Author pho­tos of Marisa Kan­ter and Lau­ra Silverman 

Lau­ra Sil­ver­man and Marisa Kan­ter, authors of Those Sum­mer Nights and As If On Cue respec­tive­ly, dis­cuss Jew­ish rep­re­sen­ta­tion in pub­lish­ing, writ­ing char­ac­ters that show­case the diver­si­ty of Jew­ish expe­ri­ence, and how/​if to include anti­semitism in their work.

Lau­ra Sil­ver­man: Hi Marisa! I’m so excit­ed to chat with you! I’d love for you to intro­duce your­self and your books.

Marisa Kan­ter: Hey, Lau­ra! I am so excit­ed to be here and to chat all things Jew­ish rom­coms and the absolute­ly delight­ful Those Sum­mer Nights with you! I am the author of YA rom­coms, an ama­teur bak­er, and a real­i­ty tele­vi­sion enthu­si­ast based in Los Ange­les. My debut, What I Like About You asks the ques­tion: is it still a love tri­an­gle if there are only two peo­ple in it? It is my love let­ter to inter­net friend­ship, YA fan­dom, and cup­cakes. My sopho­more nov­el, As if on Cue, is an ene­mies-to-lovers romance between a play­wright and a musi­cian that incor­po­rates all of my strong musi­cal the­ater feel­ings. My books cen­ter Jew­ish kids falling in love and mak­ing mis­takes and just exist­ing as kids — rep­re­sen­ta­tion that I longed for as a teenag­er and have loved writ­ing as an adult and find­ing in books like yours!

*Cue me pass­ing the mic to Lau­ra to intro­duce herself.*

LS: Your writ­ing is so delight­ful and brings much need­ed joy that we could all use right now! I am a YA author of con­tem­po­rary nov­els and the edi­tor of YA antholo­gies. My fourth nov­el, Those Sum­mer Nights, hits shelves this sum­mer, and I couldn’t be more excit­ed to share it with the world! Those Sum­mer Nights com­bines grief with laugh­ter. For­mer soc­cer star Han­nah Klein mourns the death of her Bub­bie and the loss of her soc­cer career after a life-chang­ing injury. Over a sum­mer at Bonan­za, a mul­ti­plex enter­tain­ment cen­ter with mini golf, bowl­ing, an arcade, and more, she learns how to find a new kind of hap­pi­ness in the after — with the help of her wild co-work­ers, her ex-best friend, and a romance with her brother’s sud­den­ly attrac­tive best friend. I real­ly put my heart onto the page with this one, and I hope read­ers will love Han­nah and her jour­ney as much as I do.

Marisa, we both love incor­po­rat­ing Jew­ish char­ac­ters into our sto­ries. Would you like to share more about that pas­sion and process?

MK: Of course, as it is only one of my favorite top­ics! Grow­ing up, I only saw Jew­ish kids in sto­ries exist­ing in one of two con­texts: as the side­kick in a con­tem­po­rary set­ting, or in a con­cen­tra­tion camp. It didn’t occur to me that Jew­ish char­ac­ters could star in rom­coms. So for a long time I kept Judaism out of my writ­ing. What I Like About You is the fourth man­u­script I wrote, but the first one with Jew­ish rep­re­sen­ta­tion. I have not stopped writ­ing Jew­ish char­ac­ters since — and have zero plans to! If we do not write about our own joy, no one else will.

LS: This is so true! I had exact­ly the same expe­ri­ence grow­ing up and with my own writ­ing. My first pub­lished nov­el, Girl Out of Water, doesn’t fea­ture any Jew­ish char­ac­ters. Why is that? I’d nev­er read a sweet sum­mer nov­el with a Jew­ish char­ac­ter before, so why would it occur to me to write one? I’m grate­ful for how much that has changed since my 2017 debut. Every book I’ve writ­ten since then fea­tures Jew­ish char­ac­ters, and I love being able to weave my cul­ture into my stories.

MK: Same! And I have absolute­ly no inten­tion of stop­ping any time soon. In terms of process, it is impor­tant to me to show­case diver­si­ty with­in Judaism. We are not a mono­lith. Every Jew­ish char­ac­ter in my sto­ry has their own per­son­al rela­tion­ship to Judaism. Some are sec­u­lar. Some are more devout. Some grew up in Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ties. Some are con­sis­tent­ly the only Jew­ish per­son in the room. Always, I aim to show­case that there are so many ways to be Jew­ish and that they are all valid.

I find myself drawn to dif­fer­ent aspects of the Jew­ish expe­ri­ence depend­ing on the sto­ry I’m writing.

LS: I love that. I also find myself drawn to dif­fer­ent aspects of the Jew­ish expe­ri­ence depend­ing on the sto­ry I’m writ­ing. In my past nov­els, I explore the high hol­i­days in You Asked for Per­fect and Hanukkah (and the expe­ri­ence of being a Jew dur­ing Christ­mas) in Rec­om­mend­ed for You. For Those Sum­mer Nights, I was able to explore grief through the Jew­ish lens. Hannah’s bub­bie pass­es away before the start of the nov­el, and so in the book we recite the Mourner’s Kad­dish at Bubbie’s funer­al and attend Bubbie’s unveil­ing. It felt incred­i­bly spe­cial and emo­tion­al explor­ing these expe­ri­ences I’ve per­son­al­ly had with­in the pages of my sto­ry. I’m real­ly grate­ful to be able to bring those expe­ri­ences to the page for readers.

MK: Those scenes were so beau­ti­ful, Lau­ra! I explore Jew­ish grief sim­i­lar­ly in my debut. In my sopho­more nov­el, As If on Cue, my protagonist’s younger sis­ter is prepar­ing for her bat mitz­vah and that was such a fun sub­plot to include — both from a rep­re­sen­ta­tion stand­point and because I love any oppor­tu­ni­ty to force danc­ing onto my characters!

