Last weekend, New York sparkled with color as the city’s annual Pride March and thousands of protesters hit the streets. This year in particular, we’re reminded that Pride is not only an expression of joy, but also an urgent call to listen to marginalized voices.
JBC’s own return to in-person events this month (after a two-year hiatus!) was a welcome opportunity to uplift queer voices in Jewish literature. We kicked off the month at The Center for Fiction with a conversation between Felicia Berliner (author of the forthcoming debut novel Shmutz) and Abby Stein (transgender activist and author of the memoir Becoming Eve) about sexuality and gender identity within Hasidic communities. The following week, we hosted a salon on the terrace of the Public Hotel to honor the recent winners of the Berru National Jewish Book Award for Poetry in Memory of Ruth and Bernie Weinflash. Lisa Richter (the 2020 winner for Nautilus and Bone) spoke about Anna Margolin’s queer Yiddish poetry. Joy Ladin’s wife read from the afterword of The Book of Anna, in which Joy (the 2021 winner) describes how writing about a Holocaust survivor allowed her to express her own pain as a secretly transgender person.
In the virtual world, it was a treat for me to speak with Abigail Weaver about “The Little Bottles,” a story about the bond between two shtetl women and the magic invoked by one of them. I was thrilled that so many of you could join us for this final meeting for the year of Paper Brigade’s Short Story Club. If you couldn’t make it, don’t worry – you can now watch a recording of the discussion with Abigail here.
And for the “indoor kids” at heart: if your ideal way of marking Pride is to curl up with a meaningful book, of course we’ve got you covered. :) You can check out our ever-growing LGBTQIA+ reading list here. Do you have favorites we should add? Recent reads that you’re dying to discuss? Please let me know! Some shorter LGBTQIA+ highlights from the past year include an essay by Sam Cohen, an interview with Melissa Broder, a story by Yael van der Wouden, and a comic by S. Bear Bergman and Saul Freedman-Lawson.
As June comes to an end, I hope these stories will help you celebrate queer Jewish writing all year long.
Happy reading, and happy Pride!
Becca Kantor is the editorial director of Jewish Book Council and its annual print literary journal, Paper Brigade. She received an MA in creative writing from the University of East Anglia. Becca spent a year in Estonia on a Fulbright scholarship, writing and studying the country’s Jewish history, and another year in Germany volunteering at the Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial. She lives in Brooklyn.