Author Archives: Sarah M. Seltzer

The Lilith Blog

August 1, 2018 by

More Summer Page-Turners and Pleasure Reads

The world is in a pretty dark spot right now, and books–whether heartbreaking or quirky or incandescent—are a rare opportunity to step away from the chaos and enlighten yourself at the same time. So we at Lilith think it’s okay—nay, great—to lose yourself in a summer story that gives you pleasure while you turn its pages. 

So in addition to Chanel Dubofksy’s picks from last week, here are a few more 2018 books, ranging from slight to serious, that should give Jewish feminist readers (and indeed, all readers) something to curl up with as the summer hits its sultry stride.

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The Lilith Blog

June 20, 2018 by

The Bitches of the 1990s Weren’t Villains After All

90sbitch“Jews are really good at knowing our history,” says Allison Yarrow, author of the new book 90s Bitch, which casts a critical eye on the gender politics of the Clinton years, from Monica Lewinsky to Marcia Clark, examining how the rise of the 24/7 media landscape turned them into villains, pushing sexism and silencing into the air we breathe today.

“We need to know the real history of what happened in the 1990,” Yarrow told Lilith, during a chat that covered Bill Clinton’s non-apology, the limits of nostalgia, the Sex and the City anniversary and of course, the word “bitch.”

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The Lilith Blog

June 14, 2018 by

Dana Schwartz on Humor, Rejecting the “Guilty Pleasure” Label and Terrible Jews

Choose your ownDana Schwartz has a knack for getting the internet’s attention. Whether it’s impersonating the pretentiousness of the aspiring male literati for her wildly popular “Guy in Your MFA” fictional Twitter account or taking on Jared Kushner for enabling anti-Semitism—while he was her boss at the New York Observer—Schwartz knows how to harness the zeitgeist by being herself.

Next week, she’ll release her memoir disguised as a personality quiz, “Choose Your Own Disaster.” At the seasoned age of 25, Schwartz plumbs the depths and heights of her college and post-college life to bring us poignant hilarity about travel, angst and eating disorders–as well as finding romance and the elusive adult self. She spoke to Lilith recently about stereotypes around women’s writing, where her sense of humor comes from, and the worst Jews in public life. 

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The Lilith Blog

June 7, 2018 by

“Do You Know What a Fascist Is?”

For parents of young children, daily life revolves around the dance between bonding and separation. It causes us a great deal of anxiety, this constant leaving and returning. We tell our children comforting things like “mommy always comes back,” and fret about keeping that promise. It’s hard, this reality, this learning curve. But we are the privileged ones who live safely, out of the gruesome reach of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the prison system. For other families just like ours but with different luck, each day brings the possibility of brutal separations without clear end.

So how can the rest of us allow the government, in our name, to wrench families apart?

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The Lilith Blog

November 30, 2017 by

Can We Harness the Power of #MeToo To Smash Patriarchy At Its Core?

wall street broadway signEvery time I log on to Twitter, I see new male names pop on that left-hand “trending” column and I cringe. Sometimes the newest harassment scandal comes and goes so fast I miss an entire news-cycle—for instance, I was watching the American Music Awards and Ryan Seacrest came on screen: “Accused of sexual harassment,” said my viewing companion. What? Him too? It keeps feeling like the deluge of stories is going to stop—it has to stop at some point, right?—yet it keeps…not stopping.

In fact, several weeks in, this moment (or movement?) still feels like it’s snowballing, because anyone who is privy to conversations among women knows that for every name that floats to the surface, there are at least a handful that haven’t been exposed, at least not yet.

And still, the questions can’t be avoided: How long do we have until our time to flood the airwaves with our truth is deemed “up”? What is our window to make a difference? And…what is actually going to change?

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The Lilith Blog

November 21, 2017 by

“Humorless Prig”? “Game Girl”? No One Escapes Toxic Misogyny

Leon Wieseltier didn’t harass all the women he worked with. For him, wrote Michelle Cottle in her bombshell Atlantic piece about the fabled editor: “Women fell on a spectrum ranging from Humorless Prig to Game Girl, based on how much of his sexual banter, innuendo, and advances she would put up with.”

There’s nowhere on that spectrum that’s a comfortable place to be.

Like many have this month, I found myself on an email thread with a group of women discussing our respective experiences with a known harasser in our circle. During the course of our chat, we asked a question many women have been asking: why some of us and not others? How do some people get lucky, and others get victimized?

Because when you read about widespread abuses that seem to hit every industry, every workplace, every woman, you can’t help but wonder: Why me, then? Why not me, the other time? While some misguided voices chimed in early on in this discussion to discuss women’s own behavior as a factor in this fight, we know from too many anecdotes that modesty is hardly a preventative shield, nor is age—nor even perceived beauty.

So what is it? In this particular case, it comes down to power and luck, as it almost always does: women in long-term partnerships, with notable networks of personal and professional support, had been largely left alone by this guy—while women directly reliant on him were targeted. And yet here we all were on the email thread, in solidarity with each other, in shared anger.

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The Lilith Blog

May 11, 2017 by

On the Importance of Being Women of the Books

books-1655783_1920Every day we get further into this madness that is the Trump Administration, the pile of books on my windowsill grows. Never mind that I have no room in my apartment for them, that I had switched to an e-reader several years ago in an effort to keep my shelves from overflowing. All that decluttering effort is officially over. Now I am collecting them like talismans: essays, writers on writing, novels and more novels. As a harried working mom, I have almost no time to read except my commute, but I am slowly making my way through the pile, even as I add to it. 

