I am absolutely kvelling to have these two amazing authors (and editors!) on the site today, chatting about their new release, the all-Jewish (in regards to both main characters and authors) It’s a Whole Spiel anthology! And yes, it’s exciting because they’re both friends of mine and because I happen to be in this anthology, but I’m also just so thrilled that a collection like this is out in the world for Jewish readers to find, to see themselves in, and to prove that we’re capable of being relevant in YA lit beyond historical fiction. (Yes, this book is entirely contemporary.) But this isn’t about me! Let’s get to the editors, The Spy With the Red Balloon author Katherine Locke and You Asked for Perfect author Laura Silverman!
Katherine: IT’S A WHOLE SPIEL IS OUT THIS WEEK!!! Can you believe it’s here?!
Laura: I can’t believe it! These stories all hold such a special place in my heart, and I can’t believe we finally get to share them with the world! What do you hope readers will take away from It’s a Whole Spiel?
Katherine: I really want Jewish readers to take away the diversity of Jewish experiences in this book and to know these are only a handful of Jewish experiences. There are so many ways of being Jewish in this world and every one of those experiences is valid. When I was growing up, I only knew Reform Jews and secular Jews. A few of my dad’s cousins were Conservative but other than that, my Jewish experience was limited. This book would have been so eye-opening for me in a really positive way. And for our non-Jewish readers, I want them to see a wide variety of Jewish experiences, break down some of their stereotypes, and realize that Jewish teens also feel awkward at college orientation, have adventures with their best friends, conquer their fears, experience very awkward first dinners with their new boyfriend/girlfriend’s families, have annoying but endearing younger siblings, etc. etc. It’s a Jewish anthology, but it’s also a contemporary(ish!) anthology and I hope readers of all stripes pick it up.
Laura: Yes! This anthology reminds me of how often the specific can be universal. Each story shines a light on a specific Jewish experience, but each story also has all the relatable feels of delightfully awkward teenage experiences. And my favorite part of this anthology process has been working with our incredible writers. I fell in love with all of these stories from the start, but it was wonderful kernels of an idea grow into these fully-realized and heartfelt stories. What moment surprised you during this anthology process?
Katherine: The logistics! But that’s not that interesting. I think what surprised me the most was that I could feel Very Jewish and The Least Jewish Person Attached to This Anthology all at the same time. But I also was really delighted by how much fun I had? Like I remember laughing aloud at parts of Goldy’s story, and pressing my hand to my chest at the anxiety in Rachel’s story, and crying in Dahlia’s story, and covering my face when I read Lance’s story. And all these other moments, they made me feel so much. I thought I knew that it’d be an anthology full of a lot of complicated emotions, but I was soooooo unprepared, lol. It was also really fun to get to know you! I think people think we were best friends or something before this, but we basically loosely knew each other from the internet when you dropped into my DMs. So it’s been fun to get to know each other through this whole experience as well. How did you come up with the idea of Spiel? What made it necessary right now?
Laura: I slid into your DMs so hard haha! Thank you for the warm welcome! Even though we barely knew each other, I just had a gut instinct you were the co-editor for me, and I’m grateful we’ve worked so well together! How I came up with the idea for Spiel….
I joined the YA community when We Need Diverse Books was getting started. I loved and supported the movement from the start, but it wasn’t until after I sold my debut novel, Girl Out of Water, that I realized it hadn’t even occurred to me to write a Jewish character in my own books. Growing up, I can’t remember reading any books with Jewish characters unless the book had to do with the Holocaust, and even those were few and far between, so it didn’t cross my mind to center my Jewish experience in a book. This was also happening in the midst and aftermath of the 2016 election, where anti-Semitism was rising along with every other -ism out there. I was personally attacked and sent death threats online just for being Jewish. I was suddenly ravenous for positive Jewish representation in YA books, and though there were certainly some titles out there already, I knew we could have many more on the shelves. And how do you get a bunch of Jewish stories out there at once? An anthology! Katie, what made you say yes to this anthology when I slid into your DMs?
Katherine: Honestly, your enthusiasm was what sold me. You believed we could sell this book, and that the world was ready for and wanted positive upbeat Jewish representation, and so I believed it. I admit, I was a little skeptical. I wasn’t sure that publishing would want this, or see it as sellable. And we heard it a lot, that it was ‘niche.’ But Spiel isn’t niche. It’s both specific and universal and I like to think that we and our contributors walked that line perfectly.
Ready for some rapid fire? LATKE TOPPINGS! Sour cream for me!
Laura: EW sour cream! Applesauce for me! But I also like some ketchup for a savory option not going to lie. Favorite Jewish holiday?
Katherine: Passover, because storytelling. Duh. Favorite editing snack?
Laura: I do love Passover. And now I want matzo ball soup, which isn’t me go-to editing snack but should be! Currently—baby carrots and Cheez-Its. Guess I’m on an orange roll! Favorite Jewish character from TV or movies?
Katherine: UHHH okay this is a throwback and I feel like the only person who watched this show, but I loved State of Grace back in the day about Hannah, a Jewish girl in North Carolina in 1965. Did you ever see that? (And last question! What are you reading right now?)
Laura: I’ve never seen it, and now I have to! I can’t believe I’m admitting this – but I’m actually reading nothing right now I’m so busy this week! But I just picked up The Priory of the Orange Tree from the library, and I’m really looking forward to it!
I had so much fun chatting with you today! Thank you to B&N for hosting us!
It’s a Whole Spiel is on sale now.