Pink Cat Ears, Jewish Women, ​and Perhaps, the Times They are Changing​.

I expect that my over the moon adoration of Sujata Massey’s first Perveen Mistry Mystery may not have hit the spot for everyone.  But dammit, she did such a well-researched job on her depiction of 1921 Bombay – the delight for me was in the details.    Now I ‘m watching daily for Amazon to arrive and the library to receive my holds. Meanwhile, I have chosen some sociological and religious titles that intrigued me –  the one below in particular.  This not interest some but the lesson it left with me was a very simple.  “You cannot pray away the gay”.  Nor should you try.  We are born who we are or very close to it.  Love is not restrictive.   Happiness is how you feel when you love someone or something.- if you believe in a deity – you should believe this is true.

I have very close friends who are Lubavitch Jews.  I have known them for almost 35 years and I adore them.  Meals at their house are performance art on so many levels and coupled with spiritual enthusiasm from everyone; each time I go there, I  leave with a very good feeling.  I am Jewish so I am not a fish out of water and this makes a difference as well.  My friends are frum from birth, observant and very open-hearted.   As I border on being a heathen by comparison – I  can and do share things in my world in an exchange of wonderful learning and laughter.

It was this friendship that led me to read Uncovered By Leah Lax, the autobiography of a  Jewish college girl – very confused and part of a very Orthodox Lubavitcher family.   She was also gay.  Her deep and difficult secret. But because there was no way to have an observant life and a woman partner,  she decided she would deny her own sexuality and become the perfect Hasidic wife.

Being an accomplished frum wife is a very taxing job.  It never stops, and the rules are ironclad.  the job of Hasidic women, in their marriages, is (to my thinking) to teach, show, observe, uphold and find joy in these male-dominated and very narrow holy pathways. Her psyche, however, was in a pain so intense and her motives – in her own mind, so confusing it, the story was like reading a captive’s memoir.  The self-doubt, her distant husband, and their 7 children had run her into the ground.  And in the midst of all this tzuris, she says not a word about her long ago female lover and the feelings she does not forget and still pines for.  She has erotic dreams.  She has driven her doubts and anger at her chosen life beneath the surface, but not close enough;  they bubble up often.  Her disillusions and dread appear on every page.  The constant noise of children, the smell of cooking, the repetitive existence of Shabbos – (meant to be the high spot of each week),  the work-intensive holidays, the cleaning and her job (yes, she also works) felt, to me,  like trying to squeeze uranium from a toothpaste tube without causing Armageddon.  It ate at me as I read and what I could clearly feel was her valiant, abiding, faithful adherence to her chosen life; sucking her dry.  She suffers in so many from her feelings and she suffers greatly.

Tangible details: the clothing, the wig, the rigidity, the childbirths and her husband are not left to guesswork.  And eventually, by chance, the happy ending finally arrives and the long struggle she battled, allows her to keep her better self as a Jew, to embrace her sexuality and create a life with her partner and oy, was it a relief.

I suspect this book will speak to many religious women in many diverse communities, not only Orthodox Jewry. It sheds another bright light on a much-needed look at how women in male-dominated societies narrow their vision and the toll it takes. It was a difficult memoir, well written and it spoke to and will continue to speak to the many oppressed and repressed females who are now – perhaps – coming to the front and pointing fingers at a hierarchy that needs a good deal of work. As feminist commentary and cautionary tale – especially in these difficult times, I highly recommend it.

 

I read the “Guru of Love”, set in Nepal and found it fascinating.  Mores and manners I had not often encountered in other South Asian fiction and others, wholly familiar.  Nepal was a new locale but within a religious and politically fragmented country – it continued a thread that is present in so many books from this area.  I liked it.  It plays a timeworn song, but one that keeps playing – even now.

