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Page 6, Viewpointe                                                  February 2021

      Book Review

      Two Novel Jewish Heroines                          modern world.  The two novels are  bildundsromans
                                                         exploration of their identities, both religious and secular,
      Fariha Róisín. Like a Bird, A Novel. Los Angeles: Unnamed   as in the works of James Joyce and Mary McCarthy; and
      Press, 2020.                                       reflect the sensibility of the ardent feminist, Simone de
      Susan Taubes. Divorcing. New York: NYRB, (re-issue) 2020.  Beauvoir who, with the eminent intellectual Jean-Paul
         “When love beckons you, follow him/Though his   Sartre, enjoyed no strings, impious, open companionship.
         ways are hard and steep...though the sword hidden      Ms. Róisín’s Taylia Chatterjee grew up in a privileged
         among his pinions may wound you.                family of Columbia professors on the Upper West Side
         And when he speaks to you believe in him/Though   of Manhattan. Her maternal grandparents never accepted
         his voice may shatter                           their daughter’s marriage to an Indian, but she had enjoyed
         your dreams as the north wind lays waste the    a very warm relationship with her grandmother Dadi-ma in
         garden.” Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet (1923)      Kolkata India who has imbued her with love, meditation
      “One is not born, but rather becomes a woman. No   and the peace beneath the Cillian tree. In her youth, she
      biological, psychological, or economic fact determines   follows the path of a good daughter, studious and pious,
      the figure that the human female presents in society;   intellectual like her father, artistic like her mother. As a
      it is civilization as a whole that produces this creature,   teenager, she suffers a trauma, the suicide death of her
      intermediate  between  male  and  eunuch,  which  is   elder sister, Alyssa, whom she looked to as both rival and      At  first,  Sophie  lives  with  her  aunt  and  uncle  in
      described as feminine.” Simone de Beauvoir, The Second   mentor, and also her dearest friend. She endures a second   Pittsburgh. Then she joins her father in New York as her
      Sex (1958)                                         trauma when she is betrayed by Simon Sharma, at one time   father established his medical practice. While they are
                                                         her sister’s boyfriend, a young Indian man who enjoys her   living together, Sophie’s first source of ambivalence is her
      By Dr. Ronald J. Meyers                            father approval; but her parents fail to understand the truth   father’s Freudian approach, which she rejects. She does
                                                         about Simon’s character. She is abandoned and forced to   not completely share his atheism and, like De Beauvoir,
         Two novels with Jewish                          purse life on the streets as a homeless teenager.  is ambivalent about own her female identity. She falls
      heroines are separated by                             She is befriended by Kat (Khadisha), 37 years old,   in love with Ezra a worldly scholar like her father, also
      half a century. The author                         African American Muslim, Tarot reader and proprietress   trained as a Rabbi. He sweeps her off her feet with a
      Susan Taubes,  beauty,                             of the Milk Thistle, a bakery and café near Washington   sermon that he delivers and deflowers her the next day.
      actress, and secular scholar,                      Square, and single mother. Kat rescues her from the   They are a hedonistic couple, she and Ezra have an open
      descendant from Orthodox                           street, mentors her and provides her with a place to stay   marriage  where  both  subscribe  to  unfaithfulness.  Her
      Jewish  Hungarian  family                          in Brooklyn and work in the Thistle and as baby sitter to   husband enables her with three children, the opportunity
      and slew of famous Rabbis,                         Isaac and Luc. Here she finds comfort among multi-ethnic,   to travel the world with him as a world renowned lecturer,
      married to a non-practicing                        biracial associates and explores her sexual identity as   and  allows  her  to  live  by  herself  in  Paris  while both
      Rabbi, has written a searing                       heterosexual and lesbian. She learns that relationships are   pursue extra-marital relationships. But she is dissatisfied
      novel about the struggle of an independent daughter to   at best impermanent, and commitment is ephemeral. She   and serves Ezra with divorce papers. Ezra is astounded,
      find her identity in the middle years of the last century;   forms bonds with variety of suitors and friends, Kat, Ky,   turns down her request, and suggests that she see a
      originally published in 1969, the work has been re-issued   deriving from a Peruvian Japanese couple, to whom she is   psychoanalyst. She does, and the analysis tells her that
      as a classic by The New York Review of Books. Fariha   attracted and he invites her to move in with him, Tahsin,   she “must repeat her mother’s life.”
