Synopses & Reviews
What makes someone Jewish?
Theodore Ross was nine years old when he moved with his mother from New York City to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Once there, his mother decided, for both personal and spiritual reasons, to have her family pretend not to be Jewish. He went to an Episcopal school, where he studied the New Testament, sang in the choir, and even took Communion. Later, as an adult, he wondered: Am I still Jewish?
Seeking an answer, Ross traveled around the country and to Israel, visiting a wide variety of Jewish communities. From “Crypto-Jews” in New Mexico and secluded ultra-devout Orthodox towns in upstate New York to a rare Classical Reform congregation in Kansas City, Ross tries to understand himself by experiencing the diversity of Judaism.
Quirky and self-aware, introspective and impassioned, Am I a Jew? is a story about the universal struggle to define a relationship (or lack thereof) with religion.
“Theodore Ross, who may or may not be Jewish, is excellent company on the page. Whether he’s discovering secret Jews in New Mexico, attempting to discern the brighter side of Orthodox Judaism, or interrogating his family members about their own religious foibles and dodges, Am I a Jew?
is always moving, heartfelt, funny, and alive. This is a terrific—and terrifically odd—memoir.”—TOM BISSELL, author of Extra Lives
and Magic Hours
"Am I a Jew is a brilliant American odyssey, one that is both inside and outside of traditions both national and religious; it's also often very funny, and always very empathic; Ross has written a genuinely great book."
—RIVKA GALCHEN, author of Atmospheric Disturbances
"[This] intelligent and altogether entertaining account of searching out the roots of identity will be of interest not only to those who've asked, 'Am I a Jew?' but also to anyone who's ever wondered, 'What am I, anyway?' One finishes this book thankful for a fuller understanding of the diverse strains within the Jewish tradition and not a little awed by the writer's compelling mix of skepticism, candor, and love."
—GARRET KEIZER, author of Privacy and The Unwanted Sound of Everything We Want
"An elegant guide for the perplexed inhabitants of our increasingly disorienting world, Am I a Jew? is a profound meditation on the nature of modern identity."
—ROGER HODGE, author of The Mendacity of Hope: Barack Obama and the Betrayal of American Liberalism
“Fierce, funny, and subversively heartfelt...With his middle finger pointed at the heavens and a hand held over his heart, Auslander gives us Foreskins Lament
. Mazel tov to him. And God? Well, hell survive.”—New York Times Book Review
“Auslander writes like Philip Roths angry nephew... a scathing theological rant, a funny, oddly moving coming-of-age memoir, and an irreverent meditation on family, marriage, and cultural identity. God may be a bit irritated by this book, but I loved it.”—Tom Perrotta, author of Little Children and The Abstinence Teacher
“A laugh-out-loud quarrel with God.”—Newsweek
“A terrific book I was sad I read in so few sittings, because I wanted more.”
—San Francisco Chronicle
“Hilarious, caustic, and surprisingly moving.” —Philadelphia Inquirer
“Blasphemous and funny.”—Newsweek
“A surprise and delight.”—Boston Globe
“A fretful, self-effacing, bitter…hilarious story.”—The Houston Chronicle
“Wryly comic.”—New York Magazine
“Hilarious, caustic, and surprisingly moving.”—Philadelphia Inquirer
“A very funny memoir.”—GQ
“Lyrical, hysterical… funny and angry.”—Cleveland Plain Dealer
“An audacious, poke-God-in-the eye memoir.”—Miami Herald
I was nine years old when my mother forced me to convert to Christianity
When Theodore Ross moved from New York City to small-town Mississippi, his mother insisted that the family pretend to not be Jewish. He was sent to an Episcopal school, where he studied the Bible, sang in the choir, and even took communion. As an adult, he abandoned the religious charade, but wondered: Am I a Jew? In search of an answer, Ross immersed himself within communities on the fringes of Jewish identityCrypto-Jews,” Lost Tribes,” the ultra-Orthodox, and more. Filled with humor, curiosity, and sincerity, Am I a Jew? explores Americas riotous religious diversity, and one mans quest to stake a claim within it.
A New York Times Notable Book, and a chaotic, laugh riot” (San Francisco Chronicle) of a memoir.
Shalom Auslander was raised with a terrified respect for God. Even as he grew up and was estranged from his community, his religion and its traditions, he could not find the path to a life where he didnt struggle daily with the fear of Gods formidable wrath. Foreskins Lament reveals Auslanders painfully, cripplingly, incurably, miserably religious” youth in a strict, socially isolated Orthodox Jewish community, and recounts his rebellion and efforts to make a new life apart from it. His combination of unrelenting humor and anger renders a rich and fascinating portrait of a man grappling with his faith and family.
About the Author
Shalom Auslander was raised in Monsey, New York. Nominated for the Koret Award for writers under thirty-five, he has published articles in Esquire, The New York Times Magazine, Tablet, The New Yorker, and has had stories aired on NPR's This American Life. Auslander is the author of the short story collection Beware of God and the acclaimed novel Hope: A Tragedy. He lives in New York City. To learn more about Shalom Auslander, please visit www.shalomauslander.com.