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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Tuesday, November 30

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On the Web Fri Aug 07 2009

What Makes a Jewish Writer?

I've never considered how being Jewish and a writer makes one a "Jewish writer," but it seems that Adam Langer, author of our July 2005 selection Crossing California, is asked about that very thing and is forced to wonder what that really means:

You'll offer that you were born Jewish and you've been a writer for eons, so sure, you're a Jewish writer by definition, but that's just one fact of your life. Like you're five-foot-eight or you moved out of Chicago but still enjoy double cheese dogs from Wolfy's Red Hots.

If you're feeling erudite, you'll quote Saul Bellow, an author you don't enjoy as much as people sometimes assume: "I'm well aware of being Jewish and also of being American and of being a writer. But I'm also a hockey fan, a fact which nobody ever mentions."

You'll say when you were a kid, you liked hockey too.

The rest of Langer's essay at Tablet Magazine reads as a great and amusing contemplation not just on the Jewish-ness of a writer who happens to be Jewish, but on the assumption of racial and ethnic stereotypes on the artist.

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Dennis Fritz / August 8, 2009 4:37 PM

Hmmmmm--what makes a "Jewish writer?" At minimum, he or she would have to be Jewish. But that alone probably wouldn't merit the title. A Jewish writer is a Jewish person whose writing informs and/or explores issues connected to that ethnic identity.

How's that?

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