Elise Coop­er recent­ly sat down with Judith Frank to dis­cuss her recent­ly pub­lished nov­el All I Love and Know.

Elise Coop­er: Were there auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal parts to this book?

Judith Frank: Ele­ments are there. I have a twin sis­ter who is alive and mar­ried to an Israeli man. My fam­i­ly moved to Israel when I was sev­en­teen. I was in a coun­try where I did not speak the lan­guage so my humor and intel­li­gence could not be con­veyed. Also, my twin chil­dren were born while I was in the mid­dle of writ­ing this nov­el. I under­stood what it was like to change your life to accom­mo­date the chil­dren. There was also the expe­ri­ence of mar­ry­ing out of my reli­gion since my part­ner is not Jewish.

EC: Is one of the pow­er­ful themes of the book how to han­dle grief?

JF: I am writ­ing about char­ac­ters that are deeply trau­ma­tized. Grief is a hor­ri­ble thing and peo­ple grieve in dif­fer­ent ways. Daniel feels he is cat­a­pult­ed back into ado­les­cence. He shut down while he was griev­ing because he had sur­vivor guilt and ambiva­lence. He sur­vived and gets to flour­ish instead of his broth­er. I want­ed to show how all the fam­i­ly mem­bers are not at their best and feel threat­ened by their loss. I had Matt’s best friend die of AIDS because I want­ed to inter­twine the ques­tion about some­one who dies from AIDS: Is it as mean­ing­ful as some­one dying from a ter­ror­ist attack? Which death counts?

EC: Did you ever have to per­son­al­ly deal with grief?

JF: My father com­mit­ted sui­cide when I was twelve. My moth­er died while this book was in proof. My sis­ter had breast can­cer in 2000. I remem­ber the threat of my sis­ter dying and that was very potent for me. Twin loss­es are among the great­est loss­es any­one can experience. 

EC: You have the griev­ing fam­i­lies feel that they lost a part of them­selves, includ­ing the quote about Daniel feel­ing he was leav­ing his dead broth­er behind. Please explain.

JF: The quote about being buried on dif­fer­ent con­ti­nents came out of my feel­ing that my iden­ti­cal twin sis­ter and I will be buried sep­a­rate­ly. That thought just kills me. 

EC: Did you com­pare the rela­tion­ship between the twins, Daniel and Joel?

JF: To dif­fer­en­ti­ate from each oth­er twins tend to show dif­fer­ent per­son­al­i­ties. My sis­ter was ver­bal­ly aggres­sive while I reced­ed. I would refer to Joel as the out­go­ing broth­er and Daniel as the sub­mis­sive one. But that has to do with their dynam­ics. He has guilt because he is now able to step for­ward due to his brother’s death.

EC: There is a scene in the book about social work­ers who are part of the Israeli gov­ern­ment. Their job is to han­dle griev­ing fam­i­lies of ter­ror­ist attacks. Is that true?

JF: Yes. My sis­ter who is a social work­er intro­duced me to sev­er­al women who han­dle griev­ing fam­i­lies. They have sup­port sys­tems for them­selves and rotate in and out of this job. My sis­ter thanked me for the por­tray­al of social work­ers. I thought about their job and was drawn to them. Those scenes affect­ed me deeply.

EC: You includ­ed among the griev­ing fam­i­lies Holo­caust sur­vivors. Why?

JF: I thought how these peo­ple have gone through so much and now had to deal with the loss of their daugh­ter. I am friends with chil­dren whose par­ents are Holo­caust sur­vivors. I also includ­ed it because I thought it was com­pelling that the chil­dren might stay in Israel to live with their grand­par­ents who had suf­fered so much.

EC: You also explore the rela­tion­ship of hav­ing a Jew and a non-Jew as part­ners. Can you explain?

JF: My chil­dren call them­selves half-Jew­ish. What is impor­tant to us as a fam­i­ly is to have a sense of com­mu­ni­ty, which I tried to con­vey through Matt and Daniel. When my moth­er died we had two Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ties help­ing us, set­ting up Shi­va. That was very mov­ing for us. Even though we are pret­ty sec­u­lar it was real­ly nice to be sur­round­ed by Jew­ish peo­ple who were will­ing to take care of us. One of the jokes about Matt is that he real­ly loves Jews and has always been attract­ed to Jew­ish men.

EC: You includ­ed the Israeli-Pales­tin­ian con­flict as part of the theme of the book. Do you think you were even-handed?

JF: I think a lot of Jew­ish peo­ple might not think I was even hand­ed, although I did. I put the Israelis trau­ma­tized by ter­ror and the social work­er scenes into the book. Because of Daniel’s polit­i­cal posi­tion it made it a lot hard­er for him to grieve. If he could feel rage or if he could feel the war on ter­ror was a right­eous one it would have been eas­i­er. His polit­i­cal views are wrapped up in his sense of jus­tice and empa­thy. What hap­pens if you lose some­one to a ter­ror­ist attack and do not buy into the cul­tur­al script?

EC: You had quotes from your char­ac­ters that leaned heav­i­ly toward the Pales­tin­ian point of view. For exam­ple, the tra­di­tion in a Jew­ish wed­ding of break­ing the glass, to sym­bol­ize the shat­ter­ing of their lives when Joel and Ilana died, and the con­tin­ued shat­ter­ing of Pales­tin­ian lives.”

JF: Amer­i­can Jews must ques­tion their rela­tion­ship with Israel and what kind of crit­i­cism can we lev­el towards Israel. We are at a moment with a lot of Jew­ish Amer­i­cans at a tur­bu­lent tran­si­tion­al phase about Israel. I am sure some peo­ple will be thrilled and some will be angry.

EC: Why did you put this quote in since you nev­er explained its con­text? If a Pales­tin­ian liv­ing in Jerusalem mar­ries some­one from the West Bank, they can’t live legal­ly togeth­er in either place.”

JF: This is a nov­el, not his­to­ry. A lot of gay peo­ple wres­tle with the insti­tu­tion of mar­riage. Daniel starts to think about mar­riage for every­body. He is think­ing about him­self and sees this as a tragedy of Jew­ish his­to­ry. The Jews have suf­fered such per­se­cu­tion; yet, they have suc­ceed­ed in build­ing their home­land through the oppres­sion of oth­ers. I real­ly want­ed to inter­twine the lives of the Pales­tin­ian and gay people.

EC: What do you want read­ers to get out of the book?

JF: I want­ed to write about a per­son strug­gling with his sense of iden­ti­ty and jus­tice. This entire nov­el is about the con­scious­ness of Jews and Israelis. You can love Israel and deplore its poli­cies. I also hope the read­ers were moved by a fam­i­ly suf­fer­ing from incred­i­ble grief and sorrow.

Elise Coop­er lives in Los Ange­les and has writ­ten numer­ous nation­al secu­ri­ty arti­cles sup­port­ing Israel. She writes book reviews and Q and A’s for many dif­fer­ent out­lets includ­ing the Mil­i­tary Press. She has had the plea­sure to inter­view best­selling authors from many dif­fer­ent genres.

Relat­ed Content:

Elise Coop­er lives in Los Ange­les and has writ­ten numer­ous nation­al secu­ri­ty arti­cles sup­port­ing Israel. She writes book reviews and Q and A’s for many dif­fer­ent out­lets includ­ing the Mil­i­tary Press. She has had the plea­sure to inter­view best­selling authors from many dif­fer­ent genres.