Eli Glasman’s The Boy’s Own Manual to Being a Proper Jew

Sunday, 1 June, 2014

This book is important. It takes under two hours to read (if you’re snappy) but much longer to consider. The plot is fairly straightforward: the coming out story of Yossi, an orthodox Jewish boy. This book may work best for the religiously familiar, but it’s not a religious book. This story promotes a valuable idea regardless of the reader’s domination.

This valuable idea is that nothing is black and white. All is gradated. Which in other words means stuff is complicated. Religion is particularly so, and this story avoids the black and white approach that may arise from discussions of sexuality and faith. Instead it exposes the whole realistic spectrum of greys.

There is conflict, but it is not resolved by renouncement, or running away, or starting again with a blank, secular slate. Yossi’s story deals with the initial battle of homosexuality against the boundaries of faith, but importantly reconciles them. He finds a balance between important elements of his person, rather than allowing himself to be split in two.

The perspective of 17-year-old Yossi is written in a clear and sensitive way – almost uncomfortably relatable for those us familiar with the context, but not alienating for those of us who aren’t. It is written simply enough to be considered young adult fiction, but as is often the case with this genre, the ideas and concepts are relevant for all ages. In general this novel is very accessible – it’s set in Caulfield! You know the place.

Read this book. It won’t take long. The religious terms are explained and everything.