Another week, another atypical Friday post.
Normally, I post a set of particularly Jewishly-inflected literary links over on the My Machberet blog each Thursday. And the next day, I link to that post as one of several “finds” for the broader writing community right here on Practicing Writing.
But in my world, and for many of you, nothing’s normal right now.
Here’s what I posted on My Machberet yesterday.
And in this space today, I’ll post some items that, more urgently than usual, seem important for both blogs’ audiences to encounter.
One reason I’ve devoted so much time and effort to these Friday posts over the years is my wish to amplify voices and resources that many writers may not have caught elsewhere. Hence, the label: finds.
This week, I’ve been drawn to certain voices and resources that I suspect many of you have not seen circulating widely. That’s because within the general writing community, many Israeli and other Jewish perspectives are routinely dismissed, ignored, or worse—if they’re discovered at all—while others, more aligned with dominant literary-community discourse, are favored and trumpeted.
I’ll cut to the chase here: Whether out of indifference or ignorance, or in keeping with their own anti-Israelist proclivities, too many literary and literary-adjacent venues habitually champion the Israel-related views and work of anti-Israelist Jews.
Here’s a truth that many of you may not realize: The anti-Israelist Jewish writers who are routinely endorsed and amplified by Literary Hub (to take just one example) do not reflect the perspectives of the vast majority of Jewish communities beyond writing-academic-publishing bubbles. And I’m not the only Jewish writer who’s noticed over the years how even in routine times, these literary tokens, as I think of them, receive so many approving links, clicks, and eyeballs.
Based on private conversations and discussions in semi-closed communities, I can tell you that for a long time many Jewish writers haven’t felt safe—personally or professionally—sharing their own perspectives, in their work or on social media or other public ways, let alone challenging others.
We know that some of what we encounter in literary spheres results from sheer lack of awareness. But other examples are manifestly more malevolent. And in the devastation wrought on so many Jewish (and non-Jewish) innocents s.ince Hamas launched its terror attack on southern Israel on the morning of October 7, the pattern seems to be painfully more pronounced, exacerbated by waves of misinformation, disinformation, and sheer antisemitism.
Not everything I’m sharing below redresses the ongoing literary tokenism in this context. For example, I’m also including some broader items regarding media literacy and the press. Still, I realize that what’s appearing in this space today may not be popular.
You may not appreciate the materials that I’m sharing below. If that’s the case, I remind you that you’re always free to disagree, or look away, or unsubscribe. But I won’t tolerate any abusive comments. And in this space, I decide what crosses that line. Especially right now.
That was a longer preface than I thought it would be. It’s time to move on.
Herewith, this week’s Finds for Writers.
- From Matti Friedman (on Twitter): “Through many tragic rounds of violence in Gaza, I’ve watched much of the press malfunction in similar ways, time after time. For anyone trying to understand current events and coverage, here’s a thread with some of my essays and articles on the subject.”
- Over on Hey Alma, a piece titled “Media Literacy Is More Important Than Ever” crowd-sources advice on “what to look out for when following the news coming out of Israel and Gaza.”
- In “Beware the Language That Erases Reality,” The Atlantic‘s Gal Beckerman responds to an open letter “published in The New York Review of Books on Saturday and signed by more than 80 writers who are all past participants of the Palestine Festival of Literature, among them many prominent names, including Ta-Nehisi Coates, Richard Ford, Annie Baker, and Eileen Myles. I focus on this example because these novelists and playwrights and poets can be expected, unlike politicians, to be sensitive to the necessity for precision and clarity—words are their vocation—and because the statement they produced, out of an undoubtedly genuine and deep concern for the population of Gaza, would make [George] Orwell spin in his grave.”
- Author and retired creative-writing professor Fern Kupfer’s “A Library’s Middle East” is “about an event that happened in Ames, Iowa twenty years ago. It could have been written today.”
- And a couple of in-case-you-missed-it items. First: a resource that I shared in last week’s Finds post on “Avoiding Antisemitic and Islamophobic Tropes in Discussing Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,” which clearly still deserves (if not commands) everyone’s attention. And in “Degrees of Evil,” (which I’ve been amplifying on Twitter), Fania Oz recalls poignant, powerful, and utterly relevant words written by her late father, the celebrated Israeli author Amos Oz.
May the coming days bring peace and healing. And may we writers, of all people, not exacerbate the misinformation, demonization, and utter pain currently permeating our world.