THE BOOK OF LIFE: PART 2 Through the Window with Lee Wind
9:32PM Jun 14, 2020
That's great. Yeah, when I read it on the blog, at the bottom of each chapter, it had all of those notes and I appreciated that. It was, it brought this whole other level of verisimilitude.
Thank you for reading it. That's so exciting. So what do you want people to know?
Well, for people who are not part of the Jewish community, I want them to realize that we are not a monolith. Because I think to many non Jews, we are represented by Seinfeld, or The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. And those are great shows and they do represent us, but that's not the whole story. And I want people to realize that there are so many different kinds of Judaism and kinds of Jews and we are not all white. We are not all Ashkenazi, which means European. We're not even all pro Israel, which I think is something that many people don't realize; some people have this idea that we are more loyal to Israel. than we are to our own countries and that's simply not true. It's sort of similar to when Kennedy was the first Catholic president elected and people thought he was going to answer to the Pope. It's, it's nice to know Israel is there. But that's not my primary loyalty.
And for people in America, I think that we have an extra opportunity to recognize that when you don't agree with the policies of a government, it doesn't mean that the people in that country are suddenly all terrible people. You can disagree with what the government of Israel does, but Israelis, I have a lot of relatives that are Israeli, they're wonderful people, terrible people among them. But you know, generally it's like, I feel compassion for the people of North Korea right now. Because it's like, those people are probably wonderful. I'm not a big fan of the current leadership in our country. And it's made me feel a little more compassionate and recognize that yeah, these aren't monoliths, and what were you were saying about all Jews are not Mrs. Maisel. It makes me think of when Glee came out, the TV show, and everyone was talking about and it was so exciting and it was such a great show. But I couldn't watch Kurt, that sort of a feminine gay character who sung in a soprano. It just made me crazy. Because when I was a teenager, like that was a stereotype. You know, I was too girly. And I had to like toughen up and I artificially talked lower so I would sound more masculine, I totally messed my voice up for years, I had to go to a vocal coach and everything to kind of get it back. But it was problematic because Kurt was the only representation of queer teenagers at that time on television. He wasn't A gay, he was THE gay. And then once a few more characters came out, like fast forward one or two seasons, and there were like five major characters on Glee that were all queer, suddenly Kurt could be as effeminate as he wanted, he could sing his high notes. I didn't care because there was enough representation that every single representation didn't become so important. And I think that that speaks to this idea of who can tell a story. If it's THE story, it should be an #ownvoices thing. But if you're telling A story, then you can just do your homework.
And it's making me think even further back. Do you remember Jodi on Soap?
Billy Crystal? And back then they didn't even know what a gay character was, because he wished he was a woman and he wanted to get a sex change, and he was wearing women's clothing. That's not even what gay is. But back then they just had no clue.
And still today, people mix up gender identity and affective orientation all the time.
Right. So just to finish answering your question. The other thing that I want people to know, in general, is that although probably the majority of Jews are white, and that does give us white privilege, I want people to realize that that white privilege does not protect us from abuse for being Jewish. Very similar to, there are many white queer people, but the whiteness only goes so far in in helping you navigate the power structures of the world. And within the diversity community, the Jewish community is often left out. And I think that there is a perception that because so many of us are white, that we don't need help the way that other minorities do. But I think they may be affected by old stories that say that Jews have special power. People have this impression, you know, Jews control the media. I could tell you, if we, if we controlled the media things would be pretty different. So no, we don't control the media, we would we would be doing a better job!
And oftentimes, even the people that are of minority status within those larger cultural organizations are afraid to lose their jobs. So they don't champion those stories. We were just watching A Normal Heart. And there was a gay guy that worked at the New York Times that wouldn't write about the AIDS crisis because he was afraid about his job. We see echoes of that all the time.
Yes. And so not only in the kidlit community, but for instance, the Women's March, you know, there was this whole fuss about antisemitism within the leadership of the Women's March, which in every other way was being welcoming to all of the different beleaguered minorities. And I think it's from this leftover perception from ancient antisemitic stories of some kind of scary Jewish power. So I just want people to step back and examine their own impressions of Jews and make sure that they aren't buying into those old stories that have been around forever and it's just part of the air we breathe, so it's understandable if that has soaked in. But examine your impressions and make sure that you aren't believing stereotypes so that you understand that we are part of the diversity community. We are diverse as well.
And we all need to be allies to each other.
