It’s a Whole Spiel: Love, Latkes, and Other Jewish Stories

Knopf. Sept. 2019. 336p. ed. by Locke, Katherine & Laura Silverman, eds. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780525646167.
Gr 8 Up–Not since With All My Heart, With All My Mind: Thirteen Stories About Growing Up Jewish edited by Sandy Asher has there been a collection of short stories for teen readers about coming of age as a Jew in America. Locke (The Girl With the Red Balloon and The Spy with the Red Balloon) and Silverman (You Asked for Perfect) edit this assortment of 15 contemporary stories by well-known YA authors like David Levithan and Alex London, newer writers like Rachel Lynn Solomon and Dana Schwartz, and others. A space geek meets his first boyfriend at summer camp, an Orthodox Jewish student navigates her first days at NYU, a young woman returns home disappointed from an Israel trip, a college student fasts for the first time for Yom Kippur, and a boy from Mexico City sees ghosts. The culturally diverse cast of characters spans the spectrum from religious to secular and everything in between, including some who are just starting their Jewish journey. Several are comfortable in their own skin and others feel like “imposter Jews.” Issues like sexuality and gender identity, underage drinking and smoking, online relationships, and faith are tackled in various settings from youth group conventions, summer camp, and group Israel trips, to synagogues, schools, and family holiday celebrations.
VERDICT As with most anthologies, the quality and impact of the stories are a bit uneven but the book will most certainly be embraced by Jewish teens, especially those who rarely find themselves portrayed in mainstream YA fiction, as well as by readers of all backgrounds who enjoy sophisticated contemporary short stories with a lot of heart.

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