“Queer Theory and the Jewish Question”–almost everything you want to know

Boyarin, Daniel, Itzkovitz, Daniel, and Pellegrini, Ann, editors “Queer Theory and the Jewish Question”. Columbia University Press, 2003.

Almost Everything You Want to Know

Amos Lassen

“Queer Theory and the Jewish Question” is a fascinating collection of essays about being gay, lesbian, transgender or just plain queer and Jewish. In an attempt to correlate Judaism and homosexuality, the editors have compiled some really wonderful essays. Just as it is about the consolation of being Jewish and being gay, it is also about more than that as it explores the central issue of nature of identity and out sidedness.  The book contains  a little of everything that you need to know about facilitating forms of cultural analysis to help you better understand who you are, As separate as some of the essays may seem to be, when read as a whole, they all tie together to present a picture about what it is like to be the “other”. As it deals with popular culture, it attempts to help resolve issues of non-acceptance into a larger society.

I do want my readers to think that I am hung up on the Jewish/gay question as I am sure some of you may feel due to the large number of reviews I write on the matter. It is just that as a Jew I have always felt outside of the main and as a gay Jew, I sometimes have felt that I am twice removed. I have spent years trying to reconcile this ands I think I have managed to do so. Yet everyone is not so at peace with themselves in terms of religion and homosexuality. SO whenever I see a book or a movie on the issue I study it very carefully for two reasons—to better understand myself and so that I can show others how to relate to some of the problems I have managed to overcome.

This book has helped a lot mainly because of the way it looks at articles written throughout history as well as essays that were especially commissioned for this study. A broad range of authors and subjects is presented here—everything from Fagin to Freud and from the divas of yesterday to the Barbra Streisands of today. It deals not only with Jews and gay people; it deals with everyone and is a wonderful as a tool to finding a sense of self identity. As “Queer Theory” follows Jewish thought, it also traces human thought and as we are all aware the Jewish quest for survival has become one of the main components of the Jewish people and this is similar as to how we as gay people have struggled to survive. Both groups have faced terrible odds most notably, the Holocaust for the Jews and the AIDS epidemic for the gay community. I have often wondered to myself that if history had been different, would we, as gays, qualify to be listed as the thirteenth tribe.

I love the study of classical texts cited in the book brought together with modern writings t study the concept of the gay body and sexual practice. Likewise the book takes some of the central forces of queer theory and places them in a context of Jewish ness which in turn makes it easy to follow the study of who we are.

This is an important book to me as it opened new doors for study but also a new way to look at myself. It is important and a welcome addition to all who want to know about who they are and where they fit.

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