Gravityby Leanne Lieberman
Ellie Gold is an orthodox Jewish teenager living in Toronto in the late eighties. Ellie has no doubts about her strict religious upbringing until she falls in love with another girl at her grandmother's cottage. Aware that homosexuality clashes with Jewish observance, Ellie feels forced to either alter her sexuality or leave her community. Meanwhile, Ellie's mother, Chana, becomes convinced she has a messianic role to play, and her sister, Neshama, chafes against the restrictions of her faith. Ellie is afraid there is no way to be both gay and Jewish, but her mother and sister offer alternative concepts of God that help Ellie find a place for herself as a queer Jew.
Ellisheva "Ellie" Gold is an Orthodox Jewish teen growing up in Toronto. When she falls for daring, sexy, non-Jewish Lindsay, she begins a struggle with her own homosexuality, worrying that she will be seen as an abomination by her family and community. First denying her urges and then giving in to them, she ultimately realizes that Lindsay is not a good match for her, but that a nice Jewish girl would be just right. Ellie learns that both love and God are like gravity, forces that she can believe in without seeing them. Much of the story concerns her lustful feelings toward Lindsay, and there are some sexual scenes. Her decision to dump Lindsay but embrace her lesbian identity is abrupt after all the angst of the earlier chapters. It makes for a happy ending, but one that is not completely believable. Ellie's struggle with Judaism is complicated by her sister Neshama's disgust with patriarchal traditions and by her nonobservant grandmother's puzzlement with her granddaughter's lifestyle. With no sympathetic representative, traditional Judaism itself comes off as something of a villain, redeemed only when Ellie begins to adapt it to her own needs. A bit slow in plot, a bit conflicted in its portrayal of Judaism, and a bit titillating in its descriptions of Ellie's growing sexual awareness, this novel is a mixed bag. It may offend some readers and be embraced by others, and would certainly make for an interesting discussion.-Heidi Estrin, Feldman Children's Library at Congregation B'nai Israel, Boca Raton, FL
A religious girl struggles to accept a sexuality that she's taught is sinful. Ellie's parents are "reborn-Orthodox" Jews. The family prays many times per day, keeps strictly kosher and barely associates with non-Jews. At a lakeside cottage with her unreligious grandmother one summer, Ellie falls hard for a girl. They kiss, but Lindsay is tauntingly unfriendly and leaves without saying goodbye. Back in Toronto, Ellie yearns for Lindsay and wrestles in secrecy with the notion of sin. Attempting to change, she yanks hair from her scalp and bites her cheek bloody. In counterpoint, Ima (her mother) is banished for singing too loudly in shul; she's particularly fragile, but her actions mortify the family even as the harsh punishment unsettles them. Ellie slowly realizes that for her, Judaism is the same as her beloved geology and oceanography: "When I pray, the words reverberate...They ground me, like bull kelp...rooted to the ocean floor, yet still moving, undulating in the waves." At the end, Judaism and gayness meld, with a touch of sweetness. Heartfelt—a must for Jewish and GLBT collections. (glossary) (Fiction. YA)
Read an Excerpt
"All through dinner a silent rage courses through me. Judaism says I am an abomination, yet God and His commandments are supposed to be good. Mrs. Lowenstein says I can change, but I've tried and it didn't work. Neshama says God is just an idea made up by stupid men who say women can't love other women. What is God anyway? Some big guy in the sky? The creator? Creator of what? I know dinosaur bones are older than the Torah."
Meet the Author
Leanne Lieberman is the author of several books for young adults. Leanne lives with her family in Kingston, Ontario, where she teaches elementary school. For more information, visit www.leannelieberman.com.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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This book by Canadian first-time author Leanne Lieberman centers on the coming-of-age of Ellie Gold.
The story begins during the summer vacation: Ellie goes to her grandmother's cottage in the midst of immaculate natural beauty, a place that she has looked forward to returning to since her first visit. This trip ends unexpectedly, as Ellie ends up falling in love with a girl her age, realizing her homosexuality.
However, Ellie has been brought up with strict religious values and traditions, which do not accept homosexuality, and she is forced to choose between shunning her community or denying her true sexuality.
Ultimately, through the multiple conflicts illustrated between tradition and modernity, Lieberman establishes that there is a place for all types of people, including Ellie, in society and religion.
I definitely enjoyed this story. Lieberman sucessfully develops her characters, and does not shy away from the lust commonly experienced by teenagers. And, coupled with the homosexual storyline, this story provides for a very interesting read, and is friendly to those who are not familiar with Judaism, specifically Orthodoxy.
GRAVITY is a good read for any, and despite my initial questions of how Lieberman would create such a challenging story, my concerns were for naught, as the story is an excellent work.
this book made a huge difference in my life and was just truly amazing