Review: A Jewish-American woman living in a Christian world, the author looks back on a life defined by her Jewish identity. The struggle to define who she is begins with her Jewish identity. She is, however, “split at the root.” She has many stages in her life to date that grow, one way or another, out of her Jewish identity.
[Every essay has an unforgettable quote that strikes me as significant. The following is that quote for this essay. RayS.]
Quote: “Some time in 1946, while still in high school, I read in the newspaper that a theater in Baltimore was showing films of the Allied liberation of the Nazi concentration camps…. But it came to me that every one of those piles of corpses, mountains of shoes and clothing, had contained, simply, individuals, who had believed, as I now believed of myself, that they were meant to live out a life of some kind of meaning, that the world possessed some kind of sense and order; yet this had happened to them.”
Quote: “We—my sister, mother, and I—were constantly urged to speak quietly in public, to dress without ostentation, to repress all vividness or spontaneity, to assimilate with a world which might see us as too flamboyant.”
Quote: “…but in which I had been ceaselessly made to feel that what I did with my life, the choices I made, the attitudes I held, were of the utmost consequence.”
Quote: “Sometimes I feel I have seen too long from too many disconnected angles: white, Jewish, anti-Semite, racist, anti-racist, once married, lesbian, middle class, feminist, exmatriate Southerner, split at the root, that I will never bring them whole.”
The Art of the Personal Essay: An Anthology from the Classical Era to the Present. Ed. Phillip Lopate. New York: Anchor Books, 1995.