Exactly. So which is why we're sharing the stories of our communities together with this Through the Window project. So speaking of being allies, and making the world a better place, I wanted to ask you, if you have any suggestions for tikkun olam, for things that listeners can do to help heal the world,
I do. I love tikkun olam and that's one of the things I'm proudest about, about the Jewish culture that I've inherited, is this idea that we each can do something to make our world a better place, in a world that feels like it needs that maybe now more than ever. I'm very inspired by the idea that the stories I tell can be empowering to kids and can center them. So a lot of times I look to history. So in 1993, in Billings, Montana, there was this remarkable story. It was a neighborhood, pretty much everybody in it was celebrating Christmas. And so all their houses were decorated for Christmas and there was one house that was decorated for Hanukkah. And the little boy's room had a big window that looked out on the street and so they decorated that window with all this stuff and an electric menorah to celebrate the season. One night, someone came and threw a rock through the window of a little boy's room, and the little boy's family had to decide, were they going to put their decorations back up and stand up for themselves and be proud of being Jewish? Or were they going to hide? And they decided they needed to stand up. The little boy had a friend that lived nearby and she put up in her window of her home that was all decorated for Christmas, a drawing of a menorah with the words "for Isaac" on it. And that idea that that little girl had caught on and it started to spread around the town. The newspaper ended up publishing an image of a menorah with an editorial asking people to put it up in their windows for everybody to stand up together as a community and say No, we will not allow these hate crimes. We want to be a community that is pluralistic and that welcomes and respects everybody because that's what America stands for. We really want to be better. And the whole community stood up. And within a couple of weeks, over 10,000 businesses and stores, all the windows, all the homes, had a menorah in them. And they were decorated with red and green and blue and white, the Christmas colors and the Hanukkah colors. And I thought that was so inspiring and such an amazing story that these children were able to actually create change in their community. And I wrote it as a picture book. And I'm really excited because I get to tell you that it's being illustrated by Paul Zelinsky and it is coming out from Levine Querido in the fall of 2021. And that's a scoop! It's the first time I'm able to talk about it publicly.
That is so exciting! Yes, Mazel Tov.
That's so great. A wonderful new press and Paul Zelinsky is a Sydney Taylor Book Award winner for All of a Kind Family Hanukkah...
...and he's won the Caldicott like four times or something!
Yes, right. Oh, yeah, the Caldecott. Whatever! The Sydney Taylor, that's what I'm interested in!
But so that book in itself depicts an act of tikkun olam. And I think that the book will be an act of tikkun olam as people read it.
I hope so. That idea that even when you're a kid, you can choose to be an upstander for yourself, you can stand up for your friend. I love that. That that's the heart of that story. And that when we stand up together, that's community.
Exactly. And welcome to the Jewish kidlit community, because now you're a Jewish kidlit author.
Thank you. Yes.
So I did want to just mention, because we are not talking just to my usual audience, but to your audience as well, I just wanted to define this podcast a little bit if that's okay.
Actually, I remember that we both were part of the Kidlitosphere community many years ago, it seems to have kind of fallen by the wayside, but I would always see your name on there because we were both early adopters. The Book of Life podcast has been going since the end of 2005.
A long, long time. And I've been interviewing the creators of Jewish books, and sometimes music or independent films or other things, but mainly books, and within that, mainly children's books for all of these many years. And that the Association of Jewish Libraries, which is sponsoring the Through the Window project, is a professional organization for people who are involved in any way with the world of Jewish literature, people who work with Jewish collections like a synagogue or a university library or a Holocaust museum, or a JCC. But also people who work in the public library who have an interest or people who work in publishing. So it's an organization to support people in their professional endeavors with Jewish literature.
That's great. And I'm also the official blogger for SCBWI, the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, which is an association that is all about supporting and offering craft and business insight and inspiration and community, to people that are creating content for children and teens.
We both represent a bunch of different organizations. And now everybody knows more about all of them.
It's wonderful. And I really feel like we have come together from the opposite sides of the country and we've created a bit of community right here.
Yeah, this has been such a fun conversation. Lee Wind, thank you so much for joining me today.
It was absolutely My pleasure. Thanks so much and stay safe.
[MUSIC, DEDICATION] Hi, this is Anne-Marie Asner, author of the Matzah Ball Books series of Yiddish inspired picture books. I'll be joining you soon on the Book of Life podcast reading my latest book, Bubbe and Zaide. I'd like to dedicate my episode to my parents and my kids, who embody how special the grandparent grandkinder bond can be.
[MUSIC, OUTRO] Don't be a stranger. Say hi to Heidi at 561-206-2473 or BookofLife email@example.com. Check out our Book of Life podcast Facebook page, or our Facebook discussion group, Jewish Kidlit Mavens. We are occasionally on Twitter too @BookofLifepod. Want to read the books featured on the show? Buy them through Bookshop.org/shop/bookoflife to support the podcast and independent bookstores at the same time. You can also help us out by becoming a monthly supporter through Patreon or making a one time donation to our home library, the Feldman Children's Library at Congregation of B'nai Israel of Boca Raton, Florida. You'll find links for all of that and more at BookofLifepodcast.com. Our background music is provided by the Freilachmakers Klezmer String Band. Thanks for listening and happy reading.