In Judaism, women’s voices have not always been amplified. The same could be said for the general literary world as well. When their voices have been included, only those deemed “acceptable” are highlighted. And too often, these voices start to echo each other in homogeneity. Not so in Frankly Feminist, which is a collection of short stories published in Lilith magazine since 1976.
The stories in this collection are broken down into various sections: Transitions, Intimacies, Transgressions, War, Body and Soul, and To Belong. While the connections or common threads between the stories in each section aren’t always clear and it can sometimes feel disjointed, the stories themselves are powerhouses of prose.
In Michal Lemberger’s “Lot’s Wife,” the Biblical woman does everything in her power to watch out for her daughters, patriarchal wrath be damned. Ilene Raymond Rush’s story “Boundaries” explores Lily’s resentment and devastation at the news that not only is her daughter getting married the following month at age twenty-three, but that Lily’s ex-husband was told the news first. Amy Gottlieb’s “Working the Mikvah” brings an intimate look to what happens in a mikvah, the stories and secrets it can hold.
These are stories about family, about loss, about sex and love, dying and birth, religion and spirituality. They are about belonging and not, Jewish and secular, and all have a feminist perspective. They span decades and continents, and the voices are so varied that at times, it can be overwhelming.
However, the editors acknowledge that the fiction published in this anthology does lack a certain element of diversity. It’s noted that this is because the stories started being submitted in 1976, Still, this is an important and beautifully curated collection of short stories. One hopes that if and when a second volume is published, it will include a broader range of voices.
Jaime Herndon is a medical writer who also writes about parenting and pop culture in her spare time. Her writing can be seen on Kveller, Undark, Book Riot, and more. When she’s not working or homeschooling, she’s at work on an essay collection.