] country if [he] wanted it to be. In Writing something Real, Raphael justifies writing with his refusal to accept silence and marginalization. Perhaps the two most enlightening chapters, however, are Losing my Mother, and Scars, in which Raphael again searches his soul to understand his parents and their impact on his life. For all the simplicity of Raphael’s writing, it is in that way deceiving. Words, names, places, the title, and even his motives are subtly didactic. In writing something real, Raphael extends his reach to a wider audience and provides that audience with a purpose.
Malvina D. Engelberg, an independent scholar, has taught composition and literature at the university level for the past fifteen years. She is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Miami.