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Keyn Eyn-Hore: The Offerings of the Good Girl KEYN EYN-HORE: THE OFFERINGS OF THE GOOD GIRL by Merla Wolk Merla Wolk is a senior lecturer at the University of Michigan , Ann Arbor. Her most recent publications include essays on Rosellen Brown forthcoming in Critique and published in American Imago and on Edith Konecky forthcoming from Greenwood Press in Jewish-American Women Writers. She is co-author of Arenas of the Mind: Critical Readingfor Writers, HarperCollins, 1992. Presently , she is at work on a cultunl study of Jewish women writing in English around the world: Offerings: The Voices ofJewish Women Writers. 31 In a recent article, "The Jewish Writer as Endangered Species," Rosellen Brown examines the difficulties for contemporaryJewish writers of making their Jewish identity prominent in their fiction when that identity locates, as it does for many assimilated Jews, in what Amos Oz called a "shared set of sensibilities"l rather than in religious observance-a distinction Brown labels "Jewishness" as opposed to "Judaism" (p. 94). Although Brown's subject in this essay has a wide reference, readers of her fiction will have no trouble imagining that the dilemma has a pressing personal dimension as well. Even her Jewishness remains hidden in much of Brown's writing. Of her seven volumes including the short stories of Street Games (1971), the poems in Some Deaths in the Delta and Other Poems (1970), and Cora Fry (1977), and her novels, Autobiography ofMy Mother (1979), Tender Mercies (1979), Civil Wars (1985), and Before and After (1992), only Autobiography, an occasional short story, and the last 'Brown quotes Oz in "The Jewish Writer as Endangered Species," in A Rosellen Brown Reader: Selected Poetry and Prose (Hanover: Middlebury College Press, 1992), p. 93. 32 SHOFAR Spring 1994 Vol. 12, No.3 two novels have identifiably Jewish characters. Perhaps because being Jewish hasn't been the focus of her texts, perhaps because being Jewish isn't signaled in her name, Brown, to her dismay, has often not been identified as a Jewish writer. In an interview in the Jerusalem Report, Brown speaks of her determination to seek a remedy to this condition in writing her most recent novel, Before and After: "I had to come out of the closet as a Jew," she remarks.2 The curious wording of her resolution, however, implies something problematic in that step. To think of Before and After, particularly as it treats the subject ofJewishness, as a companion to the essay on the endangerment of the species ofJewish writer is to gain insight into the novel itself. A seemingly well adjusted seventeen-year-old boy, "a winner," from an achievement-oriented, successful Jewish middle-class family brutally murders his girl friend. So begins Before and After.3 This text explores the circumstances ofcultural and psychological conflict that came "before" and come "after" this shocking event. Focusing on the dynamics ofintergenerational relationships, Brown asks questions about the nature of sacrificeparticularly of the often elusive distinctions between sacrificing for the child and sacrificing the child. Despite allusions to Abraham's willingness before God to sacrifice his son Isaac, Brown's concerns are not matters of faith; they do, however, reflect on varieties ofJewish response in a Gentile world. Before and After tells the story of the Reisers, a lone Jewish family in a small town in New Hampshire. They represent what some might consider an "ideal" family, one that values loving and learning, accomplishment and decency: the father, Ben, an artist who makes arresting sculptures out ofjunk; the mother, Carolyn, a pediatrician, a self-described "good girl" dedicated to her work and her family; the son, Jacob, seventeen, in the throes of teen-age rebellion, alternating between sweet gestures towards his younger sister and all-consuming rages; and Judith, twelve years' old, a good girl replica of her mother who possesses a consideration of others so profound that she seems "to have been born understanding what it felt like to be her own parent." Into the life of this model family comes the unimaginable. Ina fit of rage, Jacob murders his girl friend, Martha; pregnant with someone else's child, she had taunted 'See Rochelle Furstenberg, "When Children Become Strangers...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-5165
Print ISSN
0882-8539
Pages
pp. 31-45
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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