Author Archives: Sarah M. Seltzer

The Lilith Blog

October 23, 2018 by

A Romantic Novel That Acknowledges the Limits of Romance

shortestAt the end of the summer, I was happy to curl up with a book that takes place in a beautiful winery, with two handsome male characters vying for the protagonists hand. It sounds fun and escapist–and it is! But Miriam Parker’s The Shortest Way Home goes deeper than its bubbly, clear surface, subtly questioning conventional definitions of success for its heroine, Hannah, who begins the novel with a lucrative job and a rich boyfriend.

She ends it in a far different place. Lilith spoke to Parker about undercutting rom-coms, learning about wine, and her favorite Jewish feminists. 

What inspired you to set the book in wine country?

The germ of it began a long time ago. In around 2010, I was out in California for work, and by myself, I got a little hotel room in downtown Sonoma, walked around, and fell in love with the place. I even found a winery and ended up signing up for the wine club so every few months these wines would show up and remind me. 

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The Lilith Blog

August 21, 2018 by

The Patriarchy-Free Paradise of “Mamma Mia!”

greece-2824611_960_720This piece contains spoilers for Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again. Not a spoiler: you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll dance poorly to ABBA.

Ten years ago I wandered into a movie theater on a hot summer weekend and was surprised to fall in love with the bell bottoms and thudding beat of ABBA-musical-turned-Meryl Streep vehicle “Mamma Mia!”. At the time, I was especially charmed to discover the “feminist heart beneath its cheesy 70s kitsch exterior”—given that the movie hinges on woman’s freewheeling sexual past without shaming her for it.

A lot has changed in a decade; whereas the original “Mamma Mia!” passed skeptical critics by, only to become a smash hit with audiences, its long-awaited sequel now flows into the culture with the natural ease of olive oil in a Greek dish. In the era of female-driven shows like “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” and “Jane the Virgin” that combine elements of camp, fantasy and genre with sensitive exploration of women’s lives, viewers are primed to enjoy this kind of entertainment unironically, while a more open-minded group of critics are bolstering their pleasure with praise.

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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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