A desire I have had for some time has been to improve my understanding of science, After I failed “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry” (sorry Neil – I tried)  I found and ordered two small books that promised to teach me The Periodic Tables (a work of art) and the Cosmos.  I am still hopeless, alas, but I am not finished.  The fact I didn’t catch on to “Astrophysics” ( and I was in no hurry)- chips at my belief it will suddenly all make sense.  But I do love Fibonacci numbers, the Large Hadron Collider, the Boson Higgs and numerous elements I hardly understand must indicate something.  My burning question still exists without an answer though:  If the Universe has an age, began with some sort of event and is going to end – what will be in its place instead?  

These little books are from Quercus and at Daedelus, part of their winter sale.

I would love your comments.  Tell me what you read and share your favorites (and give a hint why).  It’s free and there is no deadline.

What’s On Your Nightstand?

As many know – I do not believe any of the authors queried in the NYT’s Sunday Review have  read most of those titles on the night table (or the floor or the shelves).   In my opinion anyway.   But I have some good ones at my side when I get in for a read and sleep.  What have I been reading?

In no order, “The Golden Legend”,  “They Cannot Pronounce My Name”, “Righteous” by Joe Ide, parts of the “Whitey/Billy Bulger” saga redux and “Inferno”, that has inspired me to read “The Hot Zone”.  Just began and before all else, Richard Preston can really write!  On Chapter Two and scared but hooked.  Fort Detrick is not a stop on any trip I may take to DC.  I thought bats were cute at one time.  That’s over.  I have never much liked monkeys and now they scare me to death. (chapter two – it is going to get much worse).  Steven Hatch in “Inferno” mentioned this book so often and this was so emphatic I knew it was important.  I will speak about it when I finish.  I finished “The Hot Zone”.

An amazing amount of detail and information written so well you could almost imagine this was a fictional what-if.  It isn’t.  It is about the filoviruses Ebola, Marburg and what they do to a body.  They are  soulless, serial killers, they have means but no motive and – hopefully limited or no opportunity.  And  they resist a cure.   Their vector may be bat blood.  Or not.  Ebola is blood borne – maybe.  I found Marburg to be even scarier but this book concentrated on Ebola andthe U.S. Military, the C.D.C. and  The Reston Level 4 infection zone. .  It allows us to follow the risks taken by very courageous men and women who investigated and contained an Ebola outbreak  in the Reston, VA  “Hot Zone”site.  It was harrowing and fascinating.*  I wish I had read it before “Inferno” – I would have been more scared – but having seen how the heroes in Liberia dealt with an outbreak, tempered my fear.  Sort of.  Robert Preston, the author of “The Hot Zone”  also made a trip to the suspected site of the Ebola virus ; The Kitum Cave, and that was terrifying.  He  also made some salient points in his observations of how the world is playing dangerous games with its ecology and its occupants.  He posited that perhaps these filoviruses are the planet’s own protection from the human destruction of nature.  Trees do not get Ebola, or HIV or Marburg. People and wildlife do – We play fast and loose with our world and continue to ignore our own destructiveness.  Perhaps our planet is aware of us and this is their own response.  I urge you to read “The Hot Zone” and “Inferno” and decide.  Comments are welcome especially on this threat.

What have YOU been reading?  My pick up list at the library is growing – and I am excited and will go up there in a day or two.  I think the NYT’s Review is a tad better and I must say any Times Sunday Review is always improved by the appearance of Marilyn Stasio. She reviews crime and mystery and she is the best.  I still wish that every story was not condensed and printed so the thrill falls away.  And I do write and post on Goodreads – but their site has lost too many of my fantastically written reviews I have stopped.  I am hoping they do get a save button.  I like the site and I like the readers I have met.  It also allows the reader to comment to the author and I find this wonderful. Polymath readers tend to fly far afield in their choice of subjects and this is a way to let an author know how much you enjoyed their book.

Aha. I just opened the library pickups from the tote and Faye Kellerman is top on the about to read list.  See you soon.

 

*For those who are sensitive to animals and laboratory testing – there are descriptions of  infected monkeys and euthanized  animals that I found sad and horrid.  So did the Army vets.   Just a caveat. And a subject I wish we considered more often.