Goldie Goldbloom is the author of Toads’ Museum of Freaks and Wonders, a novel about Italian prisoners of war in Australia during World War II. She will be blogging all week for the Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning.
In a deeply disturbed moment — one that lasted several years — I wrote a novel called Toads’ Museum of Freaks and Wonders. Earlier this month, it was published, and it was only then that I thought, ‘Oh dang…this may cause me some issues in my community, which is, yeah, let’s face it, Chassidic.’
Issues, nothing. It’s going to get me freakin’ excommunicated.
So, as a helpful guide for others, I wrote a list.
You know you’re about to get excommunicated when:
1. You, a Chassidic Jew, write a book about a gay, cross-dressing dwarf getting it on with a hot Italian prisoner of war. In a river.
2. You, a Chassidic Jew, start hanging out with literary-type men in the local Starbucks, and have loud and heated conversations about why you are chintzing the sex scenes between the gay, cross dressing dwarf and the hot Italian P.O.W. and which particular details to include to improve said sex scenes. And are overheard by the local ordained Chassidic rabbi. Who blushes.
3. You, a Chassidic Jew, get stalked by women who are a little bit crazy. (It’s the same as a little bit pregnant.) And you don’t mind all that much.
4. You, a Chassidic Jew, are outed as queer when your friend inadvertently blogs about your deepest secret. Thinking everyone knew already. It’s like when your brother said everyone knew you were a dyke because you wore dyke shoes. Dyke shoes???
5. You, a Chassidic Jew, are approached at your kids’ school, by the most religious person there, who politely asks where she can buy your book because she wants to read it. And when you say you don’t really write things that she will like, she responds by saying that when she was younger she read Victor Hugo. And liked it.
6. You, a Chassidic Jew, (really, really you are, you promise!) offer her three photocopied pages to read from your three hundred page novel and she takes you up on it and then you have a hard time finding three consecutive pages that you feel comfortable giving to her.
7. You, a Chassidic Jew, find yourself giving a reading in the boardroom of the local Catholic school, a massive Jesus frowning down on you. You have this horrible suspicion that Jesus wouldn’t have given a reading of the New Testament at the local Idolatry school, and you suspect you have sold out. As Jesus wouldn’t have. But because you are Chassidic, you wipe this thought from your mind and pretend that everything is fine and that you are not about to be excommunicated.
Goldie Goldbloom’s first novel, The Paperbark Shoe, won the AWP Prize and is an NEA Big Reads selection. She was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and has been the recipient of multiple grants and awards including fellowships from Warren Wilson, Northwestern University, the Brown Foundation, the City of Chicago, and the Elizabeth George Foundation. She is chassidic and the mother of eight children.