If the apocalypse comes, which it looks like it might, I will be buried in a pile of new releases. 

Unlike newspaper articles, tweets, and cable news which agitate us with a certain kind of harsh everyday truth, books allow us to see darkness, but through a softer lens of imaginary experience.

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The Lilith Blog

November 12, 2014 by

Street Harassment, Seat Harassment and Women’s Bodies

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALet’s conduct a thought experiment. A far right wing Christian preacher claims a direct revelation from God, and it goes something like this: Jews are the chosen people. So chosen, so holy, the group from whose midst Christ emerged, that they cannot be touched.

Literally.

So, says the preacher to his congregation, if you find yourself next to a Jew on a train or an airplane, you should ask to change seats immediately. Get up, stand in the aisle, change seats. Ask nicely, of course! Really, it’s not discrimination, they assure the rest of us. It’s personal religious practice. And Jews, if you get this request from a sect member, just try to be cool about it, okay? Let’s not reinforce the reputation that we Jews are pushy and difficult and always angry about anti-Semitism. It’s not an insult from these folks, it’s an honor.

I doubt my fellow Jews would heed calls to “tolerate” this treatment, and the embedded insults, in the name of religious freedom?

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The Lilith Blog

August 28, 2014 by

Is There Any Take-Away from This Long, Anguished Summer of Bad News

https://www.flickr.com/english106/

https://www.flickr.com/english106/

I wonder if I’ll talk to my children about the summer of 2014 the way my parents now speak to me of 1968. I wonder, too, if the stories I will relate will be even worse. A world on fire, I’ll tell them. Simmering oppression and fear rising to the surface, often with violence, from the first bright mornings of June through the dog days of August. And even those of us who were insulated personally from tragedy by miles or oceans or other, unseen borders, felt exposed: we sat beside our various screens, watching bloody images and words of hatred stream by until our fists clenched, reflexively. And then when we returned to our own lives with their petty disappointments and worries, those small shadows had larger shadows across them.

The disappointment and fear began with the Supreme Court decisions this June. Hobby Lobby, a Christian-run corporation, was bestowed permission to discriminate against its employees, putting religious liberty and reproductive health at risk. How could this happen today, we asked, after decades of the sexual revolution? But of course it had been happening, slowly for years, as corporations became legally ascendant and reproductive rights backslid. We read Anton Scalia’s decision, which singled out women’s healthcare, with mouths agape, and heeded Justice Ginsburg’s prophetic warning that this was opening the door for more discrimination.

In July our newsfeeds exploded with war in Gaza and rockets over Israel, with social media sending us gruesome images of death, destruction and terror. Online and at dinner tables we viciously argued with our own relatives about rights and wrongs abroad, and about where our Jewishness compelled us to stand. “The rhetorical war accompanying the military war – which has drastically increased interpersonal hostilities and decreased my number of friends – is so very unsettling. I feel like we’re doing this all wrong,” wrote Elana Sztokman on this blog. These wars both continued until this week, limping towards a ceasefire with more dead along the way.

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The Lilith Blog

March 18, 2014 by

Busting Open the Good Mother Myth

Good Mother Myth - image of bird and cracked eggThe good mother. She bakes her own challah and breastfeeds, is impeccably groomed while holding down a career or volunteer job, nurtures her family 24-7–and in today’s world, she is also spiritually attuned and a strong, independent woman.

Of course, she doesn’t exist. Avital Norman Nathman, a writer and mom living in Massachusetts’ Pioneer Valley, has edited a collection of essays tackling this new spin on an old myth from many perspectives, introducing readers to a passel of moms who do not fit the mommy mold, and are confronting their own Good Mother Myth myth by writing their truth. Whether they struggle with mental illness, gender roles, or community expectations, the dozens of voices collected in “The Good Mother Myth” create a mosaic that is so much richer and interesting than any perfect mom could be. Nathman spoke with Lilith on one of this winter’s many snow days about media myths, policy changes, and hearing from a panoply of moms.

Sarah Seltzer: Tell me about the genesis for this collection.

Avital Norman Nathman: I’ve been writing about parenting and motherhood for a while now, in addition to my other areas of interest. And being immersed in that topic, I was hyper-aware of how the mainstream media framed their stories and discussion surrounding motherhood. Motherhood would either been seen as this sanitized ideal that we’d all supposedly aspire to or various stories would be co-opted and used as cautionary tales. i.e. “You don’t want to end up as this BAD MOM,” working the fear and judgment. 

SS: So why did you decided to do it as anthology of multiple voices instead of just yours!

ANN: It all kind of came to a head for me when Time Magazine came out with their now infamous “Are you MOM ENOUGH?” cover featuring the mother nursing her toddler (while he stood up on a chair. Yay shock value!). It felt superficial, especially when there are so many legitimate and pressing issues facing mothers and families. But those aren’t controversial or sexy enough to merit the big headlines, I guess.

So, I started thinking about a book where I would write about motherhood, not necessarily without a filter, but without intentional framing. Allow stories that just “were” so to speak. The more I started thinking about it, the more I realized that if I used only my voice, I wasn’t doing much to change the current dynamic. Hence the idea to make it an anthology.

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