Hel­lo! We’re the edi­tors of (and two of the con­trib­u­tors to) It’s a Whole Spiel, a Young Adult anthol­o­gy of con­tem­po­rary Jew­ish sto­ries writ­ten by Jew­ish young adult authors. It has sec­u­lar, Reform, Con­ser­v­a­tive, Mod­ern Ortho­dox, and Ortho­dox rep­re­sen­ta­tion, and we’re very proud of every sto­ry in this col­lec­tion. We inter­viewed each oth­er to give you an inside look into this anthol­o­gy, why we made it, and what we hope read­ers will get from it!

Kather­ine Locke: Hi Lau­ra! I feel like it’s super impor­tant that peo­ple know that Spiel was your brain-child. I feel so lucky to be involved and so grate­ful to be invit­ed as your co-edi­tor. What gave you the idea for Spiel and what made you think of doing an anthology?

Lau­ra Sil­ver­man: Hi Kather­ine! I can’t believe my brain-child is now a real book, and I’m so grate­ful I had the best co-edi­tor ever at my side through­out this entire process. I’ve been fol­low­ing and sup­port­ing the push for diverse YA books for many years now, but for at least the first year, I didn’t even notice my own sto­ry was miss­ing from the shelves. Once I rec­og­nized the lack of YA books with Jew­ish char­ac­ters, I want­ed to not only write YA nov­els with Jew­ish char­ac­ters, but I also want­ed an anthol­o­gy to exist so read­ers could dis­cov­er a huge array of Jew­ish teen expe­ri­ences all at once. What made you say yes to this project?

KL: I can remem­ber exact­ly where I was when we were talk­ing, but I can’t remem­ber any­thing past that rush of feel­ing. I just knew — yes, this was some­thing we could do. I was writ­ing Jew­ish char­ac­ters into my YA books already, but it’d nev­er occurred to me that we too could put togeth­er an anthol­o­gy and that it’d be some­thing that peo­ple want­ed. But it seemed like a real­ly big need the more I thought about it. The oth­er rea­son I want­ed to be involved is I could so clear­ly see how this would have been a good book for me as a Jew­ish teen — and for a lot of Jew­ish teens with my expe­ri­ences. My Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty grow­ing up was sec­u­lar and Reform. I simul­ta­ne­ous­ly thought that I wasn’t Jew­ish enough, and that my Jew­ish­ness was the best way. Now I have friends with all dif­fer­ent Jew­ish back­grounds and all dif­fer­ent ways of observ­ing and prac­tic­ing Judaism. I wish I’d had those win­dows into oth­er Jew­ish expe­ri­ences when I was younger. It would have made me more open-mind­ed. Instead, as an adult, I had to unpack a lot of my own mis­con­cep­tions about oth­er ways of being Jew­ish. And I had to unpack my own fears and inse­cu­ri­ties about the ways prac­ticed my Jew­ish­ness as an adult. I want read­ers to open this book and real­ize that their way of being Jew­ish is enough — not supe­ri­or to or worse than any­one else’s way of being Jew­ish. What do you want Jew­ish read­ers to take away from Spiel And what do you want non-Jew­ish read­ers to take away from Spiel?

LS: I think this anthol­o­gy is a win­dow for Jew­ish read­ers to see oth­er Jew­ish per­spec­tives. Work­ing on and read­ing through this anthol­o­gy made me feel more con­nect­ed to my com­mu­ni­ty than ever. We are of course a rel­a­tive­ly small reli­gion, so we shouldn’t let lev­els of obser­vance divide us into even small­er groups. I hope non-Jew­ish read­ers take away joy­ful Jew­ish expe­ri­ences from this anthol­o­gy. Often Jew­ish rep­re­sen­ta­tion is about the trau­ma of the Holo­caust or cru­el stereo­types of being greedy or insu­lar, so I hope non-Jew­ish read­ers see us as we are — joy­ous, thought­ful, and giv­ing. Let’s talk sto­ries! Can you talk about one sto­ry that real­ly res­onat­ed with you — either because it felt sim­i­lar to your Jew­ish per­spec­tive or because it opened up a new win­dow for you?

