Current Lit · Random Reads · Reviews from the Nook

Book Review: It’s a Whole Spiel – Love, Latkes, and Other Jewish Stories

Erica’s Experience

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Title: It’s a Whole Spiel: Love, Latkes, and Other Jewish Stories

Authors: Dahlia Adler, Adi Asaid, David Levithan, Elie Lichtschein, Alex London, Goldy Moldavsky, Hannah Moskowitz, Matthue Roth, Lance Rubin, Dana Schwartz, Rachel Lynn Solomon, and Nova Ren Suma; Edited by Katherine Locke and Laura Silverman

Genre: Anthology; Young Adult Literature

Page Count: 316

Publication Date: September 2019


I picked It’s a Whole Spiel for this November as a way to celebrate Hanukkah this year. I’ve had the opportunity to celebrate Hanukkah on and off throughout my life thanks to my extended family on my mom’s side. My mom was raised Protestant, but both my mom and uncle married outside of their faith causing a blend of religious celebrations throughout the family. (My dad is Irish Catholic and my aunt is Jewish.)

Thanks to this blending of faiths, I celebrated both of my cousins’ bar mitzvahs, participated in the horah at my cousin’s wedding, have experienced the electrifying splatter of making latkes, and am pretty sure one of my first drinks was Manischewitz during a Christmas/Hanukkah hybrid celebration. Some of my favorite holiday memories are a mix of traditions that would not exist without my aunt and cousins’ faith.

With the passing of my grandma in 2017 and the pandemic pausing time, it’s been a handful of years since we’ve all been able to celebrate the holidays together. This anthology felt like the perfect way to honor my own family this year while learning a little bit more about how being Jewish impacts young adults navigating the world and growing up.

Often times when I read an anthology, I don’t do it from cover to cover. I develop a bit of ADHD, jumping around to the titles that entice me and completely ignoring the ones that don’t. I fought the urge to read It’s a Spiel that way and read every story in order like the editors intended. I’m so glad I did.

This anthology contains 14 stories about teens and young adults navigating the twists and turns of life. Most of the stories primarily focus on a character that either feels too Jewish or not Jewish enough. I can honestly relate to that experience with my own faith, even though it wasn’t Judaism. Each story does a fantastic job navigating the imposter syndrome all young adults feel and shows how people often like you for the person you are and not for what you believe.

Since there were over a dozen stories in this book, I’m going to give shoutouts to my top three: Aftershocks by Rachel Lynn Solomon, Some Days You’re The Sidekick; Some Days You’re the Superhero by Katherine Locke, and Be Brave and All by Laura Silverman. Each of these stories held something dear to me and my own life experience: a young girl struggling with OCD; a fanfiction writer; and an introvert trying to break out of her shell. These stories awakened the girl I once was– fearful of the world, turning to stories and writing as comfort, and trying to find her voice.

I recommend this book to any adult that wants to feel the angst of being a teenager again and any young adult that is in need of feeling connected. I think it’s so important for teenagers to see they aren’t alone in the world. That their struggles are valid and that figuring out who you are isn’t easy, no matter your background, but it can be done.

Happy Hanukkah to all of my friends, family, and readers that celebrate and I hope everyone gives this beautifully composed anthology a chance.

You can purchase It’s a Whole Spiel: Love, Latkes, and Other Jewish Stories here if you’re interested in reading. I will be reviewing The Midnight Library by Matt Haig for my last read of 2021, so feel free to purchase it here if you’d like to read along. The review will be up by the end of the month. Stay tuned for November’s florilegium, created from the stories in It’s a Whole Spiel, next week on December 12th.

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