      Róisín, essayist and poet, a Muslim-Indian raised in   Ky’s sister-in-law, Ralph, a teaching assistant at NYU and      Part 2 offers a phantasmagoria as Sophie from her
      Sydney Australia, now living in Brooklyn, has written a   Ryan, former boyfriend of Alyssa. These friendships help   coffin argues her divorce claim before an orthodox Jewish
      contemporary account of a Woke heroine, daughter of a   her navigate the double whammy of Racism and sexism.   court, or Bet Din, such as existed in Hungary for centuries
      mixed marriage Jewish mother and Bengalese father, of   There are novel surprises and discoveries that will keep   as enforcer of Jewish law. Both her father and husband
      independent mind to navigate the treacherous shoals of   you adrift, as you follow the heroine’s bird flight in pursuit   oppose her action, but many witnesses are brought forth
      race and sex in contemporary America.              of her freedom; and in the final surrealistic birth scene her   to recount Ezra’s infidelities. However the court chooses
         Though  it appears that  Ms.  Róisín  has  chosen to   destiny as a proud single mom in the zone between dream   to focus on her sexual behavior accusing her of sacrilege,
      give her heroine a metaphoric Upper West Side Jewish   and reality, life and death, confronting her Karma.   uncleanness, and loathsome sexual practices with her
      American identity (is a J.A.P. really much different from      To America and Back in a Coffin was the chosen title   husband, and her divorce is denied.
      an Indian American Princess?), the genetic make-up of   of Susan Taubes 1969 novel; but her publisher insisted on      In the later parts, she reestablished her relationship
      both these victim heroines is self-aware, intellectual,   changing it to Divorcing. The novel truly tells the story   with her mother who reveals to Sophie that she never
      Jewish, and proud. Both heroines leave the security of their   of two divorces, Sophie’s parents, Rudolf Landsmann   stopped loving Rudolf, and divorced him only so that
      pious upbringing and venture full steam into the secular,   and Kamilla Ripper, and Sophie’s own divorce from Ezra   he could escape from the impending Nazi threat; but she
                                                         Blind. The novel opens surrealistically with her traffic   insists that she believed that Sophie would remain with
                                                         accident after an appointment at the hairdresser’s on the   her in Budapest. Kamilla then follows them to America
        Lease Renewals                                   streets of Paris where Sophie Blind appears to regain   and lives in a cottage in New Jersey--for a time as a kept
                                                                                                           woman. In the last part, Sophie recounts her happy youth
                                                         consciousness, but is told by her lover in a New York City
                                                         apartment that she is dead. Thence flashbacks from the   in Budapest with her many relatives, a kind of Proustian
           Renters- If you plan to renew your lease at Boca   coffin and scenes from their lives prior to their respective   reuniting with her Tantes and Oncles and cousins in an
        Pointe, please provide the BPCA Management office   divorces, drawing upon the author’s own autobiographical   environment  of  Jewish  celebration  and  faith.  She  has
        a copy of your renewal lease and vehicle registration   experiences.                               been shaped by this experience, in particular Omama’s
        prior to your lease expiration date. Both items are      Sophie was the daughter of a prosperous and distinguished   piety and stringent adherence to orthodox Jewish practice
        needed to ensure that your transponder does not   Hungarian family in Budapest. Sophie’s grandfather was a   which she lost upon coming to materialistic America.
        get deactivated when the lease ends. Please email to   notable Rabbi whose congregation held against him the fact      Both authors celebrate survival of their heroines,                            that he read secular newspapers. Her father Rudolf also follows   and their works can be seen an efforts of healing. Both
           Thank you!                                   a secular path, rejecting Jewish practice, a distinguished   heroines recount the profound influence of their paternal
                                                         medical doctor following the example of Sigmund Freud as a   grandmothers, in the case of Taylia, Dadi-ma’s Hindu
                                                         psychotherapist with a large practice in Budapest. Rudolf has   faith, in the case Sophie, Omama Orthodox Jewish faith
                                                         a passionate encounter with a beautiful woman, Kamilla, who   as a profound memories and sustaining influences from
       Your Driver                                       abandons her Translvanian Count husband to marry him and   their childhood. Both novels end on a coda with their
                                                                                                           heroine’s affirmation of their fulfillment in their similar
         Airport Car Service                             gives birth to Sophie. In time, Kamilla abandons Rudolf when   destinies as single moms. Namaste.
                                                         she forms an attraction to a young, blond journalist, Zoltan
          WPB, FLL, MIA
                                                         Vithezy. Rudolf chooses to leave Budapest to reestablish his
                                                         practice in America, and Sophie immigrates with him at age      Dr. Ronald J. Meyers, an Emeritus Professor of
       HowarD BarrY                                      10 with little knowledge of English.              English, resides in La Paz. 
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