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Writing in Jewish

In case it hasn’t been made abundantly clear to some people, I am Jewish. I’m a proud Jew. I’m a passionate Zionist. And I will defend the Jewish people and our homeland with the greatest vigor.

I’m also a writer. I can write on just about any topic but in the last year that I’ve really focused on writing and publishing my first book, I’ve realized just how ‘Jewy’ it is at its core. It wasn’t intentional when I started writing it over fifteen years ago but I’ve found myself sprinkling more and more Judaism into my work – usually subtly, sometimes not so much.

A lot of the Jewish aspects of my writing will really only be picked up by other Jews who recognize it. But some parts are very blatant. And it is these parts which I want to discuss. It’s the “overtly” Jewish works that put a target on Jewish writers.

You probably won’t notice it if you’re not involved in the writing world (and if you’re not Jewish) but Jewish writers and authors who portray Judaism in a beautiful and powerful light and who *gasp* portray Israel as a historic and wonderful place, tend to be vilified. They receive abuse and harassment online and off and are given awful reviews usually by people who haven’t even read their work. Why? Because Jews need to be portrayed as weak. As victims. Because as Dara Horn recently wrote, “people love dead Jews” but can’t stomach those who live loud and proud. And because how dare we show the humanity of Israel and Israelis in our words? Shame on us.

No. Shame on everyone who upholds this hateful double standard. Why is every writer allowed to pour their being into their works except Jews? Why is every author allowed to show the beauty and complexity of their culture and their home except Jews?

My books are about supernatural beings living in our world. I write about witches and vampires and demons living amongst humans. But their essence is undeniably Jewish. Jewish themes are interwoven throughout my pages. Heck, one of my characters is so heavily hinted at being Jewish without him actually saying it out loud and several others are obviously Jewish. But because I’m writing these characters, they are not portrayed in the typical antisemitic way these types of creatures usually are.

I grew up with books, shows, and movies about magical creatures and supernatural beings. I love witches. I love vampires. I love stories about worlds so fantastic that your imagination takes you far away. What I don’t love is growing up and realizing so many creators of these worlds are – whether intentionally or not – antisemitic.

I’ve been writing since I can remember and when I first started writing my books, long before I ever connected to my Judaism, I subconsciously included elements of it. The more I’ve connected with my Jewish culture, history, and faith, the more conscious I have been to weave elements of Judaism into my story.
My world doesn’t demonize Jews and make antisemitic parodies out of my people. Heroes, villains, and everyone in between carry something Jewy in their character whether laced in or outright. Part of my story even takes place in the Jewish homeland. In Israel. In Jerusalem – the very city the Jewish people have prayed in the direction of for thousands of years, hoping to one day return.
The non-Jewish world has twisted Jewish characters for far, far too long. Enough is enough. If you can’t write characters without using hateful tropes of Jews or any other persecuted groups, you have no business writing those characters. When I made the conscious decision not to shy away from my Jewishness in my writing, I had to come to terms that I might very well receive the same treatment so many Jewish writers before me have received. And I’m okay with that. The days of Jews hiding in order to fit in is long gone.
If someone has a problem with Jews – if someone has a problem with Israel – I am okay with my work not being for them. I’m okay that I’m not for them. I don’t expect to be everyone’s cup of tea. But I drink Israeli coffee so if you enjoy some Elite, I think you will find great enjoyment in my words. And hey, next time I’m in Israel you might catch me in Aroma working on my books while drinking my latte.
About the Author
Klarina Usach was born in Odessa, Ukraine. Her family fled as Jewish refugees to the USA in 1992. She has grown up in New York but Israel is in her heart. She is currently working on her first book.
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