Category Archives: Fantasy

On Making People Into Things

Play-Bill-Caliban-1916

Do you ever wonder why there are so many stories about things that want to be human (or real), but aren’t? Pinocchio, the Velveteen Rabbit, Data on Star Trek? Caliban in The Tempest, who to my mind IS human, but has been told so often he’s a monster that he believes it?

African-American slaves were told they weren’t persons, and Jews in the Nazi camps were told that they were “vermin.” My recent book, Growing Up Golem, is very much about this dynamic, and I spoke about this curious confluence of fantasy, bigotry, and the psychology of survivors of exploitation and abuse in a recent talk at the New York Society for Ethical Culture.

Ever wonder what golems and physical abuse have to do with Hegel, Marx,  robots and racism? I lay it all out here!  🙂 Hope you enjoy.

Publishing in September!

Pinocchio statue

[POST UPDATED August 17, 2013 : The book title is Growing Up Golem: Learning to Survive My Mother, Brooklyn, and Some Really Bad Dates.]

Hi lovely people who read my blog,

I just wanted to let you know that my new memoir will be published in September by Magnus Books!

I am very excited about this 🙂 🙂

The book, whose first chapter you can read here, is a magical realist memoir that uses the conceit that my mother created me as a golem, the magical servant-creature out of Jewish legend. (In real life, my mother actually did tell us that she could do magic she had learned from her Romanian Jewish grandparents, and my sisters and I believed her. My mother was an extraordinarily– at times revoltingly — creative person, so it was no great stretch to believe she had made me by hand like a golem or a living toy.)

In the book, I try to pass for human, becoming a golem who does queer activist reporting for the Village Voice, etc., trying to have relationships with real human women, but I remain, inescapably, an obviously fake imitation of a person programmed to obey commands, not have feelings or take pleasure. Matters come to a head when I turn 36 and all the false trappings of my life – career, friendships, fake sex life, even my body – suddenly flare into crisis.

So what, you’re probably wondering, is the title?

IT IS STILL UP IN THE AIR!

I feel like Bilbo Baggins In Lord of the Rings, feverishly writing and crossing out MY DIARY. MY UNEXPECTED JOURNEY. THERE AND BACK AGAIN. AND WHAT HAPPENS AFTER. ADVENTURES OF FIVE HOBBITS. THE TALE OF THE GREAT RING, COMPILED BY BILBO BAGGINS FROM HIS OWN OBSERVATIONS AND THE ACCOUNTS OF HIS FRIENDS. WHAT WE DID IN THE WAR OF THE RING.

What am I going to call this mashup of memoir and myth?

Stay tooned!

If you want me to keep you posted on further developments, just write “keep me posted” in the comments section!

Growing Up Golem

Golem
This is an excerpt from my memoir Growing Up Golem, published by Riverdale Avenue Books and available from Barnes & Noble, Powells, Amazon, and your favorite independent bookstore:

My mother loved to make things. One day, when I was thirty-two years old, my mother created a giant, half-lifesize doll that looked just like me. (This is absolutely true.) It had yarn hair the same color and kink as mine, and real corduroy pants just like the ones I wear. My mother called it the Dyke Donna doll. (Mom was very pro-gay and lesbian, so she always felt very happy using words like “dyke.”) The doll wore a stripey red shirt like a circus performer, along with real, removable, bright red booties made of felt, and extravagantly long curling eyelashes that my mother drew in by hand, quite lovingly. It had big red apple blush-marks on its cheeks, like Pinocchio as I have always seen him drawn. It stood a discomfiting three feet tall (I myself am only five feet two). My mother gave it to me as her gift, to keep in my tiny apartment. I had to keep it under my bed because I couldn’t bear to see it sitting in my chair. But I felt like I was hiding a child away there, without food or anyone to talk to.

Starting in her early 20s, my mother had made a whole series of dolls and wooden soldiers and little straw figurines and puppets, and I believe that one of them was me. A few years after the Dyke Donna doll appeared, my arms broke. (This, also, is true.) I don’t mean that my arm bones broke – I’ve never had a broken bone – but that my arms’ capacity as limbs, their functionality and coherence, suddenly ended. Continue reading