Ambiguously Jewish: “Hamsa, Hamsa, Hamsa, Tfu, Tfu, Tfu”
So, hey, first things first. Alisa Schreibman is the same person as Allie Berg. Allie’s just a pseudonym for those super-racy romances I probably won’t be writing many more of.
“Hamsa, Hamsa, Hamsa, Tfu, Tfu, Tfu,” is a story I wrote that was included in the anthology, Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling that was published last year when I was too crazy to post about it. The kick-ass cover links to Amazon, where you can buy it. The title up there links to Apex Books, who published it, with all the other links where you can buy it.
Publisher’s Weekly said, “This compendium of literary undercutting and rebuilding is both enjoyable to read and an incisive work of commentary on the genre,” in a starred review. So that’s pretty good. And GracieKat on Goodreads said, “I loved the story and the mythology behind it. The female lead was also awesome,” about my story, giving it 4 stars. So that’s also pretty good.
When Jaym, my editor, asked me to talk about the story, explain which trope I picked and how I was inverting it, I pointed to Ambiguously Jewish on TV Tropes. The trope page defines ambiguously Jewish as, “A character who fits “Jewish” stereotypes, possibly played by an actor who is Jewish in real life, but who is never (or cryptically) actually stated to be a Jew on the show.” And, okay, that’s how it plays on television and in movies. Green or Greenberg or Stein or Goldstein may be Jewish or may not be, right up until the very special Hanukah episode, or when there’s a need to point to some diversity.
To me, the real truth is that Jews are always ambiguous and never more so than to ourselves. White? Not white? Passing? Out? Zionist? Anti-Zionist? Pro-Israel? Anti-Israel? Two-State? Screw that? And it’s not like when we someone on the street, we’ve got some kind of infallible Jewdar.
So when I wrote “Hamsa, Hamsa, Hamsa, Tfu, Tfu, Tfu,” I wanted to tell the kind of story I like to read. In this case, paranormal/urban fantasy with a side of romance. But a story of the kind I like to read where the main characters are Jewish, and that’s never clear to either of them until the end. Because that’s what life’s like. We can’t count on the person we’re attracted to being Jewish, or accepting that we’re Jewish, but they might be, and how cool is that? Even if it doesn’t matter to us, it’s still pretty cool when it happens accidentally.
So that’s what I was up to in “Hamsa”–trying to dramatize what it might look like for a character who isn’t ambiguously Jewish to herself (the protagonist, who never mentions her religion directly until the end) to nevertheless be ambiguous to her love interest, and he to her, without their Jewishness being a contrivance or convenience for the sake of series diversity. If you read it, let me know how I did.