One of the many things that I loved about Those Sum­mer Nights is that while of course there is an aware­ness of what it means to be a Jew­ish per­son in Amer­i­ca, Han­nah and the Jew­ish char­ac­ters do not expe­ri­ence anti­semitism on the page. Was that an inten­tion­al decision?

LS: A bat mitz­vah plot is so much fun! I real­ly want to do that one day as well. As for anti­semitism on the page, I do explore some microag­gres­sions in my nov­el Rec­om­mend­ed for You. It takes place dur­ing win­ter break, and my char­ac­ter Shoshan­na Green­berg ruf­fles feath­ers when she wish­es peo­ple hap­py hol­i­days” instead of their pre­ferred Mer­ry Christ­mas.” But you are cor­rect, I don’t explore anti­semitism in Those Sum­mer Nights. I can’t say that it was an inten­tion­al deci­sion per se, it just nev­er felt like an organ­ic part of Hannah’s sto­ry. Han­nah grap­ples with count­less prob­lems over the course of the nov­el (the pass­ing of her grand­moth­er, the loss of her soc­cer career, a fall­out with her best friend), but she’s also part of a diverse and inclu­sive com­mu­ni­ty that nev­er makes her feel oth­ered because of her reli­gion. Of course, anti­semitism can be found in these com­mu­ni­ties as well, but a safe and wel­com­ing space felt like the right atmos­phere for Hannah’s story.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this as well. How and why did you choose to include anti­semitism in your stories?

MK: You’re so right, Han­nah is tru­ly already going through enough!

If there was ever an inten­tion­al deci­sion in my writ­ing process, it was to not include anti­semitism in What I Like About You because I want­ed it to be a safe space for Jew­ish read­ers dur­ing a moment where we wit­nessed a sharp increase in overt anti­semitism due to our elect­ed offi­cials embold­en­ing it. I want­ed Halle to meet oth­er Jew­ish kids and have the Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty that I lacked grow­ing up. Writ­ing that aspect of the book was total wish-ful­fill­ment, where­as Natalie’s expe­ri­ence with anti­semitism and microag­gres­sions in As If on Cue is a much clos­er reflec­tion of my expe­ri­ence grow­ing up in a com­mu­ni­ty where I was often the only Jew­ish stu­dent in my class­es. I take engag­ing with anti­semitism in my work very seri­ous­ly — to what extent very much depends on, sim­i­lar to what you have said, the character’s jour­ney and what makes sense for the story.

LS: And it’s so impor­tant for Jew­ish read­ers to have access to the full scale of these expe­ri­ences on the shelves. They should have the option to pick up the safe space rom­com or the rom­com that engages with antisemitism.

Speak­ing of which, we’ve got to share some Jew­ish book recommendations.

I just fin­ished read­ing Tomor­row, and Tomor­row, and Tomor­row by Gabrielle Zevin. It was gen­uine­ly the best book I’ve read in years. It fea­tures two Jew­ish pro­tag­o­nists and fol­lows their rela­tion­ship over the course of decades as they come togeth­er and fall apart again and again over their shared pas­sion of video game design. The book also has incred­i­ble chron­ic pain rep­re­sen­ta­tion — I live with chron­ic pain myself, and I’ve nev­er seen it por­trayed so well and inti­mate­ly on the page before. This book deliv­ers every­thing you could ask for — laugh­ter, heart­break, excite­ment, depth. I couldn’t put it down, even though I want­ed to savor it for as long as possible.

What Jew­ish book(s) do you recommend?

MK: I am so excit­ed to read that one! While I am a firm believ­er that there can nev­er be enough Jew­ish rep, I do feel like we are lucky to be pub­lish­ing dur­ing a moment where there is so much more out there than the rep we had access to grow­ing up! On the YA side, I am obsessed with any­thing by Rachel Lynn Solomon. Her lat­est, See You Yes­ter­day, fea­tures two Jew­ish char­ac­ters who get stuck in a time loop and fall in love while try­ing to fig­ure out how to get out! For queer Jew­ish rep, I have nev­er felt more seen than while read­ing Dahlia Adler’s Cool for the Sum­mer, about a bi Jew­ish teen. And out lat­er this year, I am so excit­ed for Jake Maia Arlow’s YA debut, How to Exca­vate a Heart.

Lau­ra, thank you so much for chat­ting all things Jew­ish feel­ings with me! I can­not wait for the world to meet the cast of Those Sum­mer Nights and love them as much as I do. In the mean­time, where can read­ers find you and this delight­ful book?

LS: Thank YOU Marisa! It’s always a joy to chat about your won­der­ful books! Read­ers can find more infor­ma­tion about me and my books at my web­site LauraSil​ver​man​Writes​.com. I’m also on Twit­ter and Insta­gram at @LJSilverman1 and on Tik­Tok at @Laura_Silverman. Those Sum­mer Nights can be pur­chased any­where books are sold.

And where can read­ers find more infor­ma­tion about you and your books?

MK: You can learn more about me and my books at marisakan​ter​.com and I am @marisakanter on Twit­ter and Insta­gram! Thanks again — this was such a blast!

Lau­ra Sil­ver­man is a writer and edi­tor. She loves books, dogs, and bub­ble baths. She cur­rent­ly lives in Brook­lyn, NY. You can fol­low her on Twit­ter @LJSilverman1.

Marisa Kan­ter has worked in pub­lic­i­ty for major pub­lish­ers and cov­ered YA books for MTV. Cur­rent­ly, she works in sales, on the dis­tri­b­u­tion side of the pub­lish­ing indus­try. She can often be found search­ing for the best iced chai in New York City, or read­ing on the 3 train. What I Like About You is her first novel.