Dani Shapiro
November 8, 2008

Being a Jewish Writer

I had never known that November is National Jewish Book Month until, a couple of years ago, when I started receiving requests to appear at Jewish Community Centers around the country to talk about my work. I have always thought of myself as a writer who is Jewish, rather than a “Jewish Writer” — in the same way I’ve thought of myself as a writer who happens to be female, happens to be a wife and mother, happens to live in rural Connecticut. I’ve resisted being categorized–even though we live in a world that loves to label, and certainly I have been labeled all these things. But does it matter? My work reflects my Jewishness, in the sense that, as a child, I was steeped in religious observance. I frequently say, these days, that I know I’m ready to start a new piece of work when my own personal mishegas meets up with a big idea. Certainly my mishegas has to do with my Jewishness. How could it not? I am suffused with it, as I am with family life. And so I am a Jewish female writer, a wife and mother who frequently writes about Jewishness and family life. And, now that we’re into the month of November, I am traveling to various communities around the country to talk about the relationship between my life and my work. Last week I visited a wonderful JCC in New Jersey where, in the audience, there were many faces from my New Jersey past. Parents of my grade school friends were there. Neighbors from my home town. It was a very warm feeling–a feeling that I increasingly value–of being connected. These connections never really completely disappear, no matter how many years pass. Tomorrow I will be in Scottsdale, Arizona–far from home. And though I don’t imagine that I will run into people I know from the distant past, I have no doubt that the same warm feeling will fill the room.