Home or the Loquat Tree

The Truth About the Fact | Spring 2008 

The loquat tree in front of our house in Echo Park bore acridly sweet and juicy fruit, shaped like tiny hot-air balloons—fruit unlike any other. The flavor of a loquat is challenging to describe; sweet, yes, but there is also something slightly exotic, almost perfume-like about its white or yellow flesh. The rind of a loquat is a sunset orange and inside are three, four or five large brown seeds that taste bitter if you accidentally bite into one. To some people eating a loquat may seem more trouble than it’s worth, because you discard more than half the fruit’s volume; but I gleefully gorged myself on loquats throughout my youth. The tree in our yard bore fruit, it seemed, several times a year. Read more.

The Colors of Jews

Racial Politics and Radical Diasporism | 2007 

IN THE COLORS  of Jews: Racial Politics and Radical Diasporism, Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz, a long-time feminist activist, disabuses the Jewish left of its most common assumptions: that Jewish culture is Ashkenazi culture and that Jews are white people. [“Ashkenazi” refers to Jews of eastern, central and northern European origin — ed.]

Kaye/Kantrowitz does not deny that the vast majority of Jews in the United States are white. Rather, she insists that if activists are to build a world based on principles of justice, we must think of identity as intersectional and dynamic. If Jewish leftists can understand Jewish identity as multifaceted and diverse, we will be better equipped to challenge racism, nationalism and gender oppression in all its forms.

This isn’t a liberal argument for inclusion of Jews of color. Though inclusion is high on Kaye/Kantrowitz’s agenda, the most important case is for what she calls “radical diasporism,” which “recognizes our identity as simultaneously rock, forged under centuries of pressure, and water, infinitely flexible (222)…Radical diasporism meshes well with feminism in valuing a strength and heroism available to those without armies and suits queerness in rejecting the constraints of traditional gendered existence.”

Using individual testimonies, history, academic theory and examples from the work of radical Jewish organizations, Kaye/Kantrowitz thoroughly deconstructs Ashkenazism, the term that refers to the invisible prioritization of the experiences of white European Jews. Much as race studies scholars have exposed the particularities of whiteness and thereby advanced the work of anti-racism, so too does Kaye/Kantrowitz’s work constitute a challenge to the assumptions of Zionism, anti-Arab and anti-Muslim racism, and racism in general." —Chloe Tribich

Freedom to Walk
From Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here: Poets and Writers Respond to the March 5th, 2007, Bombing of Baghdad's Street of the Booksellers

2012 | Al Mutanabbi Street Starts Here | By Jordan Elgrably

The freedom to walk, to move, to get up and go anywhere you desire, has always seemed a natural right and privilege to me. It is something that most of us take for granted—we’re not concerned about roadblocks or checkpoints, random i.d. checks or razzias such as the cops in Europe routinely subjected non-European immigrants to when I lived there in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Nor do we, in America, worry about walking our city streets for fear of a bomb going off at a sidewalk café. Walking is freedom and a form of meditation with several variations—city, desert, mountains, beach. Read more.

Critical Essays on Milan Kundera
edited by Petro Petro

conversations with Milan Kundera by Jordan Elgrably
originally published in the review Salmagundi

Cultural Commuters: Sephardim in the New Millennium
in Lluís de Santàngel: Primer Financiero de América

From the Quincentenial of 1992 onward, scholars and writers have revisited the Columbus narrative in the context of Sepharad, examining the explorer's contested identity as the son of a converso. In this context, I will position the Sephardim of today as cultural commuters, or those who transverse multiple identities, as Jews who at times pass as Christians or Muslims. "Cultural commuter" is of course a term of anthropology applicable to any particular ethnic identity in which the traveler identifies as an originary of one people and its set of cultural values, and adheres to both it and those of another, often simultaneously. For our purposes here, we propose that religion is often a form of culture and thus we find Sephardic Jews have a history of traveling between/embodying multiple identities.

James Baldwin, The Art of Fiction N. 78
in the Paris Review

Interviewed by Jordan Elgrably | Spring 1984

This interview was conducted in the two places dearest to James Baldwin’s struggle as a writer. We met first in Paris, where he spent the first nine years of a burgeoning career and wrote his first two novels, Go Tell It on the Mountain and Giovanni’s Room, along with his best-known collection of essays, Notes of a Native Son. It was in Paris, he says, that he was first able to come to grips with his explosive relationship with himself and America. Our second talks were held at Baldwin’s poutres-and-stone villa in St. Paul de Vence, where he has made his home for the past ten years. We lunched on an August weekend, together with seasonal guests and his secretary. Saturday, a storm raged amid intolerable heat and humidity, causing Baldwin’s minor case of arthritis to pain his writing hand (left) and wrist. Erratic power shortages caused by the storm interrupted the tape machine by our side. During the blackouts we would discuss subjects at random or wait in silence while sipping our drinks. Read more.

Edmund White, The Art of Fiction N. 105
in the Paris Review

Interviewed by Jordan Elgrably | Fall 1988

I first met Edmund White following his move from New York to Paris in 1983. His novel A Boy’s Own Story (1982) had been recommended to me by Odile Hellier, in whose American bookshop, The Village Voice, White was scheduled to read. On the evening of the reading, the upstairs wing of Hellier’s store was packed with curious newcomers. White’s generous and genial personality, as well as his affective reading of his autobiographical novel—the first in a tetralogy dealing with gay experience in America—won White many new readers and inspired me to ask him to sit for an interview for the International Herald Tribune in April, 1984. Read more.

Sephardic American Voices, Two Hundred Years of a Literary Legacy
edited by Diane Matza | Brandeis University Press 1997

Excerpts from Island of Strangers, "The Thrill and Glamour of War"

If I were a storyteller, he thought, I'd find the words to describe what happened last night, and everything that had gone before, but that was precisely the problem: he didn't trust language and half the time he was too infuriated with her to get beyond the suppressed rage he could only express in the blackest of humors. To wound Ariela, all he had to do was laugh in her face, a device that often had the effect of a slap, but even this sort of spontaneous derision did not always defeat the ferocity of her verbal attacks...Kanafani felt that language itself was the dangerous thing, because it was something he did not entirely own.

Jordan Elgrably interviewed in   The Colors of Jews  : Racial Politics and Radical Diasporism, by Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz (Indiana, 2007)

Jordan Elgrably interviewed in The Colors of Jews: Racial Politics and Radical Diasporism, by Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz (Indiana, 2007)