KL: I sup­pose all of them doesn’t real­ly nar­row it down or answer the ques­tion? I knew when we start­ed this project that I was going to be emo­tion­al about it, but it was a real­ly fas­ci­nat­ing expe­ri­ence. I’ve nev­er felt more Jew­ish and less Jew­ish at the exact same time as I did read­ing all of the sto­ries. I’m going to pick two that real­ly stood out to me and I can remem­ber vivid­ly how I felt when I was read­ing them. Dahlia Adler is one of my best friends, but read­ing Two Truths and an Oy” felt like I was get­ting a win­dow into my friend’s life that I hadn’t had — or hadn’t known to look for — pre­vi­ous­ly. Amalia’s expe­ri­ence of feel­ing too Jew­ish in a gen­tile space, and her des­per­ate joy of see­ing some­one else with a kip­pah on felt so real, and also a lit­tle painful in a way I hadn’t under­stood before. And the sec­ond sto­ry was Alex London’s Indoor Kids” because it felt authen­tic to my Jew­ish expe­ri­ences: that Judaism is always there, sub­tly or not so sub­tly shap­ing my life expe­ri­ences. I remem­ber tex­ting him when I got to the end and demand­ing [redact­ed for spoil­ers]. It was the kind of sto­ry that made me feel big­ger on the inside, and that kind of sto­ry­telling is, to me, a deeply Jew­ish tra­di­tion. Which sto­ries spoke to you and your expe­ri­ences, or offered you a win­dow? Did any of the sto­ries sur­prise you?

LS: I think David Levithan’s The Hold” spoke the most to my Jew­ish expe­ri­ence. The open­ing para­graph of that sto­ry is three pages long and speaks to what Jew­ish is for the char­ac­ter; I iden­ti­fied with so many of those details, espe­cial­ly about feel­ing the con­nec­tion to the Mourner’s Kad­dish because, like David high­light­ed, it’s what my great-great-grand­par­ents said, and what my par­ents say, and what one day some­one will say for me. As for a win­dow into new expe­ri­ences, I real­ly appre­ci­at­ed the sto­ries about not feel­ing Jew­ish enough, like Rachel Solomon’s After­shocks.” I grew up in a con­ser­v­a­tive Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty and my grand­par­ents were Ortho­dox, so I didn’t real­ize what it was to be Jew­ish with­out ser­vices and b’nai mitz­vahs and Shab­bat din­ners. I think if you only know one expe­ri­ence it can be a slip­pery slope to con­flat­ing your way as the bet­ter way. Read­ing about such a wide range of Jew­ish expe­ri­ences pro­vides empa­thy, curios­i­ty, and brings us all clos­er togeth­er. Okay, final ques­tion from me! What’s next? Is there a Jew­ish sto­ry or sto­ries you’re par­tic­u­lar­ly eager to tell?

KL: Oh gosh. There are a thou­sand Jew­ish sto­ries I’m eager to tell! I feel like I’m just get­ting start­ed. I’m so inspired by all the incred­i­ble Jew­ish books I’ve been read­ing, espe­cial­ly over the last year, and the ways we’re explor­ing his­to­ry through a Jew­ish lens, like In the Neigh­bor­hood of True, and the con­tem­po­rary mil­len­ni­al Ortho­dox life through Ariel Sam­son: Free­lance Rab­bi, and the col­li­sion of fan­ta­sy and his­to­ry in The Sis­ters of the Win­ter Wood. I’m slow­ly and care­ful­ly mak­ing my way into a new his­tor­i­cal fan­ta­sy — after spend­ing a lot of time in con­tem­po­rary realms late­ly! — that is Jew­ish and messy and com­pli­cat­ed and I love it a lot. That’s all I can share right now though! What about you? What’s next on your docket?

LS: Ooh, I just start­ed read­ingIn the Neigh­bor­hood of True this week, and it’s so great already! I feel like I’m just get­ting start­ed as well! I want to write sto­ries where the char­ac­ters hap­pen to be Jew­ish and sto­ries that revolve around their Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ties and iden­ti­ties. I wrote a short sto­ry for an anthol­o­gy called Take the Mic high­ly inspired by my expe­ri­ence with online anti­semitism lead­ing up to the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, and I would be inter­st­ed to explore mod­ern anti­semitism even more. I grew up in a time and place where I nev­er expe­ri­enced anti­semitism, but in the past few years, it’s been ris­ing up all around me, and I feel like it’s impor­tant to address it and push back.

Kather­ine Locke lives and writes in Philadel­phia, where she’s ruled by her feline over­lords and her addic­tion to chai lattes. She writes about that which she can­not do: bal­let time trav­el and mag­ic. When she’s not writ­ing she’s prob­a­bly tweet­ing. She not-so-secret­ly believes most sto­ries are fairy tales in dis­guise. Her Young Adult debut, The Girl with the Red Bal­loon, won a 2018 Syd­ney Tay­lor Hon­or Award from the Asso­ci­a­tion of Jew­ish Libraries and a 2018 Car­olyn W. Field Hon­or Award from the Penn­syl­va­nia Library Asso­ci­a­tion. You can find her online @bibliogato on Twit­ter and Instagram.

Lau­ra Sil­ver­man is a writer and edi­tor. She loves books, dogs, and bub­ble baths. She cur­rent­ly lives in Brook­lyn, NY. You can fol­low her on Twit­ter @LJSilverman1.